When you take up surfing one of the first things you notice is how difficult it can be to paddle out.
The worst part about being a beginner is the amount of wave-beatings you have to take before you even get to the business of trying to catch a wave.
One thing I noticed when learning was a move experienced surfers make when faced with an oncoming wave–they push their board under the water and pop out the other side of the crashing wave, unscathed, and resume paddling out.
The move is called the ‘duck dive’ and learning it is a real transition point for a surfer. It marks a shift from flailing novice to a surfer who is at least beginning to get some sense of control in the water.
To do a duck dive you paddle quickly into the oncoming wave, grab the sides of your board at chest level and push down. You then push down on the tail of the board with one knee. Your body naturally follows the board down under the water as the wave passes over you. You then pull up the nose of the board and it will naturally pop up to the surface, pulling you along with it.
The first successful duck dive is a revelation. After being relentlessly bashed by the surf for way too long, you suddenly have access to a place just a few feet under the water where, no matter what turbulence is going on at the surface, a whole world of relative calm exists.
It’s been a decade since I last surfed and I know the next time I go surfing, when faced with an oncoming wave I will instinctively remember what to do.
The wisdom of the duck dive is locked deep in my body.
As a presence coach, a lot of my work with clients involves using simple exercises to become more present, so we are able to respond creatively to circumstances, rather than reacting to them from our deeply ingrained habits.
Being aware of our bodies–of the sensations coursing through us, our emotional state, our energy levels, our posture–is an important element of being present. In coaching sessions I am reminded again and again of the simplicity and beauty of the duck dive.
In the sessions we use simple shifts that allow us to slip beneath the chaotic energies of our habits and patterns, our critical voices, and the churning expectations that get heaped up on us.
And from this place, just below the surface, we get a taste of the calm ocean that exists in all of us. In this quiet space we can make small, helpful adjustments before we tilt ourselves back up into the busyness of the everyday world.