Somehow, when I started a snowboarding site, I knew that some day I’d be discussing surfing. Now that I’ve tried surfing, that time has finally come. I’ve heard many people claim the two are very similar while others claim they’re nothing alike. It’s true that snowboarding and surfing are two totally different experiences but there is a lot of overlap.
Before I compare and contrast, it’s only fair that I describe my surfing conditions. I learned to ride a long board in Texas. Even though South Padre Island boasts the best surf in Texas – it’s still Texas. I learned on waves no more than a couple of feet tall at best. I know not the joy of surfing in places like Santa Cruz. Maybe some day I will.
First, the overlap. Both sports involve balance, and once you’re up and riding it is a similar balance. Both are driven by external forces, in both cases you riding along on another energy flow. The margin for error – in other words, what it takes to fall down – is relatively the same in both sports. In their general nature, you’re doing the same thing…
Oh, but the contrast are many. There is a gap in effort versus reward. The mountain waits on you. First you ride up in the comfort of your lift chair. Then when you’re ready to fly, you stand up and take flight. Your terrain is static and you are in control for a long ride. The ocean, on the other hand, laughs at you. First you paddle out through oncoming waves on your narrow wobbly boat. This alone will wear you down to jello. Once you make it past the breaks and are ready to catch a wave, you have to wait until the right moment. When that moment comes, you paddle hard and drop into mother nature’s furious arms. If you can pick your moment and lift yourself to your feet, you’re suddenly riding a dynamic flow of liquid. It’s a lot to keep up with and goes by quickly. It’s a rush, a well earned rush.
In just two trips, I’ve already seen that surfing is more than just a sport. For many people, it’s a way of life… or perhaps a way of understanding life. Though I dearly love snowboarding, I’ve never spent a night in my tent listening to waves crash on a snowboarding trip. There’s something about being near the ocean that feels empowering and uplifting. There’s something healthy about having sun and salt water on your body. You can see it in the smiles of other surfers. It’s a wonderful thing.