By Evan SlaterWinning isn't everything – especially when it comes to riding waves. But for the vast majority of the world's best surfers and the tens of thousands who aspire to be, the idea of "beating" their fellow competitors can be all-consuming. Points. Stars. Seedings. Ratings. Contest terms buzz around their heads like bloodthirsty mosquitoes, only slowing down (at least for the night) after a long drink from the champagne bottle (or, in the kids' case, the Red Bull can).This is only natural. Surfing as sport is similar to any other athletic pursuit. You learn the rules. You set goals. You train for Game Day. And then you go out and put your skills to the test on the playing field. The only problem is, our playing field is unlike any other. It's like a basketball game with moving baskets that only appear for certain players. Or a football game where the pigskin might fail to show up at all during the allotted time period. These loops are enough to fry the motherboard of any competitive machine, which is why surfers – even those with superhuman skills – have mixed feelings about life in a colored jersey. Yes, they love the thrill of victory. But they also know that surfing isn't just their sport of choice; it's a lifelong relationship.Most other professional athletes don't really have the option of quitting their team and traveling the planet in search of the world's best hoops or diamonds or gridirons. But surfers do. And no matter how caught up they are in title races, qualifying quests or amateur smackdowns, they all know they can bail somewhere at any given time, ride the waves of their lives in a contest-free environment and return more in love with surfing than ever. Winning isn't everything – even when it is.