quotes about surfing
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The Best Surfing Quotes

Surfers can get quite inspirational, whether it’s about surfing, technique, or life in general. Here are some amazing quotes about surfing.

Some say that surfers don't talk much. They don't like sharing thoughts and feelings, and they don't like giving surfing tips. In our experience, however, that's proven to be a misconception, and we have enough evidence that shows the opposite.

To check out the evidence for yourself, you can read what great surfers like Kelly Slater or Ricky Bassnett had to say in their interviews with the OMBE head coach, Clayton Nienaber. Or, even better, you can listen or read Clayton's guest appearances on podcasts like Surf Mastery or Surf Paddling.

We can assure you that you’ll surely find a lot of quotes in these interviews and podcasts that you can use as part of your motivational speech in the morning. Perhaps you could even turn them into an Instagram story or two. Sharing them with your friends and fellow surfers in bars, cafés, and on beaches will surely make you sound smart, too.

However, they're not all we have. Some are inimitable insights about surfing, some concern life in general, and some are just funny. Now, let's see who said what.

The Best Quote About Surfing Overall

Surfing is mostly about energy—transferring the powerful energy of a wave to your ride is the ultimate aim. But, maybe, more importantly, it gives you a platform to make use of your creative energy. One of the reasons why we love surfing is the exquisite joy it provides by allowing you to channel that creative energy that could go undiscovered otherwise.

You're on the ocean, you are one on one with the wave's explosive energy, and somehow, without premeditation or strategy, you're riding the wave. If you're not feeling that joy, which generally escapes clear-cut expressions, then you may as well give your surfboard to a local kid.

Moreover, what we want the novice surfers to do more than anything when they're on the water is—have fun. After all, surfing is fun, and if you're doing it with anything else on the forefront of feelings and at the helm of your mind, no good's going to come out of it.

So, it's no surprise that our favorite surf quote is a perfect reflection of these ideals we set for ourselves. Matt Warshaw, an ex-professional surfer, author, surf historian, and the ex-editor of the Surfer magazine, said it better than anyone else:

Surfing, alone among sports, generates laughter at its very suggestion, and this is because it turns not a skill into an art but an inexplicable and useless urge into a vital way of life.

It's a quote that conveys everything we feel and we want beginners to feel. That's why we thought it was a good way to open this can of quotes.

Surf Quotes About What Surfing Means to Surfers

Good Vibrations

Yes, surfing is "a vital way of life" for all of us surfers, but still, the meanings we attribute to it differ. For example, for Duke Kahanamoku, the Hawaiian who's generally hailed as the first modern surfer ever, and Bruce Jenkins, a sports columnist for San Francisco Chronicle, surfing is as big as life.

Jenkins says: "Surfing is for life." Duke was even more intense: "Out of the water, I am nothing."

Surfer and revolutionary board shaper Bob McTavish also confirms the vitality of surfing by modifying a proverbial template:

You can take a surfer out of the surf, but you can not take surf out of (the) surfer.

The graceful Hawaiian surfer Paul Strauch, on the other hand, is a little more moderate in terms of interpreting surfing but still makes it seem equal to one of the essential elements in life:

Surfing is very much like making love. It always feels good, no matter how many times you’ve done it.

The feelings of the Irish champion John McCarthy also hit quite close to the essence of what Strauch said:

Surfing is the most blissful experience you can have on this planet, a taste of heaven.

For the first surfer who rode on the now-famous Banzai Pipeline, Phil Edwards, the experience is closely related to having fun:

The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.

Besides its vitality and fun, surfing means more profound connections for some as it is a therapeutic, mind-opening, and spiritual experience. The late actor Paul Walker was one of those:

Surfing soothes me, it’s always been a kind of Zen experience for me. The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful, and awesome. The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave.

Bill Hamilton, surfer, shaper, and the father of the world-renown big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, would surely agree with Paul Walker:

Sliding a wave removes our brains out of the ordinary and slips us into the extraordinary of being there now - no more worries about mortgages or strife of being poor or rich. When you enter the domain of an ocean cylinder, that moment, those split seconds belong to the Zen part of just being. Period.

Four-time world champion Lisa Andersen offers a great summary of all these good vibrations:

Surfing is a way to be free.

Some Vibrations That Are Not So Good

Being in such close contact with nature, feeling bewilderment in the face of one of its greatest forces, having mindful and spiritual musings, and returning to the shore as a better person is surely amazing. Yet, it's not always the case, as surfing can be a pretty humbling experience as well. Jolene Balock, known for her role in Star Trek: Enterprise, perfectly captures how such a courageous connection with nature can put things in perspective:

Surfing is such an amazing concept. You're taking on Nature with a little stick and saying, 'I'm gonna ride you!' And a lot of times, Nature says, 'No you're not!' and crashes you to the bottom.

For others, like the Australian surfer Joel Parkinson, the change of perspective is initiated by another vital aspect of life:

It's funny, 'cause you think surfing is your whole life, but then when you make a family, it seems like it's not at all.

However, not everyone is lucky enough to gain such a perspective and find a way out for themselves. Sometimes, especially with the hovering expectations concerning competitions, once you become a professional, you might feel like you're trapped, too. Even Kelly Slater, who's considered the best surfer of all time, can sometimes feel like that:

It's like the mafia. Once you're in - you're in. There's no getting out.

Ricky Bassnett surely felt the effects of the tension between profession and passion:

As soon as you turn a passion into a profession, a lot of the time that can suck the joy out of it a lot of the time. And I think something I've learned as well is that a passion doesn't have to bring in money or fame or glory. Just let it be a passion for what it is.

Another legend, Butch Van Artsdalen had warned us about that tension back in the 1970s:

I don't want to be connected with surfing in a business way. I'd like to be a plumber.

Best Surfing Quotes About Technique, Style, and Flow

Surfing is actually quite simple in the sense that it doesn't take too much to start. Naima Green explains what we mean quite efficiently:

One of the greatest things about the sport of surfing is that you need only three things: your body, a surfboard, and a wave.

However, things might not be that simple when you're on the wave. Fortunately, some surfers are generous enough to bless us with their occasional tips on how to improve technique and style. For Kelly Slater, for example, the key to becoming a good surfer is learning how to read the waves:

Your surfing can get better on every turn, on every wave you catch. Learn to read the ocean better. A big part of my success has been wave knowledge.

Wave knowledge grants you the capability of understanding what's going on behind you even when you're not looking. Laird Hamilton is surely aware of that as he also knows that a good surfer is the one who always looks at where they're going:

Surfing’s one of the few sports that you look ahead to see what’s behind.

Every surfer who’s made it to the advanced stages of surfing knows that you're going to fail a lot, that you're going to fall off your board a countless number of times, and it's actually not a bad feat since that's how you're supposed to get better at it. Laird Hamilton offers his wisdom on that front as well:

Wiping out is an under-appreciated skill.

Of course, this particular skill needs to be supplemented with the tenacity to get up and have another go at it. Although it's not exactly about re-surfacing after a wipe-out, Gerry Lopez, a.k.a. Mr. Pipeline, offers his insight on how to be more tenacious:

Well, in regards to surfing, I’ve learned that there is always another wave coming. Translated that means there is always tomorrow. No matter how badly you get caught inside, if you can just hang in there and keep paddling, the set is going to pass and there will be a lull afterwards. So don’t give up, just take your pounding, wait until the set passes, then make your move.

When it's about style and achieving a flow that's becoming of a surfer, though, nobody can give better advice than Kelly Slater:

A wave isn't like a skate ramp or mountain; everything's moving around, and you have to time how to move along with it.

And according to the American surfer and environmental activist Skip Frye, that flow is pretty akin to that of music:

Surfing to me is like playing music. You play different melodies with different boards.

Let's conclude this part with a puzzling but quite astute observation from Gerry Lopez, which can also be categorized under "funny surfing quotes":

Surfing is attitude dancing.

Best Surfing Quotes About Life in General

There's a point in the Surf Paddling episode in which Clayton Nienaber of OMBE Surf was a guest; someone says: "Surfing is just a big metaphor for life, man," and everybody takes a moment to ponder the accuracy and greatness of that sentence. Yes, it is! And the experience of surfing allowed surfers to reconfigure their places in life and their approaches to it.

So, you can be sure that they have lots of meaningful quotes that are bigger than surfing. Bethany Hamilton (who has no relation to Bill Hamilton or Laird Hamilton, who both have made an appearance in the sections above) is surely one of those who got wiser thanks to surfing. The following line from her great book, Soul Surfer, is a testament to that:

Life is a lot like surfing…. When you get caught in the impact zone, you’ve got to just get back up. Because you never know what may be over the next wave.

The feeling is also shared by Tom Blake who was one of the most influential surfers of his time and who revolutionized surfboard design, albeit in a more hopeful manner:

Surfing leads you through life, especially when you're young and with hope in your heart.

Writer and surfer Caitlin Creeper, on the other hand, draws a parallel between surfing and life in terms of navigating through hardship and unpredictability:

There’s so many parallels that can be drawn between how you interact with the ocean and how you interact with life, they’re both constantly shifting beasts.

And our need for navigation is all crystal clear for mindfulness gurus like John Kabat-Zinn:

You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

Of course, all that talk about nature and mindfulness isn't just wasted on words. Most of the surfers you know are actually part of environmental organizations and actively seeking ways to protect the ocean in this age of industrial waste and climate crisis. For Kelly Slater, there's no other conceivable way:

I think when a surfer becomes a surfer, it's almost like an obligation to be an environmentalist at the same time.

Wrapping Up...

Sometimes surfing provides all the meaning you need, sometimes it's just your actions when you're on the water, and sometimes, it's even bigger than life. Surely, whatever it is you seek, there's enough inspiration in the quotes we presented above. Even if some of them don't make sense at the first look, once you find what meaning you attribute to surfing, the rest will probably open the gates for new realms for you.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching