Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it… Boldness has Genius, Magic and Power in it; begin it now. - Goethe
Far too many people on this planet are guilty of not achieving what they truly want out of life. Be it because of fear of failure and the unknown, or because they have preconceived expectations of how life should be and, so, fail to live in a way that truly makes them happy. Honestly, who would chose to spend their days bolted to a swivel chair and locked behind a desk? They may think they’re living the high life, on the top floor of a corporate tower, basking in the warm, comforting glow of their computer screens. Little do they know that they won’t get a tan from the sunset on their screensaver, it’s only going to make them whiter.
There’s a precious breed of people around the world who have taken a chainsaw to the bars of this all too common confinement and have released themselves into a life of endless joy, sunshine and…. surf! I’m not talking about those who spend more time taking photos of each with their 9ft foamies and bolt to dry land at the slight trickle of water up their nose, although hats off to them for trying. I’m talking about those of us who, after stumbling up to our feet for the first time on a wave, were drawn back to the ocean as if an invisible force took hold of us, like the gravitational pull of the moon. And so began the inevitable ebb and flow of our very self, and a surfer was born.
There’s a sense of calm and oneness with nature that only a surfer can know. The moment you step into the water, nothing else exists but the present moment and the challenge that faces you. The paddle out is a daunting battle against moving mountains and avalanches of water but the only thing giving you the will to charge through the impossible is the knowledge that you’ll soon be effortlessly gliding across their glassy faces. There aren’t many experiences in life that dramatically hurl you from a sense of fear and desperation (the paddle out), to a peaceful tranquility (out back), to the biggest feeling of elation life can give you, the stoke. This disparity of emotions is what makes surfing so much more than just a sport, it’s a character-building practice with the power to truly shape a person. It’s gloriously addictive and it becomes, in itself, a lifestyle. It inspires people to travel to the far reaches of the Earth. It has the power to shape communities, towns and countries. And for some, it’s no less than a spiritual experience.
Embarrassingly, I first fell in love with surfing at the age of 12 after watching a film, which is now seemingly most surfer girls’ guilty pleasure, Blue Crush. However, the landlocked city of my rainy hometown, Glasgow in Scotland, was a far cry from the Hawaiian dream of sunshine and Pipeline. Nonetheless, I took to the flat waters that were available to me in local rivers and lochs and began Open Water Swimming. After years of intense training I became junior Scottish Champion and competed for Scotland around Europe. It was an incredible experience (and I’m grateful to have the swimmers shoulders today) but it didn’t quite satisfy my urge to surf. After much pleading, my ever supportive mum took us on a family holiday to Cornwall, Newquay, where we surfed for the first time. And so it began. Every holiday from then on had to include surfing. I got my first surfboard for my 14th birthday - a custom made 7’6” minimal from Cornwall, decorated with blue flowers, of course. It was, like me, a Hawaiian Soul but, like me, spent most of its time gathering dust in my bedroom. Surfing is a tough sport to maintain when you live a 3 hour drive from the beach - especially when you can’t drive. As a result, surfing took a back seat in my life, waiting to pop its eager little head out when the time was right, when I could take the drivers seat.
I went on to study Zoology and Marine Biology at the University of Glasgow and luckily for me, they had a surf club. Together, the team braved the harsh Scottish elements, armored in a chainmail of 5mm thick neoprene from head to toe and a fighting spirit that even William Wallace would be proud of. While we only got the opportunity to surf every few months, we embraced the concrete waves of the city and longboard skated to our hearts content. In the midst of library boredom we were prone to booking spontaneous flights to sunny surf destinations like Morocco, Portugal and Fuerteventura. However, not to be patriotic or anything, the best surf I had was definitely on the Western Isles of Scotland, where I also had my first shark encounter. Yes it still counts if it’s a basking shark and it doesn’t have teeth…they’re still really big and really scary and could definitely swallow you by accident!
Upon graduating from University, I took it upon myself to make my passion for surfing my lifestyle. I bolted myself to a swivel chair and locked myself to a desk in a 2month online quest to find a job in Australia. I did it! I landed myself a dream job of Lead Scientist for the Western Australian Marine Science Institution humpback whale project 2012-13 and wrote a blog about the once in a lifetime experience http://humpbackwhaleofatime.wordpress.com. I surfed every morning in the shark-infested waters of Perth, ever grateful to have survived each session, until my humpback whale research project was complete. I then relocated to the surf-crazed town of Byron Bay in February 2013, aged 22, and so began my real life version of sunshine and Pipeline.
It may have taken 10 years, but I have finally realised my dream of living for the waves and it’s better than I could ever have imagined, even if I'm still struggling with my pop-up and top turn. My name is Alexis, or Lexi for short, and I bring to you my account of real life as a surfer girl in the hope to inspire others to follow and never think that it’s an impossible pursuit, no matter who you are or where you come from. The ocean connects us all and the waves are our universal language. So I invite you all, as sisters of the sea, to throw your fears to the wind and give in to the allure of the blue.
Risk more than others think is safe.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Care more than others think is wise.
Desire more than others think is possible.
And the universe is yours.