Sunday, June 19, 2011

Surfing: an exercise in spirituality

Nightsurf from Iker Elorrieta (Gure ametsa, eskerrik asko Iker)

"A dream without stars is a dream forgotten" Paul Eluard

From ManhattanBeach

The visionaries in Hollywood would have you believe that surfers are dumb beach bums who walk around shirtless with their shorts hanging halfway down their butts, calling everyone "dude" and "bro."
You know, the ones that are always "so stoked," or really excited.

Those guys exist, but most surfers are so much more.

These days, I know so many average, everyday people who surf.
Anyone can be a surfer.
Maybe your tax guy was out surfing this morning before he met with you about filing your tax extension.
Maybe the mom next door straps her board to the roof of her car before she drives her kids to school.
Even our kids' dentist and orthodontist (a husband and wife team) surf.
So do their kids.

Surfing is cool. Surfing is hip.
But the culture of surfing is about more than marketing a fantasy for the non-surfers.

For me, surfing is a spiritual experience.
I feel that I am with nature at its very best—and maybe a little closer to god—when I am in the water.

The ocean is a playground for the five senses, and surfing takes you to the core of the action.
I can't think of a better place to see, smell, taste, touch and hear, all at the same time.

When I see a pod of dolphins playing in the surf, I think, they get it.
These beautiful creatures instinctively get it.
Some people are like that, too.
Surfing is as natural to them as breathing—a beautiful gift.

Some surfers I know have a unique perspective about the ocean.
Some feel the ocean is a sacred place.
Some take that feeling too far, trying to keep other surfers out of their favorite surf spot and causing surfers to fear localism—all in the name of a wave.

Although many will say, “I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf,” not all will venture into the sea.
For as many people that say they love the ocean or want to learn how to surf, just as many say they don’t like the ocean and wouldn’t even go for a swim.

Maybe their fear of sharks keeps them on dry land.
(For the record: Yes, sharks live in the ocean, and yes, even in the water off our beloved Beach Cities, but no, I am not suggesting that a shark attack has ever taken place here.)
Maybe they just don't like sand between their toes.

Whatever their reason for remaining on shore, I can think of several to reasons to get wet, and I think more people are catching on to what makes surfing so special.

Surfing can be a great workout—both physically and mentally.
When I’m in the ocean, I am more aware.
Every breath I take feels like a clearing of my head, like a meditation.

But never turn your back on the ocean.

The waves can be powerful and at times, unpredictable.
I have a healthy respect for what I have felt first-hand on more than a couple of occasions.
A tumble in a wave, sometimes referred to as the washing machine, can be scary, but is also a rite of passage for any surfer.

Every wave caught is an accomplishment.
Nevertheless, I don’t measure a successful surf session by how many waves I've caught but by how I feel when I get out of the water.

I understand that surfing isn’t for everyone, and not all surfers view the ocean and the waves in the same light.
For me, it is the light in the ocean that keeps me coming back for more.

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