The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears or the sea – Isak Dinesen.
For some sports fanatics, finding that magical, serene balance between body, mind and nature is the ultimate aim. Perhaps it’s an unlikely combination at first, but giving yourself over to purely physical – and often punishing – rituals can result in the ultimate sense of peace and harmony. For Angela Peral, surfing is both exhilarating and spiritual – and definitely an essential part of her life.
For long-distance runners, calm is found in the repetition of each stride. Feet press the ground, over and over: breathe in, breathe out. Sailors work in sync with their environment, raising their mainsail to the path of the wind and feeling the motion of the boat as it bounces across the water. Rock climbers practice mindfulness as they carefully feel every bump and crevice, finding the perfect hold to haul their bodies higher. And for surfers, the moments spent waiting for a wave with just the ocean and the board for company, as well as their ritualistic preparations, give plenty of opportunity for peaceful reflection.
‘For me, surfing is much more than a hobby – it’s a way of life,’ explains professional surfer Angela Peral. The 30-year-old Spaniard has been hooked on the sport since childhood. ‘From around six years of age, I remember playing in the waves on a board. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I became more seriously involved in competitions, though. Surfing is part of my life, part of my personality. It’s what makes me smile, what keeps me calm. I love to be in contact with the sea and the beach, and I love the people you meet in the water.’
Preparation for Angela is a physical ritual of mind, body and board. ‘Every time I go into the water, I always wax my surfboard. I take a little bit of wax, and spread it evenly across the board. If I see the wax is too thick, I’ll scrape it all off and start again. To prepare myself physically, I always try to eat a healthy diet and sleep well to give me lots of good energy. Before going into the water, I often go for a run on the beach first and I always stretch. After, I always shower and stretch again. Finally, before I head into the sea, I stop and observe from the shore to find the perfect spot – the one with the best waves, and the fewest people. In that moment of quiet anticipation I’m always nervous, as I’m desperate to be in the water already!’
In the stretch of time, lying out on the ocean with her board, Angela describes different types of peaceful contemplation. ‘I’m often reflecting on things outside of surfing while I wait. Other times I’m just thinking about the next wave, thinking what I should do and how I should respond to it to keep learning as a surfer,’ she says. ‘Sometimes I talk to people around me in the moment. But mainly, I’m enjoying the silence.There’s not much in life better than heading into the surf in summer, when the water’s hot. The time I most love is sunset. The sight of the sinking sun reflecting on the water is one of the most beautiful things in existence. Many times after a great day of surfing, after the sun has dropped below the horizon, I think over and over how lucky I am to have chosen this sport. The sensations and the quality of life are hard to beat.’
Surf’s up: Angela Peral’s top surf spots
One of my favourite countries in the world for surfing is Indonesia, says Angela. Uluwatu in Bali can be crowded, but there’s always some swell.
For a completely different experience, I recommend Sultans in The Maldives. It can only be accessed by boat, making it a surfer’s isolated paradise, and the waves are consistently good. One of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches, Bells Beach in Victoria, is a top spot and hosts the world’s longest-running surfing competition, the Rip Curl Pro. Its waves are huge! In Europe, I spend almost every summer in Portugal. The country is full of fantastic places to surf, like Kings Rock, North Porto. It has world-class breaks and is perfect for experienced surfers. And finally, I will always love my home, where the passion began – Tarifa, in Spain! – for perfect breaks and amazing swells.