Sunday, December 10, 2006



When I was younger, it seemed that there was a core group of surfers that had figured out what surfing was about. I don't know if this is 100% true as I have lost track of the majority of these people. They were the ones trekking solo down the beach, past the usual spots; foregoing the beer, wine, weed, what have you...instead they were looking for that spot where they could tap into a real high.

I don't have a name for these individuals...I suppose the language of the time or even today would apply the label of "soul" or "soul surfer" but the tag carries a certain level of baggage I prefer to leave at the gate. But these guys were the ones in the water when you paddled out, in the water when you paddled in, always in position when the set waves came and often had words of encouragement for those of not at their level of skill.

I don't know where the separation is between a surfer whose line is pure and one who surfs for recognition...I don't even know if this gulf exists. I can create it in my mind and can define the rules that we seem to go by. The rules of the surfing game are by and large rigid for most; it is only the rare individual that steps (and surfs) outside of these rules and is not called to task.

The "soul surfer" may not acknowledge others, but doesn't seek to hinder their enjoyment or development as surfers. Unenlightened surfers see others as a threat and take steps to prevent their encroachment into their territory. Even acceptance within the established group is contingent upon adherence to a strict code of behavior and straying from such is seen as a serious breach of cool...bordering on kook-like in certain cases.

The rules, while strict, myopic and obviously restrictive...are directed towards enforcement and encouragement of a very definite principle...respect. It isn't always earned, but is always demanded...the local contingent feeling it has the right, whether through time, frequency or place, to unquestioned respect. And, in most cases, the expectation is met...sometimes grudgingly and sometimes with resentment...but generally, it is offered and surfers take their place in the lineup dependent upon their ability.

Occasionally the line is crossed, either by interloper or defender. The end result doesn't really matter, the balance has been upset and a new dynamic must be established. Failure to establish hierarchy can result in a breakdown of manners, of expectations, of the rules. When respect is lost, the natural flow is disrupted, replaced with drop ins, snaking and stupidity. Only when a new hierarchy emerges to set the line up in order, whether through a look, a fade into the pit or fists on the beach, is order and respect restored.

These aspects generally apply in situations where crowds are an issue. In Oregon they can typically be avoided. Although the best breaks require some interaction with the established hierarchy, empty waves that require no kowtowing or obedience to a top dog can be found anywhere along the coast. These are the waves that can provide the template for free expression, waves that you can dance on rather than concern yourself with the fear of a witnessed blown drop...forever relegated to the back of the line or incessant snaking because of it.

For me, surfing isn't for others approval but for my own enjoyment and pleasure. I don't really know if my surfing is stylish, awkward or clean...only that the feel is pure. Each wave is a microcosm of time, a plane that offers a changing canvas upon which to respond and draw familiar yet distinct lines. It can be a movement in real time, a slow motion carve or an extreme sensation of speed and distance that does not adhere to real time and motion. Surfing is about the wave itself, the soul and the moment.

Having an understanding of what the wave is is key, respecting the power that provides the vehicle is key, realizing that the opportunity to tap this energy is a gift is key...whether you ride the surging froth straight in as a beginner, glide upon the face of the wave in trim or tuck yourself away within the violent silence of the tube ultimately does not is the very act of engaging and interacting with the sea that remains the primary aspect and ultimate reward of surfing.


Anonymous said...

Great writing lately.

This post especially.

Only a few people seemed to be actually enlightened by the whole deal.

I try.

Anonymous said...

Good post Doc.