Surviving Thriving On Vacations with a Non-Surfing Partner

Surfing has affected my relationships in different ways. In New York City, for example, I was afraid to drive from Manhattan to Long Island to surf, having spent most of my adulthood riding public transportation (and because NYC drivers are homicidal and the pedestrians suicidal). My boyfriend at the time, knowing how much I wanted to surf, would get up with me at 4:00 a.m., coach me through driving to the beach, wait on a cold bench while I splashed around, and coach me through driving back into the city. He did this until I was comfortable enough to go on my own.

“Did you get my tube?”

A post shared by Alex AlexAlex (@alex_alexalex) on

But then, I have also been in relationships that dissolved in part because of surfing. For example, the accusation “surfing is more important to you than I am” escalated into bitter fights, my male surf buddies became a thorny issue, or we could not agree on a place to live because I needed to be close to the surf.

I do understand that if you don’t surf, being with a surfer can be rough. Surfing is a unique addiction. Unlike CrossFit, video games, or even heroin, surfing strikes unexpectedly. For the non-surfing partner, it probably seems like you are in a relationship with somebody who flaunts an affair with a fickle and demanding lover named the Ocean. When she or he calls, your partner drops you, your kids, and all your carefully-made plans to go be with her/him. They leave you for weeks to surf shallow reef at remote locations without cell reception, and you have no idea if their faces or other vital body parts have been grated off. They are constantly getting injured and then – just when they have the chance to spend quality time with you – they’re unbearably grumpy, whiny, and pathetic because they are in the clutches of surf withdrawals.

Jumping from the water villa at Niyama Maldives
Photo: Richard Kotch

Joint vacations, in particular, can be fertile ground for surfer/non-surfer relationship tensions. Common vacation complaints include contesting time spent surfing vs. together, cutting short epic sessions in perfect conditions out of guilt for the waiting non-surfer, and pissing off non-surfing partners who want to sleep in because the dawn patroller is brushing her/his teeth too loudly at 5 am!

Related article: Family Surf Trips: How to Plan The Perfect Holiday

Maybe you are lucky enough to have a non-surfing partner that loves to take pictures or videos while you surf. Someone who automatically hands you a beer and starts massaging your shoulders when you plop back on the beach and doesn’t mind hearing constant surf chat for the rest of the day either. If that is the relationship you are in, I don’t care if her mother is insane or he has one crazy long toenail or doesn’t do the dishes… do everything you can to make sure they stay!

For the rest of us, there’s hope. Obviously, if you expect to surf 12 hours per day every day while vacationing with your non-surfing partner, then the inevitable break-up is 100% on you. As long as you’re both reasonable humans, however, there are plenty of amazing surf destinations where both partners can have the trip of a lifetime – free of resentment-inducing amounts of compromise.

Personally, I would book my next couples vacation to the Maldives. First, the Maldives are absolutely stunning, and nobody in their right mind would have a problem spending a few days just enjoying the perfectly blue water and blindingly white sand with a mai tai (or five) in a private pool overlooking the beach, the sea or both! Your partner wouldn’t even notice that you were gone surfing. Second, many Maldivian resorts have a smorgasbord of non-surf activities on tap. I love that places like Niyama Private Islands and Six Senses Laamu have their own in-house marine biologists that foster coral nurseries and will teach you about the local ocean life and conservation efforts.

Safe the turtles!
Turtle conservation center at Six Senses Laamu

Scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, yoga, dolphin-seeing trips, workout gyms, libraries, world-class spas, cinemas and newspapers from around the world are available in places like these to occupy your partner while you surf waves so clean they are transparent. Some of these activities are so cool you might just skip a surf session or two to partake!

Finally, as long as there are things to do, it can actually be nice to spend some time apart on vacation. You get a chance to explore your own interests, miss each other, then have a romantic catch-up drink at sunset to show off your day’s accomplishments, whether it be a delicious creation from cooking class or that sea urchin spine that’s still stuck in your toe from when you ate shit on a 2-foot wave.

Remember, whether or not he/she admits it, your surfing is probably one of the things that your partner loves about you.

Yoga at Six Senses Laamu im the Maldives
Yoga at Six Senses Laamu

People who pursue their passions are sexy – especially if that passion is as difficult and keeps them as fit as surfing. And if you’re like me, you surf just as much for your mental and emotional health as your physical fitness. A happier you, certainly makes your partner’s life easier.

I’ve found that surfing causes relationship drama, mostly, when the non-surfer feels bored/lonely or under-prioritized, and that is something to keep in mind when planning a vacation. It is so worthwhile AND possible to plan a vacation where your partner is actually looking forward to you going surfing so they can do their thing before meeting up with you for an afternoon adventure or rum-spiked coconut.  This way, you go to sleep at night happy, surf-satisfied, maybe slightly tipsy, and… in your loved one’s sunburnt arms instead of the doghouse.

Preparing the perfect surf / non-surf vacation combo with a little help is easy! Check our selection of perfect holiday locations that include waves, smiles and a no-argument policy – guaranteed!

A lawyer by profession and surfer by obsession, Rebecca lives in Bali and thinks, talks, and writes mostly about surfing, feminism, politics, and how to live a sane life trying to balance all of the above.