Surfing is more than just a sport and a lifestyle for some people. For some people surfing and the ocean is therapy. This is the story of Delphine Besson, a Swiss surfer with a deep passion for the ocean. Delphine was born in 1983 in Sri Lanka and was adopted when she was just over a month old by a Swiss family. She always had a love for the ocean but only started surfing when she was old enough to travel by herself. Delphine fell in love with surfing instantly.
In June 2014 Delphine noticed her body starting to shake uncontrollably. Everyday movement required full concentration and became extremely painful and tiring. Doctors diagnosed to her a rare neurological disease with no known cure. The type of disease describes a lack of muscle control during voluntary movements such as walking or picking up objects. Daily life became a painful and frustrating struggle to say the least.
Delphine describes how she found incredible strength and courage for life that she gets from the ocean.
Why do you think surfing makes you feel so good? Can describe those feelings when you first get in the water?
When I get in the water I feel free. Like nothing could hurt me. I like the life underwater, it sounds peacefull. To be honest, I feel like home in the water. I feel better underwater than on earth sometimes. The funniest thing is that when I was a kid I was so afraid about the water. I learned to swim lately. When I surf I find this sensation of freedom. I love the feeling you get when you catch a wave. You paddle so hard to catch the wave and then you feel something powerful raising you. You can do it over and over but it’s always new.
What’s the best part of surfing for you?
Surfing cleans my head… Drains me of the all negative energy and I feel fresh again. It’s awesome the way you feel closer to what made us.. The nature.
Who are your favorite surfers ?
Kelly Slater, Sally Fitzgibbons, Bianca Buitendag and Bethany Hamilton.
Why is Bethany Hamilton such an inspiration to you?
Bethany Hamilton is the most inspirational person in the world to me. She had this dream of being a professional surfer and she was attacked by a shark. She was young and she found the strength to fight and be able to surf again, even with one arm. Her dream became true. She believed in herself and her love for surfing and she made it. I learned from her that anything is possible if you really want it. Her philosophy helps me a lot these days. I do not know what my disease is doing to my body but no matter what, I’ll be always able to realise my dreams. Maybe not the way that I wanted to. But that doesn’t matter to me.
My favorite quote is; Don’t dream your life, live your dream. It’s very important to me to live my dreams. Bethany shows me that everything happens for a reason. I got the chance to meet Bethany and Alana Blanchard in Hawaii and she sent me a video message for my birthday. I watch it a lot as it’s inspirational. Bianca Buitendag also sent me a video which I use for good vibes and inspiration.
What boards do you ride?
I’m currently using a 6’6″ shortboard semi-round nose. I like it for speed and drive. But I would like to try some others. It’s just hard because I can’t practice in Switzerland so I always need to wait on my holidays if I want to improve my level.
Do you think that surfing and the ocean is assisting with your disease?
Yes I think it is. It’s crazy because I didn’t get the chance to surf or see the ocean since I was diagnosed but I’m sure it is. My weeks are all the same. Doctors, physio, physio in the water… Sometimes I want to give up. But then I say to myself that I have to keep fighting because if I want to travel, surf and play with dolphins in the ocean I have to keep going. I find some strength again when I think about that. It’s assisting me because it’s my main goal. My main motivation. Every day I think about my next trip and my next wave and it helps me to keep going and stay positive. All these feelings make me happy and I can’t find an another way to feel them. So I’m not giving up on that.
What are your goals for the future?
When the doctors and specialists told me that they don’t know where my disease comes from and how to treat it, the way you see the future is not the same. Now my body still shakes but a little less. I can do some things without help and it’s good for my mind. It’s difficult for me to plan something because I don’t know how I’ll feel the next day. I can’t project myself too far. I have to live day by day and it’s not easy for me.
I’m a dreamer. I want to work, travel, surf and I don’t know when I’ll be able to do that. It’s very hard when you realise that you can’t do all the things you love to do. I want to stay positive and in my mind I have a lot of plans for my future. I would like to make a surfing world tour and be humanitarian worker. This is one of my goals that I think about all the time. I don’t want to live with regrets. I can’t tell you what the future holds for me but be sure it will be about making my dreams a reality and live my life completely.
Thank you Delphine for sharing your story with us. A big thank you to Patrick for your assistance with this article. We wish you the best for the future.