Surfing saved my soul.
And I don’t mean in a, “I used to be addicted to crack cocaine, but then I started surfing...” way.
I mean in a, “holy crap, please save me from my iPhone and Starbucks and mircowave chicken nuggets,” way. I don’t mean surfing saved my life; I mean it saved my soul. It brought me direct access to the spiritual in my everyday life. Let’s face it, your job is pretty trivial on a morning where you’ve ripped a few turns on a head-high wave, or had that same head-high wave curl over and drop a few gallons of white water forcefully on your head.
Like most millennial, suburban-grown men of my generation, I long ago dumped the, “religious,” in favor of the, “spiritual.” And while that helped me find a worldview I was at peace with and challenged me to be a better person, it’s often hard to squeeze that into your daily routine. It is. It sucks to say it, but I’m pretty crap at practicing what I believe is right. I should be meditating more.
I should be consciously putting the emotions of others before my own feelings, especially when mine are trivial. I should be not screaming at the entitled, oblivious soccer mom barreling down the highway in the SUV, obscenities that would certainly get me fired from any network and a fair number of cable television shows. So while I might have found all the things that I know I should be doing, I let a lot of crap get in the way.
And then I started surfing. And I found joy. Unadulterated joy. Driving home with a shit-eating grin cause why-the-hell-not joy. Surfing, in a single session, can give me an entire spectrum of feelings from frustration and despair, to thinking I’m going to die, to an almost indescribable exuberance that produces that grin I was just talking about. All of that can happen daily. Hell, all of that can happen in 45 minutes. It’s a dose of humanity delivered via Mother Nature.
Surfers, let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not us that produces all of this. Sure, I tend to get that smile at the perfect spot in a bottom turn or during a turn off the lip when everything goes “click.” But it’s not me. It’s not the board or any other piece of equipment. It’s the ocean, rolling and tumbling and just occasionally curling perfectly beneath our feet that gives us that stoke. Because when we’re out of sync with what the ocean wants (and it always gets it’s way) is when surfing gives us those emotions at the bottom end of humanity, and the best we can do is suck it up and learn. But it’s when everything comes together, between us and a force far, far greater than ourselves, that surfing produces the best in all of us. That lasting stoke that let’s you come in from a session and put every other thing in and around your life in a perspective that makes sense.
It is a worldview, reaffirmed with every wave
If we’re honest with ourselves, there’s the act of surfing, and then there’s what our brains impose on it when we’re not doing it. There’s a lot of, “if I only had those fins,” or, “I need a new $700 surfboard, no it can’t be the knock off,” or, “the breaks around me suck, I need to go to Mexico or Bali or Iceland for good waves,” that we kid ourselves into thinking is critical to our daily stoke. But that’s modern man imposing insecurities and bullshit onto something pure. I’m not saying that variety can’t make things exciting or interesting, but an honest assessment of what we need versus what we’d like often comes up with disparities between the two. The answer to getting stoked again is always simpler than you think.
Remember, no matter how bad your home break is, you could always be landlocked.
Surfing isn’t a person. I don’t love surfing more than the people in my life, or even in the same way. Surfing brings out something on the inside, connects a direct line straight from my heart or my gut or my soul to the ocean and onward to whatever else is out there. When you feel that every day, how can you not share that joy with the people around you? Surfing might not make me a better person, but it does bring out the best that’s already there.
Besides, at least when we’re all wearing wetsuits, we all look equally ridiculous.