Recently, at my urging, an American friend of mine came to Uvita to try surfing. When he was done, he said he wouldn’t be trying it again. I asked him why not and he told me it was too scary. I said, “Well, of course. That’s what makes it so thrilling.” He looked at me like I was crazy.
At first I thought there was something wrong with him. After all, it wasn’t like he didn’t enjoy sports. But then I realized it might be me who’s a little crazy.
Surfing Your Brains Out
Surfing isn’t for everyone. If it was, the beaches would be too crowded and the line ups would be unbearable. Only certain types of people love the thrill of catching a wave, adventurous sorts who enjoy a certain degree of risk taking – and that’s what makes us different.
Recent advancements in psychology have found a connection between the amount of dopamine inhibitors in the brain and the risk seeking behavior of certain individuals, including those who enjoy surfing. Dopamine is the brain chemical that makes us feel good when we fall in love or when our favorite teams wins a game. It’s also what gives us a rush when we’re surfing. The inhibitors are what cut down on the amount of dopamine and level us off emotionally.
Thrill seekers appear to have fewer inhibitors, meaning they get a bigger charge out of risk seeking behavior, and one that lasts longer. Enough, it appears, to override fear.
My friend wasn’t crazy. He just has more dopamine inhibitors than I do. And that’s too bad for him. I may be willing to take dangerous risks, especially when a big pounder of a wave is about to crash down on me, but I know a thrill undiluted by worry, the awesome thrill of catching a wave and surfing it for a long way.