Surfing as Lifestyle: Interview with Mindfulrider

The surf industry is growing and the surf lifestyle is getting ever-more glamorized. For die-hards, it’s frustrating to watch lineups get crowded with people who’s heart is only half-way in it. But what are we to do? If surfing is so great, shouldn’t we be excited that more people are doing it? Here, Sean Tully, a lifelong surf coach, points out that waves are a finite resource and since the people are coming out no matter how much we gripe about it, the next step is to transfer our values onto the newbies in a way that keeps the spirit of surfing alive. That’s what he’s trying to do, anyway, with a new kind of surf school called Mindfulrider. They’re “dedicated to the experience” and here he explains what this is all about. 

Why did you transition from teaching surf lessons to teaching people how to be a surfer? What is the major difference?

Hangin’ at the beach and soaking in the total experience with someone is way more rewarding than enveloping the entire experience of surfing with just one hour of basics. I’m pretty sure it’s more fulfilling for the recipient as well, so I guess it just made sense at this point to focus more on the lifestyle and less on how much time they have left [in a lesson]. As surfing’s popularity grows, I feel like there’s a lot of inauthentic surf programs out there so the intention with Mindfulrider was to keep it true to the lifestyle and just share what we know best. Let the others pretend, this is who we are. That’s the difference.

Are there more people, in your opinion, now interested in the surfing lifestyle than before?

It’s hard me for to say from the inside looking out. It seems like surfing is pretty acceptable these days, and there’s definitely no shortage of interest in surfing as a whole. People have always been fascinated by the lifestyle when you you think about it. Jack London’s early encounters with Hawaiian beach boys are noted in his writings and it seems the fascination has always been there for outsiders new to the sport. So in that respect, I don’t think things have changed much. However, the ability to access information via the internet and the various social media outlets has definitely made the lifestyle, or at least viewpoints of it, more available to the masses and with this comes a level of surface interest. As big companies market the lifestyle to more people and the interest in surfing grows, it’s important that programs like Mindfulrider exist to even the playing field and instill a level of understanding for those wishing to partake. 

The other day my friend Darshan and I were walking down a path to the beach just talking story and enjoying the day for what it was. We scored great waves all by ourselves but that wasn’t what made the day so amazing. It was more than just the act of surfing, it was the entirety of the experience and all that led up to it. It’s much deeper than an advertisement or one-hour lesson can touch on and I believe there’s some appeal to that for those seeking a true lifestyle experience.

What impact, if any, does that have on surfing as a sport?

Well as stated, the internet has changed things immensely along with modern surf industry growth in general. It’s big business now and the distinction between that and the true lifestyle might be unclear at times to those who aren’t actively engaged within it. Waves are a finite resource and as the surfing population grows and the availability of waves remain the same, it’s important that new-comers to the sport understand the underlining values that have existed long before their interest in the sport. Surfing has a rich history and it’s important that we teach this to new-comers. Physical ability and aptitude is empty without a clear understanding of values and respect.

Explain a bit about your new services. Do you think people would have wanted this 10 years ago?

At the heart of it, Mindfulrider is an authentic California surfing experience geared towards individuals looking to take their surfing experience to the next level. By embracing a lifestyle-based program dedicated to the act of riding waves and the culture that surrounds it, Mindfulrider offers an opportunity to become more comfortable with your time in the water while maximizing your experience as a surfer. The program exists as an alternative means of surf education for those seeking something a bit more authentic and distinct. My good buddy Josh Rothman and I have been riding waves and teaching surfing basically our entire life. The concept for Mindfulrider just seemed like the natural progression of these experiences. 

I’m not sure if this program would of worked 10 years ago. It’s only in recent years that fitness and mental well-being have shifted from the interest of a few to the desire of many. People are also more aware now than they’ve ever been so there’s a lot of options out there to choose from. Hopefully Mindfulrider stands out from most and offers up something that is not only educational but fun!

Are there any downsides to bringing a new surfer into the inner sanctum of “surferness”? 

Naivete fades away with experience and understanding but ignorance is not bliss for others sharing the line-up with someone who is kooking it. I think the more surfers we can instill with proper respect and understanding, the better. Too many folks are picking up surfing without appropriate guidance these days. No one needs Mindfulrider to rent a board and paddle out but they’re only doing themselves a disservice by doing so without guidance from someone who’s already made the effort and is willing to share. The reality is surfing is growing whether we like it or not, and has been for years. By sharing the lifestyle and teaching others why it matters, I feel like we’re putting surfers out there who are mindful of their experience and therefore exude the positive qualities that drew them to surfing in the first place.

If you’re in the LA area and would like to know more about Mindfulrider, or just want to go chill and watch a surf movie with some cool people, head to Shelter Half for a screening of Big Wednesday on Thursday, June 17 from 7-10 pm. Details in the flier below. Or visit http://mindfulrider.com/ // Mindfulrider on Instagram // Mindfulrider on Facebook .

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