From the moment I rode my first wave, assisted of course, I was hooked. It happened on a cold, rainy Australian winter day off the coast of South Eastern Queensland. The rush of adrenalin and dopamine through my 26-year-old body set shockwaves through my entire being. The ease at which I felt in the ocean was something I had yet to experience in my life until then. The ocean surrounded me like a familiar lover. The thrill of catching the wave was like the rush of finding true love. I was forever changed that day.
I hadn’t planned to become a surfer. My brother actually told me to try it. When I told him I was moving to Australia he said I had to learn to surf. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought of it until he had mentioned it. So Shortly after arriving in the land down under when I was asked to join a group of peers on a surf camp trip, I said ‘sure, why not?’
It didn’t take me long in the water to catch that first wave, and then it happened. I was completely and utterly hooked. From that day, I knew it would be part of my life. I didn’t, however, foresee it becoming a crazy life-changing addiction.
After the surf camp, I soon bought a surfboard. I would ride the city transit bus, 35 minutes with a cumbersome 7’6″ Mini Mal surfboard, to the closest beach. I religiously spent my weekends in the water struggling to catch even the smallest of waves. I would come out of the water with another bruise or cut and the hugest smile on my face. There were days when I wouldn’t catch a single wave and spent hours being tossed around in the water. But I always came out with a stupid grin on my face.
Over the years, and after moving to an apartment on the beach in Maroochydore Queensland, I slowly started to get the hang of surfing. It became part of my daily routine. Wake up – surf – shower – eat – go to work – surf – go home – shower – eat – go to bed – repeat. My life started to feel like it had meaning. Like surfing was somehow my purpose. I knew I would never be a professional, I started way to late in life. But the thought of it being part of my life until that life ceased to exist sat very well with me.
Over time though, I started to notice that If the waves were flat for a few days this strange depression would seep in. I didn’t put two and two together until talking to a friend about it. He was not surprised when I told him I was feeling blue one day. He was also a surfer and knew there hadn’t been waves for a while. He called it surf depression. He explained to me that when we surf, dopamine is released in our brains. Dopamine is the brain chemical that makes us feel good when we fall in love or when our favorite team wins a game. Surfers get used to the increased dopamine so when we don’t surf for a while our brains notice and feel sad. I completely understood that. It was as if I was hooked on this drug and when I was deprived my brain went through withdrawals.
Fast forward 7 years, two successful but short relationships and two drastic moves. Here I sit in the Middle East suffering from prolonged surf depression. Sure I wake up every day and go to work, with a smile on my face even. But there is always this lingering feeling of something missing. A longing for that drug.
Some might wonder why I decided to move to the desert if surfing is such a big passion in my life. And the answer is exactly that. It is such a big passion that I am willing to sacrifice 3 years of my life so I can one day live by the ocean and pursue a carrier that incorporates surfing and teaching. Living in the Middle East will allow me to pay off student debt quickly. Much quicker than living in Canada or anywhere really. For me to be debt free means I will have the freedom to take risks and pursue my wildest dreams. We get one life and I am a firm believer in making the most of it. I do plan to do just that.
Although I have good days and bad days, it is the thought of my future that keeps me going. I know that one day I will be surfing daily again. That surfing will be part of my daily routine as it once was. For now, short surf trips, and mind surfing while scrolling through Instagram will have to keep the withdrawals at bae. On occasion when the swell kicks up in the Persian Gulf you’ll definitely see me cruisin down the highway to get my hit as fast as I can.
p.s. Surfable waves are forecast to hit Dubai this weekend. I’ve had butterflies in my stomach all week anticipating my surfing love and it’s soft and exhilarating hold on my heart.