Lessons from riding the waves

by | FearLess

“Feelings are much like waves: we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf.”
Jonatan Mårtensson

This post is a guest blog by Philippa Fabbri

I’ve always loved and respected the sea…I’m convinced that I should have been a mermaid. You know the type, the one with an hourglass figure, long blonde hair with clamshells for a bikini, and the most beautiful blue, purple and shimmering green tail. Over the years, surfing has taught me many life lessons and I’d like to share some of them with you.


A lifetime of loving memories

My earliest memories were of summer holidays in Kenton, spending days on end at the beach fishing, swimming and surfing. We had two windsurfers and what I quickly learnt was that you had to work with the wind to have a pleasant experience. It didn’t help to argue or fight. The more you lost your cool, the harder the wind would blow.A windsurfer
The way you positioned the board and the sail made all the difference between getting bashed on the head with the boom or jumping on the board and having the sail filled with wind to propel you forward. If you didn’t stand in precisely the right position on the board, one of two things could happen. Either you would get flung forward over the nose of the board, or if your weight was too far at the back, you would also fall off.


Getting stuck under the sail

One vivid memory was of windsurfing in just knee-high water on the Redhouse River. I fell off with the sail falling on top of me, filling with water and pinning me underneath the water. It trapped me. Fortunately, my older brother saw what was happening and ran over to lift the sail. I jumped up, breathing in lungfuls of the much-needed air. After I recovered from the massive fright and got my breathing back under control, my brother told me to jump back on the board and try again. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t been there or if I hadn’t got back on the board?
The years went by and I carried on windsurfing. For hours on end, during those summer holidays as a teenager, I’d windsurf up and down the Bushman’s River. I would surf until I literally couldn’t hold the sail up anymore. I’d then trudge up the beach lugging the board and the boom and sail behind me, hardly having any strength left to bring everything all the way home.


Lessons from windsuring

Windsurfing taught me a lot about myself and life.  I learned that if you persevere long enough, and take all the bumps and bruises in your stride as part of the learning experience, it will all be worth it.
I still have a huge amount of respect for the sea. When I can, I try to go down for a post-coffee/pre-breakfast dip. While in the water recently (pre-lockdown), I started thinking about life and it’s curveballs:


Because I’m not a cricketer or a lemonade maker, I thought I’d share some lessons from this middle-aged “mermaid”.


  1. The stronger the wind, the faster you’ll move, but the harder you may fall.
  2. You can ride the big waves as long as you have a board under your belly.
  3. If the wave is too big to surf, block your nose and go underneath.
  4. Finding the highest part of the wave will give you a better ride. It’s worth taking the risk.
  5. Quit while you’re ahead and get out while you still have all ten toes.
  6. Sometimes a dark shape under the water is just a dark shape.
  7. The most fearsome-looking wave can sometimes give you the ride of your life.
  8. Don’t argue with the sea; just go with it. The sea also has moods, respect them.
  9. Some days a swim is all the nutrition you need.
  10. On the odd occasion, you will get stung, but the sting doesn’t last forever.
Finally, when life gives you lemons…I mean, when the wind blows offshore, you’ll get to ride the best waves.
Each lesson actually has a deeper meaning. Which one stands out to you out of the ten mentioned? Please comment below – I’d love to hear from you.

Philippa photo

Philippa Fabbri, is also the Director of Communications, Funding & School Design for Elsen Academy in Port Elizabeth. Her dry sense of humour and frankness is refreshing – much like a dip in the ocean.




Photo’s courtesy of Unpslash

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