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  • Nathan Riley, MD

The Benefits of Risk

Having completed residency and beginning a fellowship in which the program appreciates, above all, support for the mental, emotional, and physical health of their physicians, I have had ample time to spend more time with my people and explore new projects when I’m not catching up on much needed sleep.


This has led me to surfing. In San Diego, I can surf for an hour or an afternoon without blinking an eye due to proximity to the beach. A surfboard (aka flotation device) can be obtained for as little as $100 at Costco.


The problem with taking up surfing is that it’s scary. You have to learn the behavior of waves, including tide, swell, and timing. Inevitably, you will get wet, sandy, and potentially hurt, and this makes the buy-in for surfing too steep for many.


As a physician, I have also become competent in a variety of things, yet none of those skills translates too surfing. There are still years of learning ahead for me in my medical practice, but I could reasonably avoid steep learning curves for the rest of my life if I chose to do so.


Yet I’m drawn to the waves specifically because I’m a newbie. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, I might get hurt. Yes, it’s a huge physical demand on my body. But have you seen the view? Have you ever floated out there for a an hour and appreciated the paucity of chatter? Out beyond the break, you can only hear the water interfacing with fiberglass. You don’t hear the highway or sunbathers. You have no access to your social media accounts. It’s meditative.


We fall into comfortable patterns of self-preservation during certain parts of our lives. I encourage you to take a break from television and social media once in a while. Take a risk and try something new, particularly if it gets you outside, in the sun, on the water, or in the dirt.

Photo credit to @Wade.Tomes on Instagram

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