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Golf and Surf: A Fine Pairing

Golf and Surf: A Fine Pairing

The Golfer’s Journal publisher sits down with RGC to discuss the yin and yang of golf and surf in his life.


You’ve been planning this day with your friends for weeks. Waking up to a beautiful Saturday morning, the sun’s shining and the weather’s warm, clouds spotted in the sky and not an inkling of wind. Brewing your favorite cup of coffee and eating a filling breakfast before heading out on the drive where you psych up by playing a favorite playlist and visualizing the day. Turning into the parking waving to your friends and engaging in friendly banter, donning of gear, stretching, and warming up, and then it’s time. What may come next is a round of golf, or possibly a surf. 

Brendon on the links

The beginning and preparation of each sport are similar and many of us who partake in both practices have realized their compatibility. They each present their own form of mental tests, they share physical similarities between their movements and both call home in some of the most beautiful places on earth. They are a fine pairing, golf, and surf, and if you’ve never experienced a magical day in the ocean, riding waves and soaking in the sun, some would say it is comparable to a day at your favorite golf course, so we’d like to try and give you some insight to the world of surf.

To do this, we enlisted Brendon Thomas of The Golfer’s Journal and The Surfer’s Journal. Brendon appeared on Ep.148 of the Erik Anders Lang Show where he briefly broke down his interpretations on the comparison of the two. For his day job, he transmits his love of golf and surfing through high-quality print media. The Golfer’s Journal is a quarterly magazine focused on the heart and soul of golf through an artistic and journalistic view and breeds a sense of adventure. As the publisher of both journals, he is a well-qualified voice, spending most of his life playing golf, surfing, writing, and meditating on the similarities of the two practices at length.

When asked which came first, golf or surf, he wasn’t altogether sure, like many of us he learned golf from his grandfather, but didn’t take to golf as quickly, surfing became his immediate passion and, like golf, something he still loves just as much to this day.

There’s always a moment that keeps you coming back for more. One good wave or one good shot, all the frustrations, trials, and tribulations, are quickly forgotten. You latch onto that one moment that makes you want to do it again

Brendon stated “the speed, the rushing wind and the thrill of it all” is what grabbed his attention, “the minute you stand up the first time you know it’s something you want to do over and over again. The feeling is unparalleled.”

Golf and surfing share many similarities, from the most basic which is being out in nature and experiencing the different types of weather and environments, to how similar the mindset and singular the experience of each practice is. When presented with the question of what similarities each of the two sports share, Brendon begins with the obsessive feeling of each where “there’s always a moment that keeps you coming back for more. One good wave or one good shot, all the frustrations, trials, and tribulations, are quickly forgotten. You latch onto that one moment that makes you want to do it again.”

The beauty of nature is one of the most immediate draws to golf and surfing. The 7th Hole at Pebble Beach at the US Open is a prime example. It is one of the most scenic holes in golf with the juxtaposition of the calm and serene green sitting on a cliff’s edge with waves crashing below. As a golfer and surfer, we are entertained by both worlds watching the pros hit perfectly arched wedge shots at the pin and in between shots daydreaming about the surf.

Listen above as Brendon joined the Erik Anders Lang Pod to discuss golf, surf, travel and more.

Golf can be found in the most beautiful places in the world, and in many of those places, we can find surf too. We asked Brendon about surf and golf travel and his list of places he has visited for both was endless. He’s enjoyed trips to the world-famous surf spot Jeffery’s Bay in South Africa, followed by a round at the local municipal course, St. Francis Bay Golf Club. Yearly the Golfer’s/Surfer’s Journal organizes a member get together in Punta Mita, Mexico where subscribers are welcomed to all you can golf, surf, eat, and drink. When talking about the yearly trip he says “there are 2 golf courses with 14 holes on the water and there are waves off every hole. You can go surf in the morning then play golf. Yeah, it’s kind of like a playground.” He says “they dovetail well together when the surf’s great you probably don’t want to be golfing, but when the surf’s bad and it’s sunny, you go golf, they place nicely.”

One question arises: do I really want to travel with so much equipment? Brendon states “it’s a nightmare.” Traveling through an airport lugging around clubs and boards is daunting, finding yourself in that situation may be more of a hassle than what it’s worth, but as most of us know, most golf courses provide rental clubs and very fine ones at that. Similarly, surfboards can be rented around the world, and there is an increase in high-quality boards being readily available which can be preordered before you arrive. So in the end, your biggest question is, do I leave the board or clubs behind? We think that is a good conundrum.

Brendon shredding big time waves

After talking with Brendon about the numerous trips he’s taken where he surfed and golfed his way to pure bliss, we had to get back to the basics of why a golfer should give surfing a try. One similar characteristic is found in the physicality of the two. Yes, they seem like a far cry from each other, one in the water, the other on land but Brendon explained “the actual action of golf and surfing are very different, ones on a static surface, while the others in this dynamic area where the water is moving and you’re reacting. The act of how you maneuver a surfboard and a golf club have similar sequencing of twisting. Both are facing perpendicular to the target and looking over your shoulder.”

“The sequence of hips and shoulders to do a cutback and swing a golf club. A good cutback is just like a good golf swing when you execute it well, you know you’ve done it, barely feeling the ball come off the clubface, while (in surfing) you barely feel any effort to turn the surfboard around.” They may seem at odds with each and have little relation when watching from afar, but the similarities in movements may act as a cross-training when you are away from the course, or the ocean.

Along with training and building of our physical skills to better hit a golf ball, the most complex and hardest to master is the mind. When thinking about a round of golf, one which started off so promising, but ending with a limp back into the clubhouse searching for answers, we can many times point to our mind as our downfall. When talking with Brendon, he gives insight into what he’s learned from taking his 7-year-old out to the local golf course, The Playground at Goat Hill, and the ability kids have to just play. He says “with kids, there are no mental hang-ups, they think “the ball is there and I’m going to hit it there” while adults think “are my shoulders aligned” What’s my wrist angle?” (kids) just go on and hit it there, the inner athlete takes over.” Although we are unable to slip back into our kids’ minds, surfing could be used as a tool to continue developing the mental strength in all of us and as a way to refresh and free ourselves from the constraint of trying to play for a score.

In surfing, the moments between a wave are similar to the time spent between a golf shot. “It’s all about what your mindset is. Show up in a good headspace and you’re much better off than when you come in hot” says Brendon. There are ways to be productive in both, and also destructive at the same time. Being able to stay in the moment and aware of everything going on around you pays dividends for each sport. To someone unfamiliar with surfing “you look out at all the people staring at the horizon waiting for a wave. You think, look at all that wasted manpower, then you think about how calm they all are,” says Brendon. Each moment spent searching for the next wave will lead to a greater familiarity with how the ocean works and seeing the signs on the horizon of what could possibly be the wave of your life. It is no different than walking up to your ball on the green and seeing the grain, where the ridges are, and getting a read on the putt before ever getting to your ball. They are sports that allow us to discipline our minds to be patient and allow us to enter a flow state when everything comes together.

Get a big board and surf the smallest possible waves you can. Don’t overextend yourself because one bad wipeout can really put you off.

When asked what advice he’d give to someone looking to get into surfing Brendon answers with caution “get a big board and surf the smallest possible waves you can. Don’t overextend yourself because one bad wipeout can really put you off. In a similar way, you wouldn’t go play a difficult golf course from the tips your first day out, you’d go to a driving range or a par 3.”

His second tip is “ride as many waves as you can, try to understand the ocean, and get your paddling strength up. Once that’s in place, your wave count will go up, so lots of paddling, even if it’s flat, go paddling and get comfortable with the ocean.”

There are so many positive benefits to starting a new sport, especially one like surfing. The challenge of learning new movements, gaining physical strength, and sharpening our minds brings a general happiness when progress is attained. As someone who has spent most of my life surfing and playing golf, there are times where each of them may have been neglected for the other, but golf and surf will always be there because the universe of each knows that there is nothing more special than a morning surf and an afternoon round of golf. That is pure bliss.

At the end of our talk with Brendon he left us with one final thought when asked about what positives surfing has brought to his life, he says;

“The most positive is perseverance. You have to work really hard. It’s a pointless exercise, you paddle out, then you ride a wave back in, and you paddle back out, you never get anywhere it’s just a process. Paddling out through the white water is very analogous to life, I suppose, you have to work really hard before there is any success. You have to put up with all kinds of adversity. The ocean doesn’t want you out there some days and you have to keep outwitting it and persevering and keep paddling til you get there. You can’t give up on something because you don’t get rewarded. When you get rewarded, you realize it’s not over. There’s no finish line. Like most pursuits outside of the ocean, like golf, you work towards a goal, and once you get there and realize the thing you got, in the end, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be so you have to love the process otherwise you’re not going to find joy day-to-day. Surfing and golf, if you find joy in the process of it, walking, hitting, paddling, sitting, and waiting for waves, then you enjoy it. If you are only there to get birdies and you’re only there to get the best wave of the day, you’re gonna be disappointed more than you’re gonna be happy about the outcome. The lesson is you just have to put yourself out there. Keep going. Otherwise, the moment of bliss is not going to happen unless you’re there, trying them.”

Get a subscription to The Golfer’s Journal HERE

Article and Interview by Jonathan Bastos

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