Sitting Outside: A Surfer’s Perspective On Letting Life Pass You By

Sitting Outside: A Surfer’s Perspective On Letting Life Pass You By


Have you ever watched surfers as they sit and wait for the waves to roll in?  At most surf breaks, the line-up of surfers stretches from the inside section closest to shore, to the middle section which is usually at the most active peaks, to the outside section where a few surfers sit and wait for the largest of the set waves.


Over the decades that I’ve been surfing, I spent most of my time in the line-up sitting outside, usually way outside, waiting for the biggest and best wave of the day.  I always felt that catching the set wave would make the whole surf session perfect. Boy, did I miss a lot of waves waiting for that great set wave to come rolling in.

Over the past ten years or so, I have changed my surfing ideology from “sitting outside & waiting” to “chasing down” as many waves, big or small, as I can.  My surfing mantra is now “high wave count,” and “quantity over size.”  I must say that I wish I would’ve taken this approach to surfing years ago.  I would have caught more waves throughout the years instead of having to play “catch-up” today.

I think about living life the same way I look at surfing.  We can let the “waves of our lives” pass by; busying ourselves now and waiting until retirement before we experience the joys of travel, adventure and worthwhile relationships.

I think about the Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman film “The Bucket List,” and I ask why has filling a bucket list become somewhat of a standard mindset for us Americans?  Why do we put off the joy of life’s experiences for the majority of our lives when we really don’t know when and how our lives could end?

Throughout my career as a Funeral Director, I have served hundreds of families that lost a husband, wife, mother or father or even children before their time.  I have shared solemn visits with spouses who would never have the chance to share the great plans they’d made with a spouse who died unexpectedly.  No traveling.  No walks on the beach or autumns in New England.  No pizza in Naples or cruises through the fjords or Norway.

I see that we all tend to put off the living of life, sometimes for too long.  We wait for the set wave instead of catching the many smaller waves that we let pass by.

My wife and I have a bucket list.  We also have an active living list; the things we will do in between dipping into the bucket.  We realize that a balanced plan for living includes both the present, near future and the golden years.

When I surf, I might not catch the biggest waves all the time but I do catch them sometimes. The point is; we don’t have time to sit and wait for something that may or may not come. I don’t miss those big waves anymore. I’m too busy paddling to catch the wave in front of me.


What are some smaller plans that you want to experience before you dip into your bucket list?


By | 2012-09-18T05:00:40-07:00 September 18th, 2012|Inspiration|24 Comments


  1. Sharon September 18, 2012 at 8:39 am - Reply

    While resting on the beach and watching surfers out beyond the waves sitting on their boards, I have often wondered how they determine the waves they will go for and the ones they let pass by. I’m sure that is part of the sport and learned skill, but it was fun for me to hear your perspective and see the correlation you drew to life’s experiences.

    I also think that people wait for the “big wave moments” to be happy. “I’ll be happy when I graduate”or “I’ll be happy when I get married”, or “I’ll be happy when I get a new house” etc. I find that if we wait to truly live in the moment or wait to be happy until those “big waves” enter (or don’t enter) our lives – we miss so very much of the joys in life. This was a lesson that took me awhile to learn. But one that has been so valuable to know.

    Thank you for the reminder that to truly enjoy our life experience – we need to catch a lot more waves everyday.


    • Christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      You are so right. I love when I am reminded to keep on living…especially when the trip or experience is priceless!

  2. Anne September 18, 2012 at 8:39 am - Reply

    I totally agree with you. I too have experienced friends and others just waiting for the big one. I think Dave Ramsey is right on with his mantra “Live today like no one else, so tomorrow you can live like no one else”, meaning denying present spending to insure being debt free and future financial freedom.
    Along with that however, we must make sure we spend time and money on the things that may not be here tomorrow.
    We just came back from a trip to MI to spend with family. We are spread all over the country and each year or so, one less is able to come because of our ages and the health or death of some. Would I trade the cost to go for less future growth of savings? In a minute, every year! This will not last and Lou and I know that we had to be the ones to make it happen, so we bought the property several years ago where we all gather. And, we are catching EVERY wave we can.
    Thanks for a meaningful read. Anne

    • Christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      As we know, we can’t take it with us. But the shared memories of life lived is the best pile of riches to leave behind.

  3. Neil O'Connor September 18, 2012 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Hi Chris –
    I wait for no waves big or small. I believe that we are the wind that creates the ripple effect into waves. Funny how the most powerful force in the world (water) seeks the path of least resistance, we should never resist our dreams. I love the joys of life, the little things make me happy, tickling my son, watching him kick a ping pong ball as it spins back to him, taking a long walk with the family. No need to wait for adventures of fun and joy they are all around us, we just need to want to explore and be curious. Thanks for the reminder that life is full of many treasures. Peace Soul Surfer! XO

    • Christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm - Reply

      For me, time spent with my daughters was always time well spent. The simplest joys were my greatest joys. Their experiences were my experiences. But now, Liz and I are all about us! I have lived the cycle of life!

  4. Kim Stacey September 18, 2012 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Just recently, I’ve decided to give everything – every opportunity – the “death bed test”. IF I am fortunate enough to have some time to lie and wait for death to take me…and I’m lucid, and relatively pain free (man, I’m asking a lot!)…would I regret NOT have seized the moment, and lie there “kicking myself” for neglecting to “live the bigger life.” It’s amazing how that visualization has led me to do some things, and leave others behind.

    For example – I live up in a small town in the redwoods – and Santa Cruz feels like it’s very far away (when it’s only about 30 minutes down Hwy 9). There was an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art I thought I’d enjoy – but could easily talk myself out of going. Not with the “death bed test”! I’d regret not having seen Rose Sellery’s exhibit, Passages (read about it here: Such a small thing, yet not “putting it off” made me very happy!

    I plan to do more “small things” – and leaving this planet with fewer regrets. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Chris…or should I say ANOTHER one!

    • Christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      My pleasure. I love the saying “No regrets.” My challenge has always been in the creating of the time necessary for the enjoyment of life. Thank goodness, as I’ve aged I’ve become so much better at the enjoyment part of the equation.

  5. MollyKeating September 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Chris, I love this post! While you’ll never see me out surfing, I feel some peace about the philosophy you’re introducing here. I’ve been practicing the concept of “doing what I like & not feeling guilt about it” – what I mean by that is, if I want to relax & read, grab a coffee, or take a nap and I have the time to do those things, well, I’m going to do them. So often we feel rushed & buy into the narrative that there’s always something else to do before I can do what I actually want to do. I’m trying to kill that belief in my own life and I love reading a post like this that encourages me & gives a new spin on what I’ve been doing!

    • Christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm - Reply

      Thankfully, we all get to define living for ourselves. From the quiet times with a great book and delicious coffee to running with bulls in Spain, life is always as good as we make it…as we make it!

  6. Tim Maassen September 18, 2012 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Great read…as evidenced below it’s open to may interpretations but in the end a powerful message that gives one a valuable perspective…well done!

    • Christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply


  7. Bryce Keating September 18, 2012 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    always good to see surfing integrated into the larger picture of life. well done, Chris.

    • Christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      For us, surfing is life!

  8. Carrie Bayer September 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Chris, this is great advice- all too often we are waiting for something bigger & better while the small quality things in life go by. I know that I spent way too many years in a bad marriage, waiting for things to get better. Now, I think of all the things I missed by doing that & am slowly making up for it by tackling each thing I’ve wanted to do, one at a time. Thank you so ugh for your wise words! XOXOX Carrie

    • Christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm - Reply

      Life is for living fully even as we plan, work, struggle, etc. We should never be remembered by what we could’ve or should’ve done but rather by what we did do!

  9. Patricia Kolstad September 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Chris . . well done.
    I agree that we catch all the joy we can and “be in the moment”. You and I both know that when you’re raising a family – big or small – catching as many waves as possible can mean a fishing trip, going to a concert, picnic’s in the park, visiting relatives, sleepovers and the like. Being a single mom to my first daughter , and a single mom with my 4th and last daughter kept me always in the moment. Now that my kids are grown and I have a covey of grandkids, those same fun things still apply. I haven’t really done a bucket list – but I do believe what you said. You can’t just sit still on your “board” and wait for the perfect wave. You have to taste, feel, experience, see, smell and love life each and everyday. For when we wake, this day is only here while we’re in it. And tomorrow it will be gone. My thoughts for the future contain just that . . . thoughts. No plans, but a vision of life at a slower, more deliberate pace. Filled with family and friends. And who knows . . . maybe Ireleand and Italy will be in the mix. But I’m not going to wait . . a Guinness and a great bottle of wine might just do the trick! Nicely done, Chris.

    • Christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm - Reply

      I’m taking my Mom to Italy and Switzerland next year. She’s never been after years of raising six kids and working through divorce. I’m happy that she cared for health and will be strong enough to travel at 77 years old. I told her to stay strong for a trip to Ireland in 2014.

  10. Shayna Mallik September 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Chris, wow what a great thought provoking post! I try to not just sit and wait, but I have to admit sometimes I do just let it pass me by. I hate when this happens. Life is to short to just sit around and wait! Now more than ever I will never just be waiting, I will always catch as many “waves as I can”
    Thank you so much for this post Chris!!!

    • christopher Iverson September 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm - Reply

      You’ll want to do your best to leave regret out of life’s picture. Living a balanced life mostly ears to a continued happy life.

  11. Kari Leslie September 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Great post! Thanks so much for sharing from your heart. I know how much you love your time in the water, and your passion shines through to us land lovers too! You are a great example to so many.

    Joy to you,

  12. Lori September 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm - Reply


    I love the way you think about life and share with us.
    I have been catching small waves this week with regards to my Grandma making up for all of the big ones I only went for before.
    Life is fragile and it changes in an instant. We all need to rethink our list of priorities.

    Love you,

    • Christopher Iverson October 1, 2012 at 11:46 am - Reply

      Life is to be planned, lived, shared and cherished. You do this already.

  13. Amy October 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your passion so openly. You have a way of allowing us to see the bigger picture and what still lies ahead. You are so right that most of us sit and wait for the biggest and best while some even perfect things are passing us by. Thanks for the reminder to remember that it’s not always about the biggest and best but the simple things too.