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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Change the Conversation - Kook



I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about the lessons that I've learned from surfing. I received incredible support here on this blog and elsewhere. However, the post was also shared by a kind reader on a local surfing forum where it wasn't so well received by those who consider themselves "hard core" surfers. After all, I'm a kook - a new surfer.

But, kook is a pejorative term. It's is often used to describe new surfers who are clueless and have no regard or respect for surfing etiquette, thereby endangering themselves and/or others out in the water. In their eyes, I was an overexcited kook who didn't have the right to be out in the water.

Source: John Robison. Surfing Illustrated: A Visual Guide to Wave Riding

At first, as I read through their responses, I was hurt. I felt attacked. I didn't feel safe in my blogging space anymore. But as I read some more, I realized something. They were attacking the image of a kook that they held in their mind and everything that label encompasses - arrogant, privileged, inexperienced, disrespectful, dumb. But that wasn't me or my story. I'm more than that label.

I am a new surfer who is trying to learn to surf the right way by learning technique and water skills; understanding the ocean, waves and currents; and learning and respecting my own limitations.

I am a new surfer who is so well aware of the unique history and culture that surrounds the sport - a mostly male-dominated culture where women often aren't treated on an equal level.

I'm a new surfer who knows that you have to earn your place in the line-up as well as respect others out in the water.

I am a new surfer who has a long way to go but I am committed to putting in the time to improve and to learn both in and out of the water.

I am also a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend and athlete. I'm a runner, swimmer, yogi, spinner, writer, artist, and the tickle police for my kids.

When I was younger, I hated being a newbie whether it was a new school or sport or instrument. There is truth to the myth of the Tiger Mom and the notion that nothing's fun until you're good at it. I wanted to excel at everything that I did, often barreling my way through and pretending that I didn't need help.

Now, I've learned to embrace my newbie-ness whether in surfing or blogging or any other new experience that crosses my path. I'm not afraid of it anymore - not afraid to ask questions, admit that I'm wrong and just learn. To me, being new isn't about fear or failure. It's about excitement and opportunity. After all, we ALL started off new at some point. 

Labels are everywhere. They help our brains organize and sort information. For a type-A person like me, that's really helpful. We all have labels that we attach to ourselves and others. But labels are not what solely defines us. So let's change the conversation and stop judging based on labels. The conversation NEEDS to be changed.

What are your labels and who are you beyond that? How do you handle being a "newbie"? 

{Linking up with Just.Be.Enough to change the conversation}




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51 Comments:

At April 25, 2012 at 1:14 AM , Anonymous Jadzia@Toddlerisms said...

This was a really thoughtful and inspiring post. I've always been a believer in "it's no fun unless you're good at it," and that, combined with some serious self-consciousness, sometimes keeps me from trying new things at all, or at least from ADMITTING that I'm new at something. And when you won't admit that you don't know what you're doing (or that you're new), sure you miss out on the ribbing(*)--but you also miss out on the knowledge and advice that people with more experience have to offer.

(*)And I would have died if I had been the subject of the "kook" comments, let's make that clear

 
At April 25, 2012 at 3:51 AM , Anonymous Laura Williams said...

Bravo! I love this post! Everyone's new at something at one point or another, so why not lift up, teach and encourage each other?

 
At April 25, 2012 at 4:59 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cristine, I must say was upset for you when I read this post, but what a wonderful attitude you have. Sometimes I found it tricky when I was learning to surf, and started interacting with more experienced surfers, but thankfully I haven't come across any aggression in the water - but I was also super careful not to get in anyone's way either (and probably missed some great waves whilst doing so). But I respected people who where more experienced surfers and some gave me great surfing tips as well. My label I guess is not beginner but not experienced either! And I caught some great waves today as well! Stay well and keep blogging, Bron

 
At April 25, 2012 at 6:07 AM , Anonymous MizFit said...

you have the best attitude, Sister!
I spend my life being a newbie as I shove myself out of my zone of comfort all.the.time.
I just watch, listen and fake it till I make it :)

 
At April 25, 2012 at 6:53 AM , Blogger Running, Loving, Living said...

Great post!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 6:54 AM , Blogger Running, Loving, Living said...

We are all newbies at something and someday we will be the experienced ones helping other newbies! You have a great attitude, good luck!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 7:19 AM , Anonymous martha @ running in mommyland said...

Chrisitne! Thank you for posting this!

I was labeled "something" the other day and it made me, sad depressed and angry. It's made it hard to want to blog, because I find that when I'm confused or disappointed the words don't come out right. You've given me new inspiration!

I think it's fabulous that you have begun the surfing journey! And as Running, Loving, Living said, "We are all newbies at something and someday we will be the experienced ones helping other newbies!"

You rock!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 8:00 AM , Blogger Meredith Dare You To said...

Agreed- well writing and truly inspiring. Everyone has to start SOMEWHERE, and they don't know you and the effort you are putting in to learning the right way. Their attitudes only serve to prevent people from even trying, from learning, and from seeing all the wonderful things THEY see in surfing. You keep on, and you change the meaning of that label.

Good luck!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 8:53 AM , Anonymous Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean said...

great post! i have so much respect for anyone who can even stand up on a surfboard, let alone catch a wave. NOT my forte :)

 
At April 25, 2012 at 8:57 AM , Anonymous Lisa@RunWiki said...

It make me sick that there are such people out there that would say such things to you. When someone loves something so much passion they should share with the world the beauty of it. Just like a person, only the dysfunctional would posses and act as if they own something. True love is when you let something free and the love grows stronger and bigger. I am so sorry that you must hear the words of these people... give them a silent blessing and move on and away from that energy. Don't let them stop you from something you treasure so much. Just like the waves that you surf, ride this one out, yes, it crushed you but don't let it stop you from paddling out and catching the next one. It won't be your last crash but there are many epic waves to enjoy that will keep you coming back for more.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 9:12 AM , Anonymous allison w said...

I LOVE this post. As a 50 year old new girl surfer I am so tired of the attitude I get from aggro dudes who cut me off and buzz me just to see me get frightened (huge group of them in mexico). Absolutely no understanding of the difficulty of being a newbie at something as they are usually so young they have no perspective, they always assume some aggression from me when I fully cop to being eager to learn and obey the rules of the road.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 9:57 AM , Blogger Krysten said...

GO GIRLIE GO! Love this post!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 10:11 AM , Blogger christine said...

Very well put. I'm sorry to hear about you being upset. (I would have definitely been too.) But so glad you are able to see the Truth in yourself. What a great post!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 10:49 AM , Blogger racheltynan said...

It is SO true!! Hard core surfers are so anti-newbies that it can be really intimidating. They forget that at one point they were just learning and more experienced surfers had to put up with them, so why can't they do the same for others?

 
At April 25, 2012 at 11:34 AM , Anonymous Jess said...

Wow, I can't believe that's the reaction you got in that forum, some people I'll never get, seriously. No need to attack!

BUT I love how you turned this around - being new at something can be kind of awesome, actually. You have the priviledge to ask, ask, ask and learn, learn, learn and if you take the approach that this is YOUR new opportunity to shape, you'll gain so much from it! I love that you're taking this stance related to surfing (and life in general). So very cool.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 11:40 AM , Anonymous Kierston said...

Great post! We all have to start somewhere as we experience and try new things! You have a great attitude! Good luck with the surfing, impressive! :)

 
At April 25, 2012 at 12:37 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you for understanding and sharing this with me. It was really hard to stomach but it also made me reflect and really think about why it bothered me so much and how I could move past it.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 12:41 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you! That's my thought - if I've found something that gave me so much joy, I would want to share that with others and encourage others. But I also know that there is such an ingrained and entrenched culture that surounds surfing that isn't all that forgiving to newcomers. It's not that I didn't expect it per se but made me realize that I'm not ashamed of being a newbie/kook. That's where I am now and I'm fine with that.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 12:47 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Bron. Luckily, I only come across really nice people in the water. This was the first time that I've experienced anything in terms of hostility. Again, I know that they weren't reacting to me personally - I don't know these guys and I didn't post it in the forum. I think that realization has made it easier for me to let go and to learn from the experience. I too and respectful of others in the water because 1) I'm scare and 2) I don't want to make a fool out of myself. I'm glad that you haven't come across this. We all start from somewhere and we keep learning. While you may be somewhere between a beginner and experienced surfer, you're out there learning and improving.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you!! In the last year or so, I've come to appreciate the experience of being outside of my comfort zone and the opportunity that affords me to learn and grow and make mistakes too.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you! I appreciate your kind words.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM , Blogger Christine said...

You can rock pistol squats. I have no doubt that you can get up on a surfboard.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 12:53 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you! It was hard for me to write and put it out there but I feel much better that I have. As I was reading the forum comments, there was a part of me that wanted to shout, "But that's not me! I don't do that! etc" I know that there will be those that don't respond to this post in a positive way but that's OK. I know that the culture surrounding surfing is super entrenched. I don't expect to change the label but at least to start a conversation and a little understanding.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 12:54 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 12:58 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you so much. I really do appreciate your words. I allowed myself to be upset for about a day. Once I realized that I shouldn't take it personally, it was a big relief and I was able to let go of it. For a little bit, it made me not want to surf again but those comments didn't deserve to have that power over me to take away something that I love so much.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 1:00 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you Allison!! I'm so happy that this post connected with you and your experience. I'm sorry that you've had to deal with all that in the water. It's so unnecessary. I would love to hear more about your story too!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 1:02 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Christine! I felt like I've grown up and matured by my response to this. Normally, I would be so pissed off and mad and probably have a chip on my shoulder the next time I went out in the water but I don't. I'm OK with just letting go of it and seeing myself as more than those labels.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 1:03 PM , Blogger Christine said...

It IS so intimidating! That's my thought exactly but I guess some folks feel that if they went through all that hazing, others should too.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 1:06 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Jess! You are so right - it's an absolute privilege to ask and learn and not have the same arrogance that I had when I was younger. I don't expect to change the surfing culture but at least hope to start a conversation about all the labels and assumptions we place on people and how to be more forgiving of others and ourselves. I so appreciate the support.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 1:09 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you!! You are absolutely right - we all start somewhere.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 1:13 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you Martha! I'm so glad that this post made sense to you and has helped give you some inspiration. It's so hard to come to terms with the labels that we and others attach to ourselves. I LOVE your post too.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 1:15 PM , Blogger PavementRunner said...

I'm a newbie parent as well... 7 months. But I'm loving being a new parent. Loving the opportunity to experience and learn new things everyday. I'm also a runner... but I love people that are just getting into the sport/activity/game, what have you. It's so much fun to SHARE knowledge and things that work for you or work for others. GREAT POST, GREAT SHARE!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 1:24 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I love your call "to change the conversation." I think the labels we give ourselves have the power to be the most limiting, but also the most empowering. Thanks for this important reminder. P.S. That first photo of the ocean? Just gave me some much needed mid-day zen! :)

 
At April 25, 2012 at 1:25 PM , Anonymous Cat @ Breakfast to Bed said...

do you need me to lay out an old fashioned ass-whoopin?

It's kinda my favorite.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 3:29 PM , Blogger Jolene said...

Such good perspective...I HATE being the newbie too!! I hate not knowing enough, I hate feeling like I sound or look stupid, I hate feeling like the odd (wo)man out. But you are so right, embrace being new and learning, and changing and growing. Well said!! You are a great storyteller!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 3:56 PM , Blogger surfmama101 said...

Great post. The line-up is a jungle. I experienced it myself and I think we all got upset at some point by comments from other surfers. My friend even had a racist comment from an angry surfer. Even though you keep repeting yourself that the guys is not worth the sweat, it deeply hurts. Fortunately there are more nice people than mean ones in the line-up ;) When I spot one I just paddle away and ignore him. Please keep your good spirit and don't let few persons ruin your joy of surfing. Surfing is for everyone!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 7:08 PM , Anonymous Angie (Losing It and Loving It) said...

Great post and what THEY don't remember is they were all once there too. You go for it and don't let anything or anyONE stand in your way. People can be so mean, it stinks.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 8:58 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you for sharing too. Being a new parent is pretty incredible and 7 months - such a fun age!! Enjoy it

 
At April 25, 2012 at 9:03 PM , Blogger Christine said...

I should have clarified in the post that I'm linking this post up with a group of other bloggers who are also writing about labels and how they are working to strip down theirs. This is in response to Ashley Judd's comments to the media about its fascination and speculation about her "puffy face." If you haven't read it, you should. It's amazing. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/09/ashley-judd-slaps-media-in-the-face-for-speculation-over-her-puffy-appearance.html

Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate it and you are absolutely right. Those labels are incredible limiting and empowering at the same time. Depends on how we each choose to respond to them.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 9:05 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Yes please!! Good thing you're local. I feel better now.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 9:09 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Awww, thanks. You know what? In going through this, it made me realize that I've grown up a bit in that I didn't hate being the newbie as much as I expected to. Older and wiser? ;-)

 
At April 25, 2012 at 9:11 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you for visiting and for your comment. I appreciate it. I don't plan on giving up!

 
At April 25, 2012 at 9:15 PM , Blogger Christine said...

You are so right - there are so many more nice people out in the line-up than mean ones. I think that was one of the things that really hooked me on surfing - the amazing camaraderie out in the water. And I've learned too from you and Michelle that it's an incredibly supportive community via this blogging community too. THAT means a lot to me.

 
At April 26, 2012 at 7:19 AM , Anonymous tracy@sellabitmum said...

Oh this is fabulous! SO true. And everyone is new at something at one point. Let's build people up - not down.

Also, you rock that you are surfing. Completely rock. xo

 
At April 26, 2012 at 1:46 PM , Anonymous lynne @lgsmash said...

Excellent post! Like you said, everyone is new at some point! No one just KNOWS how to do things like surf or run. I don't know why our society seems to want to jump on the newbies and scoff at them rather than celebrate and encourage! Surfing, running, blogging, parenting, etc - it's not some 'exclusive' club to be part of and keep everyone else out!

I'm glad you have a thick skin and can look past the negative comments. :)

 
At April 26, 2012 at 3:06 PM , Blogger Surfing Grandma of OC said...

YES everyone was a kook at one time.. I think surfers forget that from time to time. I also think it is not fair for them to judge your feelings and thoughts that you express. THIS is how YOU see it.. it is not necessarily how they see it. We all have different reality's does not make one right or wrong. I use to get some negative comments when I first started my blog. I didn't take it personally. I figure I don't know these people why are they so mean to me? But I think there are people out there that feel some misguided entitlement. If you ask me, seems more like a shade of insecurity. AT least you are brave enough to express yourself. Just focus and keep with the positive..and ignore the negative. It does no one any good! YOU ROCK..and that is all that matters!..

PS.. the ones who are acting like know it alls.. i am sure there are more than one person that know more than they do.

 
At April 26, 2012 at 4:59 PM , OpenID idiosyncraticeye said...

Oh I absolutely hate it when some group or other won't 'admit' you because you're new but how else are you meant to start?! Silly numpties. I think it's always daunting starting something new but the support and encouragement of the more experienced is always so important.

Reminds me of a post I wrote a while back if you don't mind me sharing a link? http://idiosyncraticeye.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/turning-on-their-own/

Keep enjoying your surf, what an amazing thing to do! :)

 
At April 27, 2012 at 12:19 AM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you thank you. You can come surf with me on Lake Michigan!!

 
At April 27, 2012 at 12:21 AM , Blogger Christine said...

That's what I have the hardest part with - why it's deemed OK to knock people down. Maybe I'm just overly naive or optimistic but I don't get it sometimes. I think that writing this post and reflecting on it has helped me build up a bit of a thicker skin.

 
At April 27, 2012 at 12:25 AM , Blogger Christine said...

You totally nailed it and I think that's what both upset me (the judging) as well as helped me get past it (it's all perspective). Like you said, we all have different realities and we can't judge unless we've been in those shoes with those experiences. I'm trying my best to focus on the positive, to reflect on this and figure out how it can help me move forward. Seriously, your comment means a ton to me. <3

 
At April 27, 2012 at 12:28 AM , Blogger Christine said...

You are so right - support and encouragement is such an important factor. Thanks for sharing your post. I'm going to check it out now!

 

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