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The Butterfly Effect...

What makes a good surf session? Is there the perfect recipe? For some the answer is pretty simple, good waves obviously! I have been asking myself this question a lot recently. Partly because of the lack of surf we have had this year and partly due to a session I had where the nothing looked good, but I was still stoked at the end. The conditions were not as forecast, there was almost no swell, the wind was stronger than predicted and blowing on shore and the tide was way out. I will call this session La Mariposa, the Butterfly – it started as something a bit gross but then turned into something much better.  On my drive home I was trying to pinpoint what made it so good and what makes a great session in general. I came up with a few ideas that are all connected, a bit like ingredients for a recipe.

Waves – I think this is rather obvious that to have a good surf session you need to have some surf. However, I don’t believe that you need perfect, or even good, waves to have a great session. They obviously help. I personally have had near perfect waves and not had a good session. Not because of the conditions, but a few of the other ingredients I will come on to.  During La Mariposa there was barely enough of a swell to call them waves. But it was still memorable! Don’t get me wrong I still do and will look for the perfect wave and have dreams of catching that one perfect moment on the sea, but I have come to realise that the perfect moment is more than just an epic ride. So what else can make dodgy or even down right terrible waves worth remembering?

Company – It’s a bit cliche but being able to share the moment with friends and family makes it more memorable and a bit more special. Having someone to share in the stoke, someone to celebrate with and laugh at the bails with can turn a session from mediocre to good – bad to tolerable at least. Humans are social creatures; it is part of how we make sense and understand the world around us. So it goes without saying that surfing with someone else is better. Surfing with someone that you trust is always a good idea especially on the big days when you are pushing your comfort zone. It boosts your confidence and ups your game. You can learn from others and they can learn from you. So the more people you surf with the more you can observe, share and learn – which ties in to my next ingredient. I am not necessarily a fan of having a chin wag in the line up but being able to share an experience and have an unspoken awareness with others is still pretty powerful. Not just when you’re telling stories about ‘that one wave’ and they can back you up! The more people you add to the mix, the more of a benefit you will see. However good company alone won’t automatically mean a good session is on the horizon.

Progression – This is one of the biggest factors in making a session great or terrible (for me at least).  I am always looking to progress and get frustrated if I feel like I am not pushing myself or developing my skills. If you find the right company they will bring this out in you naturally with a bit healthy camaraderie and competition. What made La Mariposa stoke worthy was the fact that I had progressed. I took my new board out in some serious chop and wind, and learnt how to ride it in the worst of conditions. Progression is a double-edged sword – riding perfect waves and not pushing myself can leave me frustrated, annoyed and unsatisfied. I am sure I am not the only one. I don’t go out expecting to become Kai Lenny in one session but if I don’t come away having done something for the first time or improving something, then I can get in a negative frame of mind. I will focus on all of the bad points of the session, mostly my mistakes. A subcategory of progression is seeing others improve and this is heavily entwined in having company. Sharing in that excitement and joy of sticking your first cutback or just watching someone catch a wave and trimming for the first time can make a whole session.

Then finally, I believe that without this one last ingredient, all others are void. This ingredient is the backbone of any session and without it, I would had a lot more terrible sessions.

PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) – this concept is something that was introduced to me by a friend. He had been having a bit of a rough time of late, but he is always positive and smiling. I asked why and he explained that having a positive attitude is the making of a positive day, minute or hour. I feel this is something that is natural for me. In fact it has earnt me the nickname Optimism Prime amongst my friends. This outlook can change a session from good to great, from noticing the scenery to focusing on the positives rather than mistakes you made. Seeing the positives can really impact all aspects of your life. Some of my most memorable sessions started with doubt and almost not getting in, then with that little positive thought that conditions will get better, before long you’ve committed to getting in. It also helps that at that point your expectations are reset, any rides become unexpected and if you manage to get any of the other ingredients on this list with them then your luck’s in! In a kind of paradoxical situation I have found that surfing can be the cause of PMA. Team this up with good company, someone who persuades you to get in even when it looks more than debatable, then pretty quickly you end up with a self-healing pastime. One that promotes good mental health, that becomes part of your coping mechanisms and a obsession, if not a lifestyle.

With at least two of these ingredients, I guarantee you will have a good session. If you manage to have all of these in one, then you will have many jealous people looking your direction when you’ve finished your session and are buzzing in the car park smiling like you’ve dropped a couple of happy pills – just like this motley crew after a day at the beach.

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