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Is surfing a drug?

Ask yourself: Is surfing a drug?

Compare the amount of time a surfer spends in surf-related activities like going to the beach, reading surf magazines, paddling out and checking conditions to the amount of time a surfer spends actually riding waves in a typical session. I’ll estimate that for every second a surfer spends standing on a wave, a solid 200 seconds are spent thinking about surfing or engaging in some surf-related activity. Surfers, like the drug addict, are often all too happy to forego economic stability, health, and even human interaction in the name of wave riding.

So what’s going on? Does surfing, like drugs, make us high? And do surfers have a special predisposition to drugs? My answer to first question is a resounding “yes” and a certain “no” for the second. Research indicates that surfers unlike, say, golfers are motivated to participate in their sport because of the sensation that wave riding provides. So what is that feeling, that elusive, all-too-brief sensation that surfing provides? It starts in your brain with a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for our experience of pleasure. Whenever we do something that feels good, such as eating a good meal or having sex, our dopamine levels rise in our brain and let us know that whatever just happened was a good thing, a thing that should be repeated in the future. Dopamine is necessary for our survival in this way because it incentivizes crucial behaviors. Unfortunately, the dopamine train can be hijacked. Drugs in particular can elevate dopamine to unnatural levels, tricking the brain into believing that the drug, even more than food or sex, is crucial to survival. For instance, crystal methamphetamine has been shown to elevate dopamine levels in the VTA at a level approximately twelve times greater than sex. We know what follows: ruined relationships, wrecked health, criminal justice involvement and economic ruin, all in pursuit of the all-consuming high. Surfing feels good. Really good. Surfing in no way furthers our survival, at least not in the way that food or sex does, but damn if we don’t build our lives around it. Surfing never leaves my mind.

So is surfing a drug? Not quite. Unlike drugs, surfing generally improves the participant’s health, primarily through regular exercise. And as bad as a surfing addiction can get, many landlocked surfers exist with no withdrawal symptoms beyond a few extra pounds and a bad t-shirt tan. No, it seems that surfing is good, old fashioned, mildly addictive fun. Even if it’s sure that some of us are more propense to try drugs, I’m heavily committed in thinking that real surfers don’t need to use stupid drugs because they have a scope in their own life: riding waves. Only people who feel an empty space inside their soul can use drugs.

So, fuck drugs, go surfing!!!

The Surfplanner team

The best advisor to your surf trips





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