I tried to stand on a surfboard for the first time 17 years ago. I had previously spent countless hours playing in the sea; nevertheless my first attempt at surfing was a complete failure. I remember the cold water, being shaken by enormous amounts of shining white foam, and not understanding a thing. Then lying breathless on my back on the sand of a foggy atlantic beach, a morning of april. White birds sliding effortlessly along transparent water lines were laughing at me.
From an external point of view, there isn’t much in common between the asana practice of yoga, and surfing. I think being a ‘yogi’ will not make you a good surfer, and surfing doesn’t help much for yoga postures either. Some flexibility in the hip area might help you take off faster on a wave, and ‘core strength’ is always nice when it comes to balance, but that’s about it.
Learning to surf has been a very long and humbling process for me. Not living by the ocean I had to repeatedly fail, come back and fail again. I kept trying; not because I was patient, but because I found immediate joy in the simple fact of playing in an environment that connected me deeply with myself: the ocean. If it wasn’t for that unique kind of joy, I would have stopped after the first or second (humiliating) attempt.
Of course, I did want to become “a surfer”, but for a very long time, I had no idea if I would ever truly surf a wave. I just enjoyed the feeling of belonging to a moving sea so much, that I tried over and over again, even when the conditions were far from perfect, in a cold and merciless ocean. I had no idea if I was being too stubborn, or if I really didn’t care about catching a wave after all. Trying very hard and not caring at all, somehow I learnt both in the water. I valued the ‘naked truth’ in it: me doing exactly (and only) what I could, in an environment both very complex and quite basic. Water, current, energy.
”…it was about making myself available and open to these signs, so that they could constantly feed my intuition and my sensations…”
As the years went by though, one element did clearly shift in my experience of surfing: I started to notice more and more phenomenons happening around me that influenced the quality of my moments in the sea. There was so much to observe: I discovered how waves came in series, listening to the calm moments in between; I watched the lines appear, their rhythm, their evolution, their energy; the changing color of the water and the currents constantly shifting, the distance to the beach always modified by the tides. Surfing a wave, beyond my physical ability to stand on a board, was about the way I read and interpreted all these subtle signs. But it wasn’t like reading a book: it was about making myself available and open to these signs, so that they could constantly feed my intuition and my sensations, as a surfer.
That is where yoga and surfing connect in my experience. Yoga is the space where I let myself become fully available, open to the internal signs, coming from my body, my breath, and my mind. I believe that both practices become more and more refined when we cultivate, over time, that special kind of availability.
I will never be able to force my body into a posture, neither can I modify the shape or power of the next wave coming. But through what I would call ‘intuitive observation’, I can become fully open to the available signs and sensations; I can treat them with great care, and allow them to nourish and inform my next move in an organic way. I can let the situation make me soft and insistent at the same time. And I can fine tune my relationship to my own limits, over and over again.
As surfers, we are offered fleeting moments of pure harmony, simply sliding on moving water. As if the big picture was lighting up, as if we could understand the deeper meaning of the sea disorder, suddenly the mess on the surface reveals that we belong. After a few seconds, it’s gone: our last wave has disappeared already, and the next one doesn’t exist yet. But the energy is still there somehow, on the surface and below, formless and timeless.
PLACES TO SURF AND PRACTICE YOGA
All these places include a wooden, protected space to practice yoga outdoors
Located in the small village of Vieux-Boucau, this is an excellent spot if you want all the essentials (a wooden cabin in the garden, a clean kitchen, hammocks, and bikes), only 300 meters away from the ocean… You’ll be sleeping right behind the sand dune. Book early -space is limited! The best this place has to offer is the owner, Ivan (and his funky cat Mimi…): always happy to share his love for surfing, fun, interested in others and open-minded, he makes me want to come back to Villa Tiki every summer, to wake up before sunrise for an early surf session…
Les Bois Flottés
A swimming pool, wood everywhere, beautiful outdoor showers in the middle of the pine trees; welcome to Lacanau at its best. It takes 10 minutes to go the ocean by car, about 25 minutes on the bike lane (you can borrow them at the house). That place is incredibly peaceful and even during high season, almost feels like a secret retreat spot… You can choose to sleep in a regular room or in a white teepee in the garden. The owner Olivier is very friendly and also owns a surf school / surf shop / cafe, just in front of the beach (plage nord).
Surf & Paddle Guest House
Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii
Welcome to one of the most beautiful beaches of Oahu, Hawaii… This big house right by the sea is shared by french waterman Rico Leroy and his wife Elodie, and a small group of lucky guests. They both know Hawaii and the hawaiians extremely well, having spent many winters on Oahu. Rico is the best guide you can imagine if you want to paddle/surf/snorkel/anything in the water! I have never seen anyone so truly happy to share his passion for the ocean: no matter your experience, your age, your physical abilities, he will always take you for a ride! This winter I will be teaching ashtanga classes on the terrace overlooking the ocean -a few spots are still available if you want to join the fun!
For a shot of summer in the middle of the european winter, Morocco is one of the best and easiest bets… The variety and quality of the waves around Taghazout is famous worldwide; at Surf Maroc, the local guides take care of you everyday and will take you to the best playground, depending on the weather conditions. The Villa is overlooking the ocean, everything is easy and well organized, no need to think too much… Just enjoy your mint tea watching the sunset from the terrace.
This very special ecolodge is ideally located between the Sahara desert and the Atlantic ocean, in the southern part of Morocco (close to the Mauritanian border). Heliophora’s guides will take you to the best beaches, bays and lagoons, depending on the swell, the tides and the wind. Both surf and windsurf/kitesurf can happen in Dakhla – always hidden from the crowd, in the mystical atmosphere of the desert… Sana teaches Ashtanga classes there – and she is also Kia’s student!
Kia Naddermier will be giving an Ashtanga Yoga & Pranayama Workshop 16th-18th of October 2015 at Caroline Beriard´s lovely Surf & Yoga Shala in Hossegor near Biarritz. More info here!