Friday, December 08, 2006

Progression


SE WIND 20 TO 25 KT.
WIND WAVES 5 FT.
W SWELL 17 FT AT 17 SECONDS.

I was speaking with a friend the other day and he mentioned that he felt that he had lost what it is to be stoked about surfing. He no longer felt the drive, the thrill or even the need to surf anymore. There was a certain level of fear in the recognition that surfing wasn't a primary force in his life anymore and he wondered about the impact it would have on his life if he continued to feel this way.

It got me thinking about what surfing means to me, whether I need it, whether it defines me as a person. Surfing has always been a part of my life to greater or lesser extents through the years. Early on, as a child, I found the mastery of the act a great confidence builder and the drive to improve and ride bigger and better waves was important to me.

As a teen (still a child), once I had achieved a level of skill that earned me respect (at least among my group of peers), surfing became, among other things, a social device. My friends and girlfriends were surfers, my brother and many other family members were surfers, I spent time with mostly surfers, and we talked incessantly about surfing. The drive to improve was still there but a new dimension had been added.

As a young man, I began to discover other things in life that held importance to me and to explore them with the same fervor surfing had instilled in me as a child. Some of my surfing friends experienced similar changes, whether it was education, a relationship or consideration of a career. In any case, while I still surfed, these "outside" interests encroached upon my surfing time. Some of my other surfing friends didn't develop these other interests and remained intensely focused on surfing. While these friends were never openly critical of my decision to move in a different direction, it was clear that choice like this was baffling to them.

As I matured and cultivated other interests and skills, surfing was forced into the background due to basic life decisions. School, marriage, living inland, children and other things demanded much of my attention. I still took opportunities to surf when I could, but there was only so much time and the demands of life required focus elsewhere. Entering graduate school, I moved to the mid west and focused solely upon my studies. Surfing happened, but only during visits home or the odd surf trip here and there.

Upon completion of my studies, my wife and I decided to move to Oregon for a variety of reasons...none of which was surfing; affordability, work and proximity to family being the deciding factors. Returning on a road trip from San Diego along Highway 1, without a surfboard, I saw many breaks along the way and felt a stirring I hadn't in many years. Soon I was stopping in surf shops and inquiring as to whether they had any old longboards for sale.

Finally, in Lincoln City, Oregon...I found one; a 1960's O'Neill Stepdeck. Beat up, poorly patched and heavy; but watertight. Soon weekly trips to the coast were the norm and I quickly replaced my thin, hoodless wetsuit with a 5 mm hooded version after numerous ice cream headache paddle outs. This log and my other 6'1" thruster were not the ideal quiver for Oregon especially as winter approached and the waves grew in size and power.

More boards followed and Oregon was like a wilderness for me; each headland and cove offering discovery and mystery, but with familiar breaks providing a security blanket. Working from Eugene to Portland provided me the opportunity to surf regularly from Coos Bay to Astoria, exploring all along the way and getting as stoked as I was as a kid.

Now coming up on almost 20 years of surfing I find myself as committed to surfing as I ever was, yet also with a reasonable balance of outside interests and commitments. On occasion, I have regrets or ponder the direction life would have taken had I gone down a different road...everyone does. But as a whole, I have a great family, I enjoy my work and I still surf consistently. Of course, Oregon winters and storms sometimes conspire along with life to keep one out of the water for longer stretches than is ideal at times; but by and large this is corrected with a multiple day session encouraged by my wife once I have grown intolerably grumpy from lack of surf.

For me surfing is largely a solitary activity, even when conducted in company of others. Over the course of years I have met and made friends in the water and sometimes seek them out when surfing sketchy or remote spots. But it serves as food for the soul, recharging my spirit when the everyday duties of life get to be tedious or frustrating. There are few other things in life that provide the same level of pure, energized bliss than paddling into a perfect, feathering left point break along a rocky, tree-lined shore.

1 comments:

Nic said...

thanks.. really enjoyed reading that post.. made me reflect upon my own journery and current motivations :0)
love your blog