My Month in Mulki

What I learnt when I was supposed to be learning how to surf

Chapter 7: Experiment

“Sam, I don’t know. I’ve never really been active at any point in my life. I’ve not really played any sports. I know how to swim, but have never really done much of it. I’m a little overweight, and better described as middle-aged than young… Do you think I’ll be able to surf?”

Ashok looks at me, and I sense some genuine worry in his voice. We are on the boat that is taking us towards the beach, and he is about to get to surf for the first time. This thought seems to have been plaguing his mind for a while.

He’s not the only one who’s asked me this question, and he’s definitely not the only one who has thought about this very topic.

Over my time in Mulki, I got to see a variety of different people try surfing for the first time, and they were spread across the spectrum. There were people from the army, and people who had represented the country in some sports. On the other end, there were people who didn’t really know how to swim, people that had never really done any physical activities and people that were completely out of shape.

Funny thing is, that none of this was any indication to their surfing abilities.

I saw state level swimmers struggling to do anything in the sea, and non-swimmers riding waves like they were born for it. Fitness enthusiasts unable to balance, and couch potatoes who were posing for the camera while riding their waves.

There was me, a lifelong athlete for the most part. Someone who loves being out and active, and have a knack for picking up physical activities quite quickly. I struggled. I struggled to get my board in position, I struggled to stand up correctly. I forgot all about technique. I took way longer than average to catch waves consistently.

And then I saw an artist, who had really not done any physical activities for most of her life. She was a little clumsy, and didn’t look like she really belonged in the water. But when it came to surfing, I was just in awe. By the middle of her first session, she was easily catching and riding long waves, maneuvering her board to not hit other surfers, and looking like she was a seasoned professional.

There was no real indicator as to whether someone would be a good surfer. Your body dimensions, and past experiences mean nothing in the sea. Your skills in other domains mean nothing to the waves. When it is all boiled down, none of it really points to anything about how good somebody was going to be at surfing.

“Ashok, don’t worry. I’ve seen hundreds of people over my time here. They were fat and thin, tall and short, young and old, fit and unfit. But none of that really mattered. Honestly, after all this time, I’ve seen there is only one way to know if you’re going to be good at it.”

He watches me expectantly. I take the opportunity to lengthen my dramatic pause.

“Just go out there and try it.”

Lesson 7:

Whenever you find yourself facing any doubts or worries when trying something new, just remember that there is one surefire way to know. Have an open heart, and an open mind, and just give it an honest attempt. That is the best way forward.

As recalled by Samarth Hattangady | List of Chapters