At GSN we receive a fair few emails from girls around the world sharing their stories on surfing, travel, health and lifestyle. This reader wanted us to share her story publicly via Girl Surf Network and to remain anonymous.
Depression. How surfing saved my life.
I was always a happy kid. I had a great upbringing, loving parents and played a lot of sport. I was one of those kids that got along with everyone at school. In the grand scheme of things, I really didn’t have anything to complain about.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20’s that I started to notice my depression, anxiety, sleepless nights and suicidal tendencies. I couldn’t really put my finger on what it was that made me that way and that really frustrated me. It was as if I just didn’t see the point of anything. Why do I go to work? Why to I strive to earn money, buy a house, get married, have kids, travel and love to then just die at the end of it all? It was like I just gave up on life as I knew it.
I sought a few people for inspiration, motivation, even a diagnosis. I was placed on anti-depressants for a year to try and “overcome” my depression. The pills made me feel like a failure in life. How could I be so privileged to be alive and healthy, yet be on daily pills to make me happy. I was ashamed. I didn’t even tell my parents or my closest friends about it.
During my darkest times of depression I would make the effort to walk along the beach with my Ipod playing my favourite tunes. I would watch the sun setting and the surfers in the water until dark. The beach really seemed to take my mind off things. I was noticing that during the day all I wanted to do was to get back to that happy place at the beach watching the surfers do what they loved. It made me happy to think that I was excited about something again. I found a small piece of happiness amidst my depressive state and it was a light at the end of the tunnel.
I spent so many afternoons on the beach that I came to recognize a few of the surfers in the water. There were groups of guys having fun catching waves with their mates. There was a guy with a green wetsuit that was a really good surfer. He always caught the most waves. There were lots of longboarders on the smaller days. They seemed to dance along the waves with such ease.
Of all the surfers I came to recognize, there was one that really stood out for me. It was a girl, about 16 years old with blonde hair. She was heavy set, always surfed in a wetsuit and was out there most days. She was a really good surfer and knew her way around the boys out there.
The thing that made her stand out the most for me was the way she ran to the water. Every time she came down for a surf she would come bolting over the sand dunes, board in hand, hair going everywhere. She was so excited to be going surfing and every time I saw her running over the dunes it looked like it was the first time she had ever seen the ocean. After her session, when leaving the water it was like it was the last time she would see the ocean.
This was a pure sense of happiness. A joy that can’t be bought. I thought about all the times I played sport over the years and I never remember being so excited that I would bolt to it with so much joy the way this surfer girl did. She was so good at surfing that she would have to have been surfing for years and still she was so excited, every time.
I was somewhat jealous of how happy she was and wondered if surfing would be something that would make me happy. I took it upon myself to go out and buy a second hand surfboard. I read up on a few surfing tips online and took to the water on smaller days. It wasn’t long before I noticed that surfing was all I could think about. I was reading up on a lot of surf history, skills and techniques online. I studied board types, surf locations and learnt how to read the charts. Even at night when I couldn’t surf I was watching surfing dvd’s and YouTube video’s before an early bedtime, ready for a dawn session the next morning.
Surfing became a slight obsession. When I wasn’t surfing, I was thinking about it. I started to meet new girlfriends that I surfed with during the week and they have since become my most dearest friends. I even left my job in the corporate world and worked at a café on the beach-front so I could be near the ocean. It was as if my entire life started to revolve around surfing.
It is now years later and I look back on my immensely depressive state. I remembered seeing that young surfer girl running at the ocean each day and I wondered how surfing could bring her so much joy. I now realize that it has done the same for me and I am so very thank full to be alive, healthy and happy today.
I know everyone can experience different forms of depression and anxiety. It’s not the same for everyone. But for me surfing was my outlet. Surfing is my happiness. And I wanted to let the girls know that surfing quiet possibly saved my life.