“The best surfer in the world is the one having the most fun.” – Unknown
I find the above quote to be true, being a surfer myself, and not the best I might add. When I’m in the water, nothing else matters. I’m not thinking of what others think of me. I’m not thinking about everyday life, about problems I may have or the stress I feel when I’m on terra firma. The stress of life we all feel at one time or another.
Being in the water is a way of life. Sliding down waves is more than an activity to pass the time. It is a pursuit of something more. The feeling is intangible, indescribable (though I’ll do my best to describe it). It is a culmination of effort. A collective synergy, a moment shared between man and Mother Ocean.
The act of catching a wave isn’t happenstance. It is positioning and effort. It is focus, determination and skill. And though it sounds difficult, it isn’t. Anyone can surf. Anyone.
A surfer is one who rides waves. There are many ways to ride waves, and many waves at that. The energy of the water can be found in lakes, rivers, and even the flattest of the oceans. Yes, the flat oceans. In the relatively flat Gulf of Mexico, innovative surfers ride the wake created by giant tanker ships…
Mother Nature does her part to create the energy. As surfers, we need to do our part. In Southern California, that means stepping out of the sand and into the grandest ocean of them all, the Pacific. It means battling the break lines and paddling ourselves into a position beyond to safely sit and observe the swell pattern. It means waiting. Waiting for a moment that is right. A moment to act.
Swells generally pulse toward land in semi-distinguishable patterns called sets. Sometimes the sets are consistent, sometimes they’re not. Even when they’re consistent, the waves are not identical. They are organic, moving, changing. Pulsing, like a heartbeat.
From a relatively stationary location, the surfer must begin paddling into position as the sets near. He or she must put the effort into being in the right spot as the swell peaks to become a wave. The surfer must decide if he or she is going to ride the wave or put themselves safely beyond the break and wait for the next one. If they are going to ride it, they need to be at the top of the face before it breaks, the optimal position for sliding down. Once they are in position to ride it, they must maintain a balance and focus to stay with the energy until they can safely back out or duck under. This is true for all who ride waves…
The synergy of the moment is a culmination of efforts. Not just by the surfer, but by the ocean as well. Waves are an end result of a pulsing energy that is often generated thousands of miles away. They are a culmination of energy, of organic effort, that begins with a ripple.
Our lives are filled with ripples. They are filled with waves. Our successes are determined by the waves we catch, the effort we put forth in being a part of that synergy with the world around us. The moments in time that we hope and wish for begin as ripples in the distance. We are responsible for doing our part by paddling beyond the break lines, the difficulties and challenges in life, so that we can be in position to see the sets coming. Then as opportunity presents itself, we are responsible for the effort to catch those waves. Some will pass under our feet, they will be opportunities missed. Some we will be in perfect position to catch, enjoying the momentum and thrill of riding the wave.
But still we must remember that a wave is not a lasting energy. Waves have a lifespan that is often quite short. The pulse of the ripple may have endured thousands of miles, but the thrill of the wave is but a fleeting moment to be enjoyed. Once we have expelled its energy, and our own, we must get back to paddling beyond the break lines to be prepared for the next wave.
I’ve ridden countless waves. Though I don’t remember them all, I remember them. I remember the fear of being in the water during a storm swell that brought eight to ten foot waves crashing to our shores. They are still the biggest waves I have been in. The energy and unpredictability was awe inspiring. I was afraid, but I was also determined. And the memory of riding a wave with unbelievable power remains with me to this day.
I remember the two foot, slow rollers too. Waves barely powerful enough to propel me forward. The small days when making a mistake in the water wasn’t punished with teeth jarring wipeouts and sore muscles weeks later. I remember the days of being in the water when my buddy and I sat and talked more than we caught waves and had to work extra hard to catch the last one in. I remember the beauty and serenity of those days.
The ripples in our lives don’t always create waves of mammoth proportions. Our successes in life aren’t always life altering events. The little waves must be enjoyed too.
Enjoy every wave, and be the best surfer in the water…