Girl, You've Got Cojones: Life Lessons Learned Surfing.

During a surf session out in the big and mushy waves last week, a crusty old fellow gave me the best compliment I could ever receive:

“Girl, you’ve got cojones.”

On my previous wave, I took a late takeoff and went straight down the face for Mr.-Toad’s-Wild-Ride. I barely made it. But sometimes, barely is good enough. That’s one of the valuable lessons I learn over and over surfing. It always amazes me how much the ocean and surfing can teach me:

Live life. Now. Surfing isn’t like tennis or basketball where the courts are always available for a practice session. Wave conditions are a temperamental thing. When there are waves, you surf today. They may not be there tomorrow. The takeaway – don’t live life in the future, waiting for the time until you graduate, get that job, get that promotion, get that house. Life happens right now.

Live on the edge. A wave is a precious commodity. Yet, if you don’t push yourself, you’ll never get better. So when the board is locked in the face, it’s time to cross step and make your way towards the nose. (Guess what my New Year’s resolution is.) What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll fall and waste a perfectly good wave. But there’s always another wave coming.

Let it roll over you. A big holy-mother-of-god mountain of water appears right before you. What do you do? Turtle roll you and your board over and let the wave pass over you. Then you paddle like hell to get out of the way before the next one hits. Things in life don’t always run smooth, but the ability to let things roll by, then try to improve the situation is a nice skill to cultivate.

Sometimes you just have to go for it. If you think too much, you’ll miss out. A moment’s hesitation on the paddle and the wave can pass you by. Yes, it’s advisable to put a little forethought into things like having a kid or starting a business. But if you waited until you were 100% sure, nothing would ever happen.

Don't be afraid to look like an idiot. Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned. If I was that self-conscious, I would have aborted at my attempts at surfing years ago. It’s taken me years to become socially mediocre at the sport. And usually, people are encouraging. (Just don’t get in the way of their waves.)

Enjoy the downtime. Sometimes when you’re in between sets, you just have to sit, watch the horizon and wait. This is when the magic occurs. A young inquisitive seal may pop his head out of the water for a closer look or a pod of dolphins may swim by. You never know what might happen.

Savor the bliss. Feeling the wave behind you, carving down a face, it’s 10, 20 or 30 seconds of sheer heaven. After a wonderful morning session, I never feel more alive, more joyous or more blessed. And that’s the attitude I try carry with me throughout the day.