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Surf & Jiu-Jitsu – What It Is For Me

There has long been an association between surfing and Jiu-Jitsu, a somewhat shared history and lifestyle.  The BJJ HEROES website provides a nice read on the rise of this relationship and its current state (  But I am not here to write on the history or current state or surfing and Jiu-Jitsu, but rather I want to provide my personal experience of the nature of this relationship, how it has transpired for me, and what it means to me.  This read will be more about the feel rather than the facts.  So here’s my take on it.

I started surfing in 2000.  I was in my final years of high school, and a move close to the beach finally saw me give surfing a proper go.  I had dabbled in surfing in 1996 in my first year of high school, but in an attempt to be a a cool 13 year old I convinced my parents to buy me a performance board that was far too small for me and far beyond my then skill level, or lack-thereof.  All throughout high school I was into basketball and then skateboarding.  The surfers, even though some were our friends, were the sworn enemies of the skateboarders.  In retrospect this was likely because they were more popular in our surf town and had all the popular girls chasing them.  As skateboarders we coined the surfers the waxheads, and whilst we would frequent the same parties as these guys, and often hangout with some of them, there was still a funny tension between us, maybe a tension spored from jealousy.  Anyhow, by the time I hit 17 years old and was in my final year of school I had succumb to the draw of surfing; sunny beaches instead of hard asphalt, falls into the water instead of on the concrete, beautiful girls instead of druggies at the skate park, tans instead of sweat.  There was no comparison really.  It wasn’t until near 8 years later that I took up Jiu-Jitsu.  My reason for starting Jiu-Jitsu couldn’t be more opposite, it was more out of necessity rather than fun.  At the end of 2008 I was then bouncing of the night whilst studying at university during the day, and convinced by my security supervisor at the time I started attending Jiu-Jitsu classes.  And that is where for me the relationship between surfing and Jiu-Jitsu started.

For me Jiu-Jitsu and surfing have a complimentary relationship in my life.  I feel it is somewhat a relationship of hot and cold, aggression and relaxation, activity and passivity.  Jiu-Jitsu is the hot, aggressive, active part; it is where I work hard, deal with stress, push forward; I have to think fast, act quick, and move with conviction.  Conversely, surfing is the cold, relaxing, and passive part; it is where I can let go, enjoy the moment, and really feel the moment; it is a period for me of slowing down and appreciating nature and the space I’m in.  Surfing and Jiu-Jitsu have a balancing effect on me.  This is why I have chosen to ride longboards of late.  None of my friends really get it.  But for me it makes total sense.  The way longboards are surfed is much slower, all of your movements are more drawn-out, and for me it provides me much more time to feel the wave and that moment I’m in.  I am no pro surfer, but when I ride a short board it feels more like a frantic sprint, an attempt to reach the end of the wave as fast as possible whilst doing as much damage to the wave as possible.  The problem therein for me with regards to this shortboard experience is that is the same experience I get when training Jiu-Jitsu.  It is more competitive, frenetic, and I guess violent in its actions.  And that is exactly why I have come to enjoy riding longboards or malibus of recent; the experience is a perfect balance to my Jiu-Jitsu experience.  Wow!!!  I’ve just realised I sound like a complete hippie.

Not only does surfing support my Jiu-Jitsu, but so does Jiu-Jitsu support my surfing.  Before I started Jiu-Jitsu I used to surf a lot!!!  For a period I would surf daily.  But then when I started Jiu-Jitsu I guess it became more convenient to train rather than surf.  Surfing is dependent on the weather and the conditions, sometimes you can drive around for hours and not find any decent waves to surf.  On-the-other-hand Jiu-Jitsu class is always on, there is no time wasting, if you go to class you will be training.  So at that point Jiu-Jitsu took over.  Funnily, when I was surfing a lot I would get stuck in plateaus, I felt as though I was not improving in my surfing, and sometimes I felt even as though I maybe regressing.  This has been a common experience for me in many sports when I start forcing myself to do them, as opposed to doing them as I feel.  When I started to surf only once or twice a week on the side of my Jiu-Jitsu training I noticed that I was still surfing around the same level as when I was doing it daily.  How could this be?  I think it has a lot to do with the physical and mental gains Jiu-Jitsu can provide.  The key physical attributes developed through Jiu-Jitsu training which are strength, power, balance, speed, flexibility, and reaction time, are the same key physical attributes that are required for good surfing.  Similarly, some of the key mental aspects of Jiu-Jitsu such as problem solving, quick thinking, and and focus on technique are similarly key mental aspects of surfing.  So in my opinion, whilst these two sports appear very much different on the outer, their inner workings are very much the same and therefore they are very much complimentary.

Finally, for me the lifestyle just works!!!  What better way to spend a day then to train hard and then cool-off and relax in the ocean.  It’s just that simple!!!


Once again thanks for reading and happy rolling,


Ryann Creary

Co-Owner at Flow Martial Arts


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