7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be A Happier Surfer

1. Surfing A 20 Minutes Session Could Be Enough

Surfing is exercise, unless you are sitting there like a duck—which is okay with me if you surf my home break. But if you move around while surfing like I do, then the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology researchers report greater general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm, compared with the less physically active people.

I know, you don’t have enough time, or your wetsuit has a hole in it, or you can’t find someone to watch the cat. But we all know how you feel after a surf, so stop making excuses and just get out there.

Psychology today talks about something called dopamine, I am sure you have heard of it. In an article by Philip Newton titled From Mouse to Man, he describes dopamine as “a neurotransmitter, one of those chemicals that is responsible for transmitting signals in-between the nerve cells (neurons) of the brain.”

You know that feeling you get when you take a drop? That is dopamine bro and when you surf your brain produces it, which makes you feel better.

And the good news is that you don’t have to surf like a pro to reap the benefits of those ‘good vibrations.’ In her book titled The First Twenty Minutes, Gretchen Reynolds reports, “The first 20 minutes of moving around provide most of the health benefits . . . you get prolonged life, reduced decease risk in the first 20 minutes of being active.”

Get out there and surf, even if you only have 20 minutes. It will make you feel better and it is always better than not surfing.

2. Spend More Time Surfing With Your Bros: Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

Not staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. As a side note, the number one regret was not having the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expected of you (we’ll save that for another article).

Social time in the water is highly valuable when it comes to improving your happiness. Several studies have found that time spent with our bros makes a big difference to how stoked we feel. Daniel Gilbert from Harvard says it quite eloquently, “almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family friends.”

In another study done by the Journal of Socio-Economics the researchers put a currency value on relationships and determined that increases in bro-time is worth up to 100k a year and that actual changes in income buy very little happiness.

I am not sure I agree with this but I do know that just working hard to earn more money can have detrimental effects on relationships. Surely, there is a middle path where one’s economic and social elements are treated with respect.

The other reality is that I love surfboards, and there are certainly a few friendships I would trade for a new stick.

3. Sleep More: You’ll Be Less Sensitive to Negative Emotions

One of the best decisions in my life was to throw away the alarm clock. If you are waking up to an alarm clock your body is being robbed of precious time to repair itself, and that is having detrimental effects on how you function.

In Nurture Shock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects positivity and report that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet these same people recall gloomy memories like getting snaked or falling on a wave. In one experiment, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. “They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “stoke.”

This doesn’t mean that you can sleep all day and forego all your responsibilities, it means that you should arrange your life in a way that allows you to meet your responsibilities while also allowing for enough sleep time.

How much sleep is enough?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for active adults and reports that there is evidence that short sleep durations of 4-5 hours have negative physiological and neurobehavioral consequences.

The bottom line is that if you sleep better, you will surf better.

4. Plan a Surf Trip: It Helps Even if You Don’t Actually Take One

I sure love to travel and I know you do too. If you surf, but haven’t taken a surf tip to some foreign land, then I must encourage you to save your dough for some tasty salt water waves. You don’t even need to leave the country, but I would highly recommend it, there is a rich world of culture (and waves) just a plane ride away.

In fact, simply planning a trip to Indo can improve your stoke for life. A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation—I recommend that you actually take the trip, life is too short not to.

5. Practice Smiling: Reduce Pain, Improve Mood, Think Better

I admit it, I find it really hard to smile when I notice a dude pull up with a SUP into the parking lot while I am getting ready to surf. Then I think to myself that he has every right to be there too, we share a stoke for the waves and the ocean, right?

I know that smiling will improve my chances of feeling better about the SUPer, experts say that smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. The experts go on to report that forcing a smile is enough to change your perspective and mood.

It’s so hard, but I am going to try it, and so should you.

6. Meditate: Take A Moment While Surfing & Look Around

Many people think that meditation is sitting cross-legged like some yogi in a dipper on stinky pillow and chanting some ancient text.

No offense to the yogi dude, but mediation can be a much simpler shift in your awareness.

For me it happens while surfing, sitting in the line-up I sometimes take a moment to look at the horizon, witness the colors in the sky or the shimmy of the sun across the water. This my friend is also meditation, an observation of the magic, and it’s also good for you.

Meditation clears your mind and has been proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. Psychology expert Shawn Archer reports that after meditation “we experience feelings of calm and contentment . . . research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.”

7. Practice Gratitude: Thank That Dude That Gave You The Last Wave

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while someone gives you a wave even though you don’t have priority.

Damn that feels good and you should always give thanks to your wetsuit wearing neighbor and even consider returning the gesture to some unsuspecting surfer.

Random acts of kindness can take place anywhere, man-up and be the first one to say thank you or to give someone a wave—do it, it feels good.



Derek Dodds, Founder of Wave Tribe, invites you to practice random acts of kindness in Ventura county where he surfs and suggests you send them to him at