On Surfing: A Dance With Waves

Surfboarding is more than a mere water-sport or way of passing leisure time—to me, it is a way of living with the present, an attitude towards simple (almost primal) enjoyment.

Surfing can be, like any form of human exercise, as painful as it is fun, which makes it all the more rewarding when months—and eventually, years—of practice allow you to be able to go beyond your old boundaries, towards more challenging feats of achievement. However easy it may become, being aware of your inner and outer surroundings is still an important task. Even as someone who has done this for over six years (and prior to that, a boogieboarder for ten), I am always at a constant struggle with my limits: my arms will sing with pain while paddling, my eyes fight to see against the glare of the sun, and I strain to keep my body on top my board—especially on windy days—all this happening together whilst fighting against the tumbling waves. Though I’m able to adjust my senses to work through the pain or glare I endure on any given day, it’s not the worst thing. I encounter many negative thoughts out in the water, always based on ever–present concerns: the fear of sharks nearby, the risk of being in another surfer’s way, the gamble of dropping in on another surfer’s wave, a misplaced foot on the takeoff of a bomb¹; the dangers of riptides, and shallow reef sections; the appearance of a freak set on the outside, and the sudden locking up of a foot cramp (always the right foot) during an onrush of sets².

What makes all this pain and fear worth it? Asking why I kiss danger is as simple as why anyone can get addicted to a sport or hard substance or medium of entertainment: the THRILL OF THE MOMENT which it gives, whether that be beneficial or detrimental for said person. To live—or rather, perform to your fullest potential, and go beyond distinction in any thoughts or actions: to become the wave itself, and channel the indifferent forces into your will, your command; a graceful balance of control from both man and nature.

When I talk about Surfing in this fashion, a line comes back to me from Cowboy Bebop (an Anime from the late ’90’s), in a scene where the main character, Spike Spiegel, tells a side character (who wants to learn Kung-fu) what it means to be like “clear water” via guiding excessive force through fluid motion:

Rocco: Water.

Spike: Right. Water can take any form. It drifts without effort one moment, then pounds down in a torrent the very next.

Similarly, Surfing can be viewed as a type of art form, a meditative dance of sorts. For me, there is no other thrill in comparison to riding down the face of a big wave and making it all the way through to another small section, or smaller inside wave. I use the same alertness I have in the water with my daily living, paying attention to details while still seeing the bigger picture, and being ready for the unexpected, patient only when necessary.

In summary, Surfboarding helps to make me a more active person, and to test the depth of my limits….Limits which I hope will continue to expand forward, like the yellow sunrise on a clear, glassy day.

NOTES ON TERMINOLOGY:

  1. A bomb is a set wave that is exceptionally bigger than the rest(sometimes referred to as a “freak seton”) A.K.A. The wave of the day.
  2. Set waves are waves within a swell which are bigger than the rest. A.K.A. The ones that make it worth surfing