Giving Yourself the Freedom to Make Mistakes and be Creative

Batu Bolong in Canggu Bali is a very peculiar surf break.  In fact it’s one of the most peculiar surf breaks in the world in my opinion.  There are literally more beginners than you can count making for a chaotic and sometimes nightmarish display of flying/somersaulting longboards, nose diving acrobatics, and head on collisions.  Most people I know have been cut and/or bruised and had their surfboards dinged or slashed from being hit by a beginner. I personally have had all of the above.    Interestingly though, it can be exceptionally fun to surf Batu Bolong, no matter what level of surfer you are.  But it does require a bit of patience, and an attitude of openness – what is referred to in Zen Buddhism as a ” beginner’s mind “.

The type of people that Batu Bolong attracts as well, can be quite peculiar.  On any given day you may see exceptionally odd water attire, such as full body multicolored neon spandex, funny hats with earflaps like the ones you wear to the mountains when it’s snowing and your ears are cold, and sometimes helmets (which come to think of it is rather smart – in fact a good buddy of mine got hit on the forehead by a beginner’s longboard and got a bump the size of a golf ball – he could have avoided this with a helmet).  

I came to realize that many of the aspiring surfers come from cold european countries and have been snowboarding or skiing most of their lives.  This sometimes gives them the false sense that surfing is similar to their winter sport of choice, because after all you are still sliding on a board, but this time on melted snow.  To make things even more interesting, expert snowboarders and skiers are often adrenaline junkies with balls the size of coconuts, so you’ll often see them charging surf conditions infinitely above their skill level, with little awareness of the possible consequences.  This often results in first time surf photos of a beginner on a blue foamie going straight on 8 foot hollow waves.

In fact the wave at Batu Bolong can be peculiar as well.  It’s a rather flat wave, in other words it’s not very steep, making for an easy take off.  The shoulders never really wall up, they just remain a gradual slope, so you can rarely hit the lip.  The wave just crumbles at the top, so the lip rarely lands on you, and it doesn’t really pack much of a punch, except on bigger days.  This makes the wave easy for a turtle roll. All in all, these conditions make the break very popular for beginners. Sometimes however, when the swell is big, it can be quite turbulent with waves coming from all over the place, strong currents, and monstrous hollow closeouts up to 5 meters high.  

Despite all of its oddities, I recently came to realize that I have more fun at Batu Bolong than most other surf breaks – even when compared to the more “serious” surf breaks like Uluwatu and Echo Beach.  When I’m at Batu Bolong, I don’t take my surfing seriously. I don’t feel like I need to always catch the wave I’m paddling for in fear of losing respect or priority. I don’t feel like I need to surf well to gain clout in the line up.  I’m not worried about looking like a kook because everyone is a kook. I try weird boards, like the one in picture, which is a 6’1” high volume yet narrow, fish-like hybrid, with wings at the tail. And when I’m on a weird board it gives me permission to mess up, because hey, the board is weird, so if I bail, it’s probably the board’s fault :).  Without the pressure to be “good” or to excel, and with the permission to experiment and mess up – surfing has freshness and newness again – it has the same excitement that made me fall in love with surfing in the first place. It has maximum freedom of creativity, because anything goes – including looking stupid or funny. It was a bit of a surprise for me to realize that I have the most fun at Batu Bolong, just being a kook with the rest of the kooks, and always having a “beginner’s mind”.  

I try to remind myself to approach all areas of my life with this “beginner’s mind”, because at the end of the day, life is about creative expression and discovery, and not about being perfect.  

Read more post similar to The Beginner’s Mind here.  Read more about Bali here.