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Is It Possible to Stay Stoked and Sane During Stay-at-Home Orders?

Story by Luke Milardo at The Inertia.

I know I'm not the only one to see the ocean as a retreat. When the stress of news, school, work, and relationships drive us to the brink, we seek solace in the water. A global pandemic feels like the most appropriate time to lean into that. The world is shaking and the prospect of spending time away from our safe-and-happy place is straight up terrifying. Unfortunately, that's just what many of us are being asked to do: stay out of the water.

Surfing is creativity, exploration, camaraderie, exercise, and adrenaline bundled into one euphoric pursuit. But my time away from the beach lately has me wondering if maybe, just maybe, surfing and all it represents doesn't have to exist exclusively in the water. There are foundational elements of the act of riding a wave - or even the lengths we go to reach them - that are exercised in the entire ritual, but until now, they've existed safely within that act. In the spirit of stay-at-home orders or shelter-in-place advisories or whatever mandate your hometown may be under, I've been searching for ways to summon the spirit of surfing from home. The question is, can even that keep us stoked and sane?

Creativity
Surfing is part athletics, part artistry. It's the inherent freedom and self-expression that make the sport so much more fun than, say, tackling someone.

If you're a surfer, chances are you have some creative tendencies. And if you can't express yourself on a wave, why not do it some other way? Recording an album on your laptop, writing a novel, building a balance board and painting a mural on your kitchen ceiling are all creative endeavors that exercise those right-brain tendencies. Better yet, if you really want something surf-specific, research board design and shape your own blank. All instructions are online and you'd be supporting a struggling industry by ordering foam and glass right now. Creative expression is a powerful therapy.

Exploration
Do you know that sketchy slab you pass on your way to the beach? That river mouth that might not always be a churning torrent of froth? If you're complying with mandates, then you're not checking those places in person. Still, now is a time you could order nautical charts, browse buoy histories, study tide maps, webcams, weather patterns, and satellite imagery and become an expert on your coastline's layout. This is all research you'll inevitably apply when you do get back in the water or set out looking for waves. Plus, it will help make you a more well-rounded waterman in the long run.

Surf exploration doesn't have to involve plane rides and border crossings, just an expanded perception of what's surfable. Your go-to breaks will be packed as soon as beaches reopen, but if you use this time wisely, you'll already be pioneering something crazy and new you discovered from your couch.

Camaraderie
Everyone handles stress, uncertainty, and isolation in their own way, so now is an essential time to be a friend. Check in with your crew. Reach out. Rent a surf film and share a few beers while video conferencing. Play a game (FaceTime, Yahtzee, or Go Fish all work well together). And don't forget, reminiscing over old sessions is a great way to keep spirits high.

Surfing creates incredibly strong, intimate communities, the kind we need now more than ever. So be the one to stoke the flame. There's no telling what it'll mean to a friend.

Exercise
It seems like every professional-surfer-turned-vlogger on the North Shore is leaking their regimens to keep us fit right now. And no offense, they're probably in better shape than you.

Your body is the best piece of workout equipment there is, so get up and stretch, lunge, push, pull, and squat because when it comes time to paddle out you'll want to be surf-fit. Who knows, maybe you'll come out of this paddling even faster and surfing with more control than ever before. Sometimes time away can be beneficial.

And then there's the universal knowledge that physical activity improves your mood, reduces stress, and decreases symptoms associated with depression - all things we can be mindful of in this time.

Adrenaline
We won't be pulling into any stand-up barrels at home, but there are plenty of healthy ways to get a bit of adrenaline pumping. Do something you've never done before, even if that means live streaming a cooking show, a one-act play, a concert, or a comedy sketch. What does this have to do with the rush of riding a wave? The worse you are at something new and the more uncomfortable you make yourself, the harder that adrenaline will flow. Use this time to roll the dice and reach out to a friend with whom you've fallen out of touch. If you're feeling especially bold, try the cold shower trick. When you close your eyes and imagine, stepping into a frigid flow can feel like ducking under an outside set. Kind of. Whatever you do for thrills, do it safely. Hospitals don't want to see surf-at-home-related injuries right now.

COVID-19 may be a harrowing pain in the ass for all facets of our lives. It may have taken our sense of health, financial security, and social community, but it doesn't have to take our stoke. If the surfing world can pull together to harness the spirit of our passion without actually performing it, I think we'll be stronger for it. Let's not give our communities a reason to hate us by collapsing in defeat, breaking travel bans, or poaching closed beaches. Instead, let's help ourselves, our friends, and the world by channeling the energy of surf and emanating it throughout our broader circles. Let's ride this out, together. Our next session will be all the sweeter for it.

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