Wooden surfboard life lessons

What fascinated me about learning to make wooden surfboards is the process of craft and what it teaches. Here are eight points I’ve noticed in myself and those that have built boards with me.

IT’S ALL CONNECTED: In the grain of a piece of wood I see the origins of a swell starting in the deep ocean and fanning out towards us. Taking wood to water feels like I’m closing a circle – the storms bring us waves to surf, but they also bring water for the trees and help to form the growing patterns and grains that we marvel at. 

FEEL THE RHYTHM: The natural process of working with your hands matches the rhythms of swell passing underneath you as you sit on your board. Peace is finding that same rhythm in the workshop. It teaches timing, a deeper patience and making the right movements at the right time. 

TRANSFORMATIVE CREATIVITY:  For many, working with their hands is a creativity they rarely get to express. Mostly it is a passing satisfaction. Sometimes it can lead to the beginning of a hobby or search for an outlet. And sometimes it’s a cathartic experience.

SKIN IN THE GAME: So much of someone goes into what they make. It’s almost as if the surfboard they make is infused with a little bit of their soul. That object is just an object, yes, but it has meaning – it represents a place in their lives, something they haven’t done before. They have skin in the game.  

SOUL SPACE: Ancient civilisations saw the concept of ‘soul’ extending to all inanimate objects. What would happen if spaces and objects were seen in this way?

IT’S OURS TO CLAIM: Making something for yourself claims back space in one sense. In another sense, it establishes a relationship between mind and hands which is lost in modern society.

IT’S ALL IN THE HANDS: There’s an undervalued “practical intellectualism” in working with your hands. When your solution doesn’t work or the outcome is not as good as expected, you have to face up to the reasons for that, whether it be impatience, distractedness or carelessness. And if you want to get better, you have to change.

THE MOMENT IS NOW: Working with your hands teaches you to slow down and work in the moment. That brings a peace we are seldom able to access in busy daily life. It’s similar to catching a wave, a rare moment when time stands still.

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