Photography by @albaguell

“Try harder” 

Countless times I have heard Joel shouting these two simple words at me in the water, and every time I've fought the urge to smack him or just run him over with my beloved 8-foot foamie.

But it turned out he was totally right. I haven’t tried hard enough. My mindset during lessons was all wrong – overthinking, worrying about wipeouts, worrying about what other people would think, my less-than-picture-perfect surfer girl figure, blaming everything from my dislocated hips to the weather…. but I always had an excuse handy why I am not able to do it. 

Sure, I was not born with a natural talent for surfing. I am the type who uses 2 legs moving separately on the yearly skiing trip or roller skating to school. Snowboarding and skateboarding? Tried ’em, failed miserably, probably just gave up too soon. But surfing? It was different. It just made me want to put in the effort as it was so beneficial for my mental and physical health. Whatever the reason, I felt an undeniable urge to invest myself fully in the pursuit. I discovered a newfound resilience within myself. Surfing became more than just a recreational activity—it became a testament to my own capacity for growth.

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Photography by @joelioo

It is a reminder that progress is born not from mere talent, but from dedication. Trying harder, or at least not giving up.


How did I end up surfing?

Before my life took a nosedive into a soul-crushing burnout from the corporate world, the thought of surfing had never even crossed my mind. Like so many others (still) in that same boat, I found myself dreaming of an escape to anywhere - of embracing a simpler, more fulfilling existence preferably by the sea. But let's be real – not everyone has the guts to take that leap. The comfort of familiarity, the security of friendships, the easement of a Western lifestyle – they're hard to walk away from. A couple of months later I found myself in India trading my business casual for surfsuits, the 40 min traffic jams to beach walks and going surfing for the first time in my life. Little did I know, I am on a journey that would forever change my perspective on life.

People are attracted to surfing...

...because of how cool it looks, but once they realise that it takes years of looking like a moron before you ever get to look cool, the incentive disappears. Not to mention for most people waking up early, dealing with crowds, getting held underwater, water up their nose outweighs the benefit. For me every session felt and still feels like a lesson in life. Teaching me how to face new challenges, how to get back up when you fall, patience, mindfulness, courage, improving decision making skills, that knowledge is power and to choose quality over quantity,

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The squiggly learning curve of surfing. Fun, huh?

The learning curve of surfing is far away from being a straight line.

You’re dealing with constantly shifting variables: wind, swell and their directions vary constantly. And not to mention our own physical and mental state - mood, tiredness, hormone levels, muscle conditions, hangovers (!) - all play their roles.

All of these criteria results in surfing to be the most inconsistent sport ever, a rollercoaster, plain and simple.  

During my time at Soul & Surf I have met plenty of folks at the breakfast tables who are disappointed in themselves after two or three days. I have been there, done that and it took me a bit longer…here’s my timeline: 

  • Year 1: Could barely stand up. People were telling me I could be a professional knee-boarder.
  • Year 2: By this time I probably had around 300 beginner lessons and around 10 surf instructors trying to help me. I learned the theory, watched others do it, but somehow could not manage to nail it. 
  • Year 3: Broke two boards, stayed on a foamie that made me feel safe. 
  • Year 4: Broke one board, but bought one for myself and practised at the same spot with the same board EVERY DAY for four months. Consistency is key - I got stronger, faster, and things like balance on the board or turning just improved simultaneously without even trying. 

Looking back, Joel was right - it wasn't just about mastering the waves; it was about overcoming my limitations. It is a reminder that progress is born not from mere talent, but from dedication.

Trying harder, or at least not giving up.

And what’s next for me?

As I continue to ride the waves and hopefully master cross stepping, I carry with me the everlasting frustration of surfing and the lessons learned in those early days: the importance of embracing failure as a stepping stone to success, and of never underestimating the power of sheer determination. 

They've shaped me into the surfer I am today, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tips worth sharing that I learned from my mentors through these four difficult years: 

  • Enjoy every moment in the water, wipeouts, kneerides, ankle high waves, other people’s waves. 
  • Learn surf etiquette - it’ll make your life easier out there. 
  • If you have a good wave coming, go for it with everything you’ve got. 
  • Stick with a foamie until you’ve really got the hang of it.  
  • Get feedback from others or use video analysis to see yourself in action. 
  • Stay humble in the water, if you are surfing with an ego the ocean will slap you in the face. 
  • Appreciate the bad sessions as much as the good ones. 
  • Your size or other physical limitations do not determine your abilities but your mindset does.
  • Do yoga, pilates or any other forms of workouts that improve your core muscles. Or just simply do five pop-ups each morning, even if you are not close to the ocean. 
  • Find inspiration on instagram from a  surfer you want to surf like.  
  • Learn to appreciate the discomfort and failures as it is a necessary part of growth and learning.

Photography by @sirihnm1