Ask a first-time surfer what it felt like to surf, and they will say something like, “ It’s really fun, but a bit tricky,” as a surfing enthusiast what it feels like to surf, and you might as well have them write you a book.
Everyone finds a different experience with surfing; some find it enjoyable, some find it terrifying, while others become addicted before the first drop of water touches their face.
Here’s what does surfing feel like:
Surfing can feel relaxing, exhilarating, terrifying, mystifying, boring, intense, and even spiritual at times.
As the ocean is dynamic, so is surfing, and therefore, the feelings that arise differ with them.
Although there is no proper way to understand the sensations that surfing can create without surfing yourself, throughout this article, we look at how surfing feels in different situations, why it’s so addictive, and what you may get out of it.
Table of Contents
How Do You Describe Surfing?
To describe surfing in the simplest ways, it is a water sport where a rider rides along with a wave upon a board in a prone or upright position.
However, surfing is much more than just that.
Speak to any surfing enthusiast, and you will quickly realize that surfing is much more than simply catching waves, but it is about reconnecting with nature in a way that is both relaxing and exhilarating in an environment that is both calm and ferocious.
Surfing is a humbling experience if you allow it to be. The ocean seeps away our stress and tensions, the sunshine charges our batteries, and the waves leave us craving more and more.
Surfing is a humbling sport as so many conditions are up to chance and not in our control.
When surfers enter the ocean, they accept that their lives are no longer entirely in their hands, which creates a moment of supreme awareness of surfing the surf.
What Does It Feel Like to Catch a Wave?
The type of wave you are riding will greatly affect how it feels to surf, but in general, the sensations of catching a wave are much the same, that is until we begin talking about big wave surfing.
How Does It Feel When You Ride a Wave?
Apart from the adrenaline created from high speeds and large amounts of water crashing all around you, surfing a wave can be a somewhat tranquil experience.
Somehow, the large swell, frantic paddling, and explosive pop-up can all turn into a smooth dance along the face of a wave, with not a single care or thought other than you, your surfboard, and the wave you are riding.
Not only is the experience meditative in a sense, but after successfully catching a wave, riding it like it was made for you, and jumping off the other end, you feel a sense of accomplishment, pride, and an eagerness to do it all again.
What Does It Feel Like to Surf Big Waves?
When big wave surfing (20 feet or bigger), all of the same sensations can be experienced, but with a much more raw, powerful, unforgiving feeling.
Flying down an almost vertical wall of rushing water, you will feel the wind rush past your face as though you are in a race car.
The water will no longer feel soft and smooth but rather bumpy and unsettling. The sheer speed and power created by massive waves are enough to empty anyone’s adrenal gland.
Not much will compare to the mind-blowing adrenaline rush and the satisfying feeling of having survived some of nature’s most powerful elements.
“Being spat out of one of those giant, roaring Hawaiian tubes is the most amazing sensation I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s joy, fear, and accomplishment all rolled into one experience.” – Shaun Tomson.
What Does It Feel Like to Catch a barrel?
Catching a barrel brings many of the same feelings as catching other waves. However, the wave will be steeper, which means the speed at which you travel will be greater, and of course, you will have water all around you.
When surfing larger, overhead waves, the feeling of the lip of the wave crashing into the surface of the ocean can create a deep rumble that can be felt throughout your body.
This creates a sense that something huge is chasing you from behind (which technically the wave is).
Catching a barrel is often a short, exhilarating experience that will leave you wanting more and more.
What Does It Sound Like Inside a Barrel?
Depending on the size of the wave, a barrel can be extremely loud when crashing against the surface of the ocean.
When surfing some of the world’s largest tubes the sound can be almost deafening.
That being said, with a mixture of adrenaline and pure wonder, the sound often seems to blur out into nothingness, an almost white noise of peace.
Wipeout, however, and that crushing sound will come swooping back in split seconds.
Why Is Surfing So Addictive?
Surfing is addictive for a magnitude of reasons, some of them hormone-related and others more mentally directed.
Some of these factors include:
- Surfing is Meditative
- The ocean is detoxifying
Endorphins are the body’s way of covering up pain and, as a consequence, are a powerful mood booster. Have you ever wondered why laughing feels suitable for a while?
That’s endorphins covering up the pain of your internal organs bouncing around.
You know when laughing becomes painful? That’s when your endorphins run out.
Performing high-intensity exercise breaks down our muscle tissue. Over time this will build back stronger, but for the instant, our body floods itself with endorphins which make us feel fantastic.
Because it feels fantastic and we relate that fantastic feeling to surfing, we subconsciously want to repeat it again and again.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects multiple aspects of our lives, such as mood, stress, sleep, heart rate, concentration, and much more.
More interestingly, though, is how the reward system of dopamine works.
When we accomplish a task we have set out to do, we get a small dose of dopamine. When this happens, it feels good, so we crave to do the same again.
This reward system is a significant factor in how our species developed and strived, and we constantly sought out more and thus expanded.
Relate this to the satisfying feeling of catching a wave, and it is easy to see why dopamine makes surfing so addictive.
Although the amount of adrenaline you will experience and the frequency that you experience large adrenaline rushes while surfing will greatly differ from person to person, and with wave size and break type, that does not mean it is not addictive all the same.
Known as the “fight-or-flight” hormone, it raises your heart rate, sharpens your focus, and increases your energy levels when adrenaline is released.
This, to many people, is better than the high that any drug could produce, and in some cases, people chase this high, hence the name “ adrenaline junkie.”
Surfing Is Meditative
Engulfing ourselves in nature is one of the best ways to calm our minds and destress from our daily lives.
Surfing allows the perfect environment to escape the noisy, busy, chaotic world for a few hours and enjoy what nature offers.
Not only is nature calming, but the rhythmical motion of our paddling and the way we need to calm and regulate our breaths helps bring us into a conscious and present state.
A world away from our stress is unsurprisingly addictive, and returning to surfing helps us return to this space.
The Ocean Is Detoxifying
Not surfing specific, but an advantage you get while surfing anyway is the detoxifying effects of the ocean.
The ocean is full of minerals and salts such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium, all of which are good for the skin, boost our metabolism, and relax our muscles.
After spending long periods in the ocean, we feel “cleansed” and re-energized, leaving us seeking that feeling once it eventually fades.
Surfing produces a feeling unlike anything else in the world. Yes, there are similarities between longboarding and snowboarding. However, only surfing allows us to be pushed forward by the power of nature, as opposed to falling thanks to gravity.
When you go surfing, you will feel Relaxing, terrifying, calming, and exhilarating all simultaneously; there is no wonder why the world’s surf population is growing at an exponential rate each year.