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How Surfing Improved My Body Image

I Don't Give a Sh*t About Being Skinny, Ever Since I Started Surfing

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Surfing is by far the hardest thing I've ever learned to do and also one of the most rewarding. I'm still a novice (I've been surfing for almost two years), but in my time learning to surf, my focus hasn't been about reaching perfection or reaching a goal weight, it's been about fueling myself with everything I need, mentally and physically, to make it out to water in the morning. Surfing has made me look at my body with compassion and awe, showing me there's nothing better for my soul than paddling out and catching a few waves.

In the past, I've used the gym as punishment and forced myself through workouts that didn't bring me joy. I never thought I'd find a way to stay active that wouldn't morph into a way to commit evil against my own body. Surfing has proved me wrong because, while it's still a physical activity, it's really all about self-expression.

When I'm in the water, I'm challenged in every way, but the ocean expects and demands my complete attention and leaves no time to think negatively about my body.
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When I'm in the water, I'm challenged in every way, but the ocean expects and demands my complete and full attention each second that I'm in its presence. It leaves no time to think negatively about my body, so I'm thrown into being my authentic self. When I paddle out, all of the physical aspects of myself dissolve. I no longer feel like a woman in a body, because all that exists is my soul on a board. The entire world fades except for the horizon that I fixate on, eagerly awaiting the next set. When I see that wave with my name on it, there are no other thoughts in my mind other than getting in position and paddling like crazy until the water scoops me up so I can fly down the line. It's a feeling I had to experience to understand.

Not a single person in the lineup waiting for a wave is judging someone else for their body. That's a factor that doesn't matter in this sport. Everyone just wants to see you rip. Other surfers might notice your style and skill before they notice anything about the way you look, and that's inspiring. Now, I push myself to the point of utter exhaustion because I love surfing so much and I can't get out until my muscles are aching and my arms won't paddle anymore, not because I want to punish my body. Each time I emerge from the water surfed-out and sunburnt, I feel victorious.

There's beauty in being an amateur, too, and how every wave fills me with stoke. I've had wipeouts that have scared me silly and paddled out just to realize that I was in way over my head — literally. I've done all of the kooky things that have to be done in order to learn not to do them again, and there have been times where I've sat at the break for two hours and been too fearful to catch a single wave. All of this has helped me find confidence and self-love, humbling me all at once.

It doesn't matter what kind of board I'm riding or if I'm just bodysurfing the shorebreak, being in the water always brings me back to who I am at my core. It brings me peace and calms my mind, transporting me to a place of clarity that permits me to focus on the thing I need to do in that moment and nothing else; not my body or weight or the way I look. Having the utmost respect for a force of nature as great as the ocean has shown me the power I have inside me and reassured me that I can take up space.

Image Source: Jada Welch
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