Chicks (and old men) dig scars
Injuries suck. There’s really no other way to put it.
But especially if you’re a freelancer who surfs.
You get sad, you get grumpy, then you start to look (and smell) like a listless ass turd, because all you want to do is read, binge surf movies and eat in bed.
Most of all though, you get shitty at yourself for taking things for granted pre-injury.
Like being able to cook, lift a camera to your face and wipe your ass with your dominant hand.
Even something as simple as typing a sentence became a chore, frustrating me to no end considering I had to knock back work. You can only write so much using the one-handed hover like a helicopter over the keyboard technique.
In my case, the injury was a broken clavicle, or collarbone as us plebs call it. The result of a very undramatic mountain bike stack on an innocent section of a downhill track in Austria that also left me slightly concussed and very humbled.
To put it in perspective, this occurred in early September, and I’m only just starting to regain the full range of movement. But hey, a break that saw the bone separate 200% from where it was meant to be was always going to need a little time to recover.
During this period of mandatory rest though, I had plenty of opportunity to reflect.
About my job, about the things I missed doing and also about the morning I walked around the hospital with my ass peeking through the slit in the back of my gown (those relentlessly polite Austrians never said a word).
I came to the conclusion, as many do who aren’t faced with an irreparable, life altering injury, that this incident was actually one of the best things to ever happen to me, and now I’m going to tell you why.
I Had Time to Step Back and Review My Freelancing Business
After my injury, I spent a lot of time laid out horizontal on the bed. This was due to a combination of strong meds and a cramped living situation. As I improved though, I’d go for walks in the morning and after dinner. It was during these walks through the Austrian countryside that I started to get real with myself about the state of my business. Sure, I’d been living and travelling pretty comfortably since I started as a copywriter, but how much of that had been dumb luck and how much of it had I actually planned for.
The answer was not much.
With all that spare time though, I could begin to research and create a plan for success. This involved setting an overarching goal, breaking that down into weekly targets then developing daily tasks that would eventually contribute towards said goal.
I can’t stress how much planning has helped me with my business.
I Made a Decision to Never Take Surfing for Granted
When we first arrived in Portugal, I’d spend hours on the weekend watching the surf. From my perch on the cliff, I’d experience brief moments of excitement upon seeing a set loom on the horizon. I’d then be brought crashing back down to earth with the realisation that I was still a little way off from getting in the water.
Honestly, watching the surfers hurt more than the injury itself. Not to mention the last surf I’d had was in July. This means I was already itching to get in the water before I injured my shoulder. To be told that I’d most likely be out of the water for seven months total was a kick in the soft parts.
It was then and there that I made a choice to never take surfing for granted. And rather than be unsatisfied with poor conditions, I’d try to just appreciate how lucky I actually am to have surfing in my life in the first place.
This decision, more so than many others in my life, has had a profound effect on my happiness.
I Learned to Be Kinder to Myself
You see ‘life coaches’ on Instagram hyping this all the time. ‘Treat yourself with kindness’, ‘Nurture your thoughts’, ‘Just say no to negativity, man’.
The majority of them, but not all of them, are a few bangles shy of a modern stereotype. But if we strip away the Native American dream catchers, social media photos of elegant brunches in all-white garb and their propensity for vague promises, their message is actually legit.
I myself was rattled after the accident. Me, a 28-year-old male, felled by a recreational activity… oh, the shame! But after chipping myself for being an idiot for a few weeks, I realised it wasn’t getting me anywhere. So, I resolved to relax a little bit with the self-criticism and try to embrace my situation.
Now, I can’t say this made every day infinitely better, but I can say that being kinder to myself definitely didn’t do me any more harm.
I Changed My Approach to Surfing by Shifting My Expectations
It took me over 15 years of wriggling my way across waves all over the world to learn that the most detrimental thing to one's capacity to improve their performance isn’t a lack of practice time, but rather the tendency to set your expectations too high.
For example: You paddle out in knee-high slop, with JJF’s ‘Space’ burning a hole in your frontal lobe. All you want to do is turn like John, punt like John and maybe even grow as shitty chin beard like John.
But alas, you’re actually a pretty average surfer who’s out in very average waves. So, instead of throwing water like Izzy Kamakawiwo'ole belly flopping into a kiddie pool, you end up bogging rails, nosediving and spending a lot of time wondering where it all went wrong.
You can only surf as good as a wave lets you and that’s what it’s all about.
Finding that line, getting into rhythm and doing what you do with style and power. Essentially, matching your expectation of the surf and your ability with the experience.
Or, god forbid, you do what I’ve been doing for the majority of my life, trying to snap burger sections, throw cutties on closeouts and floater over shorebreaks.
What do I know... I'm just a kook anyway.