Life, as we all know it, is a constant struggle against the waves. Some would hit your hard, push you back. There are also times when the tide recedes, drawing you in into its calmness. Just when you least expected it, when you are caught up in bliss, the waves thunderously strike back at you. But that is how life is. Ultimately, we have to learn how to ride the waves.

Flashback. Summer of 2014.

Baler, Aurora has slowly transformed itself into a surfing mecca. It is a cheaper alternative to the more renowned beaches of Siargao. Moreover, it is accessible from Manila. After being featured in a local television show, there was an influx in visitors to the quaint coastal town. Jumping into the bandwagon, my friends have invited me to a quick trip to Baler and experience what everyone has been gushing about. Moreover, it is an opportunity to take a break from the burgeoning responsibilities of being a young professional.

Although we were exasperated after a week of working, we were reinvigorated by the cold summer breeze of Aurora province. We roamed around in the most rural way we could think of – a tricycle tour. We dipped in the cold waters of Ditumabo Falls. We got enchanted by the decades-old Balete Tree. In between, we snapped one picture after the other of our idyllic surroundings. But the highlight of our trip was definitely the surfing part.

Sabang Beach, Baler’s premier surfing sight, is within a striking distance of the town’s center. It is long stretch of gray-colored sand. Along the beach front are several surfing shops and restaurants. There is more than enough shop to choose from. With their number, they can accommodate the influx of surfing enthusiasts. We randomly chose a surfing shop where we rented a surfing board. However, as we were amateurs, we had to take lessons first.

All propped up! Time to hit those waves!

Surfing sounds easy enough. At least on land. Our instructors are making it look so easy. First, glide through the waves and wait for the perfect wave. Once the perfect wave hits, lie perpendicularly on the board. When the wave is about to reach its apex, push yourself up using both hands. Note that you should push yourself from the middle part of the board. Place your less dominant foot on the middle part of the board while your dominant foot will be the one to steer the board from the back part. To stabilize the board, bend your knees. If you’ve perfected this, then you are ready to ride the waves.

But it is easier said than done.

Needless to say, my friends and I experienced numerous falls at the start. It was a challenge establishing a rhythm. Even though our instructors were there to guide us, it was still a different experience surfing on your own, on the open seas. It is all about finding your proper equilibrium, which has always been a challenge for me (This balancing act would again be put to the test a couple of years later). It was no easy task considering how out-of-shape I was then. I wasn’t as keen in taking care of my body then as I do now.

And then there are those to whom surfing comes easy as 1, 2, 3.

With every wave, I tried my best to find that elusive balance, only to fall back again, and again. With every stumble, I have to go back to square one!

So that was how it was for the first few ones. Swim, stand, fall, repeat. It all seemed hopeless even though we were having so much fun. It is going to take us more than an hour to master surfing, at least the basics of it.

But then, out of the blue, one of my friends was finally able to find her balance against the raging waves (the usage of raging is a hyperbole because the waves then were a bit tamed). The rest of were forced to watch in awe as she effortlessly balanced herself on the surf board. And it wasn’t just a one hit wonder. She did it over and over again and with every successful attempt, her confidence grew. What is even more astonishing was the fact that she was the one we least expected to master it the first few tries.

Enough with being just a mere spectator. Her feat just fueled the inner competitor in me. If she did it then I will!

With all the competitive juices flowing through my veins, I went back to the start. I still keep on falling but with patience, and a bit of tenacity, I was finally able to complete my first balancing act. But it wasn’t only me but my other friends were able to accomplish the same balancing act. Indeed, it was no small feat considering the countless times we stumbled and fell. Imagine our collective sigh of relief when we were all able to pull this off.

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Life is one tough balancing act. Either you fall or you ride it.

Ultimately, we cannot find the right words to describe the euphoria we felt the time we were able to successfully balance ourselves on the surfing board while riding the waves. In the end, we were all exhausted as every ounce of strength and focus was expended to master the basics of surfing.

Beyond the pleasures of surfing, our experiences reminded me of some profound realities in life. Sometimes we are too eager to learn new things that we dive headfirst without thinking. It is this eagerness that pushes us to do things the way we want to rather than how it is supposed to be. We are hardheaded like that. Only when someone successfully do it that we finally realize the errs of our methods. There is a reason why there are always the basics. Master the basics then you can modify it any way you want. To reiterate, master the basics first.

On a bigger picture, the waves are allegories of the challenges we have to face in our lives. we ride along them, else, we will crash and drown. Our safe place and guide is the surf board. However, in spite of the presence of the surf board, we still have to learn to balance. At the beginning, it will be difficult. We will stumble and fall. The waves teach us how to balance and how to stand back up with every fall. If we don’t the waves will swallow us whole.

I never thought that a simple surfing lesson would make me reflect on the generalities of my quotidian existence. It is always that way. We might not be cognizant of it but the things we do unconsciously makes us look deeper into the meaning of even the most minute things. The brain tends to play like that.

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You can never tell how big the coming waves are. Just learn how to have faith and ride along it.