At Soul & Surf we believe it’s high time for a surfing revolution. A Soul of Surfing revolution that we’ll be rolling out throughout 2021.
Words by Natalie Fox | 28th May '21
We’ve learnt a lot about surfing over the last twenty years practising it – even more so during the last ten teaching it – and things have changed.
Back when we started hardly anyone else was offering surf and yoga as a combined package, and now it’s everywhere. In 2020 when we were forced to slow down we decided to up our game, to respond to the changes taking place in the world, to put all we had learned and all we believed into practice and to revolutionise how and what we teach in our surfing programme at Soul & Surf.
For us, surfing is a journey, and one that never actually ends. We’ve heard the same from people who have surfed their whole lives too. It’s actually impossible to master surfing. And though as a surf school and retreat, we might be shooting ourselves in the foot by stating this,we feel it’s hugely important. Whilst we might never master surfing, we are able to learn, improve and develop as a surfer, and to do so in a (as legendary surf pioneer Gerry mentions) conscious and compassionate way. With soul.
Rather than just teaching people to stand up on foamies, we aim to teach the “whys” behind surfing. Including answering one of the crucial questions: WHY is it so hard! And instead of shooting for mastery, we address how we can make the learning process more successful… and more playful, more fun.
We aim to develop integrated surfers, by which we mean a soul surfer, or someone that incorporates the four pillars (we’ll come to them later) into their surfing lifestyle. They are not driven by competition or performance, rather, they surf to connect with the ocean, with themselves, with their community and with the present moment.
If we are to progress and become better (more integrated) surfers, we need to build awareness. But with surfing there is A LOT to take in. Not only is it an international competitive sport, a neoliberal subculture and a thousand year old Indigenous practice… but it’s very subjective. So surfing can mean very different things to different people.
Now. Soul. Risk. Balance. As the foundational values of Soul & Surf they help guide us always. They’re a foundation we always come back to. And we even wrote a little book about them to share with our team. Unsurprisingly these values sit behind Soul of Surfing too.
Surfing is for all
The idea that surfing is only for surfers is outdated. And recognising this supports our mission to become more inclusive in our offerings. We want to see future lineups that are gender, race, ethnically, culturally and body diverse. So that means us growing in ways that will support minorities and marginalised people to learn to surf, with inclusivity and adaptive training, policies and guidance for our staff and guests.
Learning to surf is not linear
In all our coaching we are using a “circle of awareness” methodology, because the linear model is not working for us anymore.
Surfing and Sustainability exist hand in hand
We hope that by revolutionising our surf syllabus we are charting a new path towards surfers being marine citizens and citizen scientists. It is imperative we are active members of a global ocean community working toward the ocean sustainability agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – it’s why we have a Sustainable-ish plan based on the relevant goals.
With Soul of Surfing, not only do we hope to produce integrated surfers and help them progress on their learning journey with support and stoke, but we hope to address wider societal and environmental issues aligned with our ongoing Sustainable-ish development strategy:
What we’ve done then is taken the journey of learning to be a surfer and joined that up with what we feel are the most important parts of surfing today. We’re interested in helping you read the ocean, understand the benefits surfing has on our wellbeing, know how to approach the challenges of surfing with a soulful attitude (just like Gerry!) and of course, maximise the opportunities for fun in the waves.
We’ve distilled all this into what we call the four pillars of our Soul of Surfing programme, relating to what we feel are the essential components of being an integrated surfer: ocean knowledge, wave-riding, board skills and personal qualities like creativity, expression, etiquette and style.
Ocean Literacy, Blue Health, Soul Surfing and Wave Riding are the four main components of our Soul of Surfing programme. And together they will help harness an expansion of awareness, ability and confidence in the water.
…is defined as “an understanding of the ocean’s influence on us and our influence on the ocean” and has 7 key principles that simplify those ocean processes that have a huge impact on our planet. We know that reading waves is a huge part of surfing and in doing this surfers naturally become more ocean literate as they progress. But we delve a little deeper than this.
…can mean a few things, but for us it’s “a sense of understanding or awareness of the positive effects ocean and surf spaces have on our physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing.” Going in the sea is a legitimate self-care practice these days, with surf therapy even now being prescribed by doctors.
…features the origins and the history of surfing whilst also exploring the indie, disruptive, creative, artistic sub-culture that has always existed within surf culture but gets overshadowed by the big buck professional. When were the pivotal shifts and who are the unsung hero(ine)s? After all, surfing’s GOATs (Greatest of All Time for those of us not ‘in the know’) are not just the Kelly Slaters in the world. We like to appreciate the alternative, the avante garde and the unorthodox within the rich tapestry of the surfing narrative.
…is the intersection of surfer, craft and wave; all of which come together in a split second. This momentary, affective experience encapsulates the physical practice of surfing. There’s a delicate balance between just enough challenge and not too much tension… and that’s when we enter the flow state.
Before you arrive – As someone interested in what we do at Soul & Surf, we invite you to take advantage of the information and content we’ll be adding to our website and to the emails sent to you pre-arrival and to familiarise yourself with the basics of the Soul of Surfing programme. Soon you’ll receive a link to an introduction video when you book.
Surfing self-assessment – The first step in moving forward, before we can visualise where we want to be, is acknowledging where we are right now,. In order for us all to be on the same page when you’re with us, we’ve put together a comprehensive set of questions we’ll ask you before you surf which helps determine your current level. It’s a bit more effort up-front – all of which pays off in your experience.
Toolkits – The four pillars above have been expanded upon and turned into Surfers Toolkits – which will soon be available to you as a pdf when you book your stay with us. If you’d like to purchase a full printed copy of The Soul of Surfing toolkit, keep an eye on our shop, or sign yourself up for our emails.
Artwork – We’ve designed posters of our four pillars and the content you’ll be learning within them which you’ll see around our sites in India, Portugal and Sri Lanka. If you’d like to purchase and take these home as a reminder of your stay and your learning again, keep an eye out for their release in the online shop.
At the retreat – We’ll run (almost) daily talks on Soul of Surfing topics which you’re welcome to join as you please (equally feel free to skip if snoozing and working on your tan is what you need). If you do make them, it’ll be an opportunity to talk to coaches and staff members, reflect with other guests and be introduced to the stuff we believe in.
Keeping on learning – As we mentioned, surfing is a never-ending journey of learning. We will continue to learn and progress as teachers and facilitators and we will keep introducing new methods. For example, we really want to support improver and intermediate surfers as we feel this can be the point where surfers can become frustrated and unmotivated. Therefore, this is now built-in to our offer. We want every single guest to be inspired by the four pillars and the Soul of Surfing, and to continue learning and incorporating them into their life, way beyond their time at Soul & Surf.
Illustrations by the very talented Coco Steigner. Check out more of her work