Be Kind to the Kook, Be Kind to Yourself
A couple of years into surfing, I attended a group coaching lesson. The lesson consisted of 5 to 6 women at beginner skill levels and 2 instructors that paddled out to us to give tips throughout our surf session.
The lesson started on land. The instructors gathered us up to discuss the break:
Where we were going to paddle out and what to expect from the conditions that day.
“Tell us your name, how long you’ve been surfing, and what you want help with today.”
The instructor looked to her left to cue the first student to speak.
"Hi! I'm Sarah, I've been surfing for 3 years .....but umm I'm just really not that good!"
The second woman followed "Hey, I'm Kelly, I started surfing 2 years ago, but I still suck."
The third ..." I'm Gina, I've been surfing for...about year...but I really don't know what I’m doing."
To my surprise, a domino effect was set in motion.
..."Hi everyone, I'm (insert name here), I've been surfing for (insert length of time here)... BUT...
(insert reason why I’m not as experienced as I think everyone expects me to be here).
Perhaps this chain of responses was a product of politeness. Perhaps the second woman thought it rude to outshine the first and by the time the third made it a trend, it became too uncomfortable to deviate.
Nonetheless, I’ve seen too many examples like this to think this was about politeness or even a weird coincidence.
Here’s what I realized:
When we are learning something new we tend to be unkind to ourselves. We don’t accept positive reinforcement or compliments from those around us, even when we are making progress and developing new skills.
Rather than honoring the process of learning and accepting our beginner status, we give in to an inner unkindness.
We let this inner unkindness mask our ability to notice our improvements.
We let this inner unkindness prohibit a positive mindset that can nurture us to our full potential.
We let this inner unkindness talk us into irrational self-criticism.
Furthermore, while we may innocently believe that being unkind to ourselves is okay because it does not harm others, we are wrong.
As seen in our story, our inner unkindness can create a ripple effect on those around us.
The consequences of being unkind to ourselves go beyond a small circle of women at a beginner surf lesson. This unkindness has the power to infiltrate our community and culture.
Because our inner unkindness does not value the process of learning and does not trust that our hard work will lead us to become better surfers, it perpetuates a long-standing disconnect in our community and celebrates a US and THEM mentality.
In surf culture, this mentality is prominent and shown by the infamous term “kook” being so widely used.
This derogatory term, kook, is often used by experienced surfers to describe and ridicule a surfer with little experience. Maybe they put on their wetsuit backward, have their leash on the wrong ankle, or ride a Wavestorm - the quintessential beginner board sold at Costco for under $100.
Or maybe their kookiness isn’t so obvious at first glance - they are simply none the wiser, and have yet to develop basic skills: controlling their board, navigating the lineup, and practicing proper etiquette.
While the term can be thrown around lightheartedly, in a meme shared on Facebook, or even more seriously, in an angry confrontation in the parking lot. It’s a term that perpetuates a divide between US and THEM.
As we know, this divide detracts from the joys that drew us to surfing in the first place. It does not allow us to learn from each other. It does not let us share waves or encourage safety and fun. It creates stress in crowded lineups and home break parking lots, it encourages localism and boosts egos.
Now, while we started our story with a few "kooks" describing their self-proclaimed kookiness and how their inner unkindness creates a ripple effect and contributes to a divide in our culture, it goes without saying that the experienced surfer is just as responsible.
Because when we, experienced surfers, are unkind to the kook we do not give value to the process of learning.
When we are unkind to the kook we deny the path that led us to gain experience and disregard our connection to once being beginners in the sport.
When we are unkind to the kook we create a ripple effect and a herd mentality to those around us and encourage beginner shaming.
When we are unkind to the kook we reveal that we were unkind to ourselves in the process of learning. We reflect on the self-criticism we put ourselves through as beginners and pass on the same unkindness that we once felt.
When we are unkind to the kook we give in to our inner unkindness. We create a US and THEM mentality and empower a divide within our community that detracts from the joys that drew us to surfing in the first place.
So, no matter where you are in your journey of surfing, no matter how much experience you may have...
Be Kind to the Kook, Be Kind to Yourself.
This post is an excerpt from Episode 09 of Confessions of a Surf Lady Podcast. For more inspiring surf lady content listen bellow or on all major podcast platforms.
Confessions of a Surf Lady is presented by iaera surf
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