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Rochelle Ballard Headshot

Surfing and Yoga: A Way of Life

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Aloha my friends,

I share with you my personal experience traveling through Ecuador and Panama with one of my all time favorite surfers and mentors, Sunny Garcia. My own travels to contests and on surf trips take on a different meaning and tempo nowadays -- like this spring in Ecuador for the ISA World Masters and to Panama on a surf trip with Mike Latronic and Free Surf Magazine.

After the Masters Sunny and I got on a plane to Panama where we met up with, Keanu Asing, Kiron Jabour, and were hosted by Magnum Martinez. It was an enjoyable trip, with greetings from the locals wherever we went, despite some minor bumps along the road: our surfboards flew off the van and across the freeway, where mine got run over by an SUV (luckily Magnum had a couple boards for me to use, more or less my size), then our surf guide Richy fractured his ankle in one of the first surf sessions. We traveled up and down the Pacific coast in a quest for perfect waves with no one out, and for the most part we found just that: empty beaches, and fun surf. The tides were big and made a difference in the timing of every spot we checked and surfed; it was all hot sunny days, a fair amount of driving, an abundance of fresh seafood, and plenty of coconuts to cut down from the trees.

Traveling with Sunny for nearly a month was truly a learning experience for me. I've travelled with him for years on the tour, but now we're both of "Masters" age, I found he influenced me in ways he never has before. I was personally challenged with fatigue and a weak immune system from an abundance of overwork and no surfing or cross training in preparation for the trip. As I went through my process over the month that led me to injury and frustration, I observed his behavior. Most people think of Sunny as a badass who gets in fights, and is not so approachable, but I have always found him to be the opposite. This time around he was calm and patient in every situation, approaching everything with more observation than talk. When someone in the line-up upset him, he'd just paddle away. He's the guy that learned well from his past experiences and is clear as to what he wants and how to do it. There is no wavering with Sunny. When he makes a decision he sticks to it -- and there's a lot to be said for that: There is power in clarity in commitment. I once read in a book called Be Like Water, "Where your mind goes so your chi will be," and that has been my motto to live by ever since. Listening to intuition is something we all seek to do, and Sunny summed it up for me one day, while I was admiring the power in his turns and feeling personally challenged: "Its not about your size," he told me. "Kelly Slater is not a big guy, but he throws a lot of spray. It's about your timing and your targeted focus." He paused. "And you better start cross training, Rochelle. Yoga alone doesn't make you strong for surfing." Spoken by a true surfing warrior -- who just happens to travel with a pink yoga mat.

So I may have not been at my best flow and power this trip, but I sure did observe some amazing surfing -- and patience -- in Sunny, a surfer who does not follow the flock. He is a leader with a big heart and a clear purpose in life, who has learned to harness power from within. I am truly inspired and honored to learn from such a great man.

Surfing and yoga is a way of life that serves up constant lessons. And sometimes it takes a different approach -- less doing and more observing -- to see clearly the path of clarity, power, and flow.

Happy surfing!

Me ke aloha

2013-06-11-Panama_Sunny_Wave_Greenshorts.jpg

Photo by Richy Arosomena

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Photo by Richy Arosomena

2013-06-11-Panama_Rochelle_BlueBikini.jpg

Photo by Richy Arosomena

2013-06-11-Panama_Rochelle_Sunset_Yoga_Pose.jpeg

Photo by Aura Boulston

For more great images, video and reflection from the trip, visit Rochelle's SurfIntoYoga.com blog.

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