Congratulations to Betzaida Herrera, the World Miss Reef 2010 Bikini Contest Champion.

Furthermore, congratulations to Miss Reef judges Rob Machado, Parker Coffin and Dean Morrison, who qualified as bootythorities through their prodigious surf talents.

Talk about living the dream: The list of perks and the adventures that top surfers have earned and embarked on is enviable, or sometimes just kinda bizarre, like when Kelly Slater dated Pamela Anderson and moonlit on Baywatch for a season.

The pros get paid to compete in beautiful, exotic locations, sit in as esteemed members of ass-judging committees on their laydays, party with models, etc. and that’s awesome.

But not everyone can live in the clouds of surfing stardom. For most other surfers, the ride is more challenging, more tiring, not as fast and not constantly filmed in HD by surf paparazzi. Rodeo flips and pro tournaments may be more than a little out of reach for myself and 99 percent of the rest of the surf world.

People always say to me, “I wish I had started surfing earlier. It’s too late to start now,” or “I started too late, I won’t be able to become a good surfer.” Ugh. What pessimism. Don’t you unenlightened landlubbers get anything?

Surfing is not about the babes, being able to boost air or getting a tanned bod. Surfing is not about the contests, the World Championship Tour or corporate sponsorship. It’s not even about Betzaida’s mouthwatering heiny.

There’s real magic to the sport of kings. When you submerge yourself in surfing’s depth, waves become your spiritual fuel. The rhythmic bob of the tide is your pulse. Paddling is your breath, the spray of saltwater your speech.

I’ve met people fifty years my senior who can surf with more skill, patience and style than myself. I’ve read accounts and seen videos of surfers in their 80s and 90s still going strong. They’re the inspired ones, the people I aspire to be. It’s not because they’ve become more used to balancing on their surfboard, more accurate at predicting waves or even more crafty at maneuvering the lineup, but because they’ve been able to keep the soul-buzzing feeling of the session in their lives even past their physical prime.

There’s a certain delighted twinkle that manifests in the eyes of lifelong surfers. It’s almost an “I know something you don’t know” kind of jesting taunt. But when that soul surfer happens to talk about his or her experiences and smile — a smile that connects the whole mouth and eyes into a portrait of bubbly excitement — you begin to understand what a lifetime of soul adventure can do for one’s spirit.

If you do it right, surfing will fulfill you, provide you purpose, bliss, satisfaction, exercise, community and challenge. The first step is entering the water with an open mind. The next step is to return to the water frequently. The final step is to stay positive and grateful to have at least a moment to float by yourself, with your buds or perhaps just the dolphins and fish.

So don’t “what if” your surfing prospects. Don’t “I could’ve been a surfer had I started earlier” yourself. Just give it a try, stay respectful and stay at it.

Remember — it’s right there, and it’s good for you.

Daily Nexus surf columnist Elliott Rosenfeld was very disappointed with his second-place finish in the ass contest.