Mental Health, Alcohol, and Surfing | An Honest Account

Updated: Mar 17

As I slip seamlessly into my early 30s. I currently have a successful career, am married, kid-free, and still have time in my hectic schedule to surf. Surfing is one of the last few hobbies to see me through my adult life.

I was somewhat a late bloomer to surfing, starting at the age of 18. To this day, I still remember the first time I went surfing. Messy 4ft waves trying to catch whitewash on a six foot gun. I didn't care, I just remember being in awe and finally finding something that I had a pure connection with.

As I continued to surf somewhat in my 20’s, my lifestyle took a slight turn in the wrong direction. Partying soon caught up with me. Blackout drinking with my friends became the social norm to stay relevant. Reputation and a desire to be liked made more sense instead of taking the time to maintain passions that kept me within reality.

I slipped away for a while.

By the time I was 24, I was broke, had no job, and finished university with a degree that felt worthless. Depression soon caught up with me. I suppressed any and all feelings by drinking. This is easy to maintain if you associate yourself with a group of individuals who also felt cheated by false promises and expectations in today's society.

The summer of 2013 in particular was a gloomy one. No one would hire me, hell, I wouldn’t even hire me. My dad did what any parent would do and offered for me to come and work for him for the summer. A beautiful gesture and a beautiful way to show unconditional love to someone who needed a break. I lasted roughly two months before my selfish attitude, days spent not talking, and being lost in my own bubble became too much for him.

I was fired by my own dad through no fault other than my own.

As the summer continued, so did the partying. It became a common theme to all meet up on a Friday evening and see it through to the Sunday. Anything and everything would happen within those two days of madness. Fights, breakups, noise complaints, pub bans, and booze trips to the off-license at 7am all became the social norm.

After all, we were the ones reality had cheated.

The summer ended but the reckless behaviour did not. I continued to float in and out of jobs and still spend anything and everything I could on weekends. The hangovers would last Monday to Friday then it would all start over again. A continuous vicious cycle.

On a sunny but cold winter's day in November, I woke up and decided to go for a walk along the beach. I wrapped up and walked a breezy three miles. Then kept walking and walking. I literally walked along the coastline till I could go no longer and stopped and stared at the ocean.

It was at this moment I realised how much I missed surfing. As I watched the waves howling and crashing over and over, I thought back to my last surf. It had been a few years. In that instant, I had an ultimate craving to go surfing. I went home and literally dreamt about surfing all night. For days I would think nonstop about surfing and what it meant to me a few years prior.

Two things were holding me back from surfing.

No equipment and no driving license.

With that in mind, I decided to work hard throughout the winter. The partying slowly subdued as I had new goals to work towards. Within a few months I managed to save enough money for a winter suit, a new surfboard, and finally got my driving license.

As the summer rolled in, I felt brand new. I had acquired a job I genuinely enjoyed. My days of partying all weekend now consisted of four to five drinks once in a blue moon. I spent the summer of 2014 literally at the beach surfing at any and every given opportunity.

I felt myself again.

As the summer ended, I really took the time one evening to reflect on the past year. I really thought long and hard as to why I had allowed myself to give up old hobbies, adopt bad habits, and experience a darker side I never knew existed. I came to the conclusion had I never taken that walk in November, watched those waves, and rekindled my passion for surfing I would still be a washed-up post-grad drunk.

Surfing pulled me back from a dark place.

As the months progressed so did my values and expectations. I slowly slipped away from the crowd I use to drink with. It wasn’t the easiest decision but one I knew would pay off in the long run. I decided to go travelling the following year so that kept me focused and driven into saving as much as possible. Cutting costs on going out and sticking to free or low budget activities became the norm; surfing fitted this category.

Jumping forward to today and the only habit/ritual that has stuck with me from 2014 is surfing. These days surfing is more of a stress relief and a way to stay connected with my values. I have since moved to Australia, got married, and started this blog with two of my best friends. I couldn’t ask for more.

To those who find themselves in a very similar situation, I would offer this piece of advice, do not expect instant results overnight. Any progression takes time. In reality, it took almost two years to go from borderline alcoholic to finally find fulfilment within my life. Giant leaps would have instantly set me up for failure whereas smaller steps within a suitable timeframe made the transition a lot more achievable.

Please do not see this article as a self-help-based piece. Everyone is different and these are all factors to consider but hopefully, by being open and honest you can understand that everyone has their own struggles. Mental health is the real struggle that is sadly brushed under the carpet. People are ashamed to admit when they are not quite feeling themselves which should never be the case.

*Disclaimer – we are not trained health professionals, if you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or suicide please reach out to your doctor or a loved one for support.