Only a Surfer Knows the Feeling
There is a guy from Hawaii that I know. Every day, he wakes up, straps his surfboards to the racks on top of his car, drives his car from a town called Ewa, across the island of Oahu, to a little beach known as Ala Moana Beach Park. He does all of this even before the sun comes up. He spends a few minutes just looking at the ocean, watching and surveying the waves and how they break. As soon as the sun makes its first peek over the horizon, he grabs a board, waxes it up, and jumps in the water. He then paddles his board through what many people call a journey: two hundred yards of dark cold water, blistering currents, and waves pushing back against each stroke made to push forward. He makes this journey to get to a point right past where all the waves break, to a point called the line-up. It’s here, where he waits for a wave that he catches back towards the shore, only to make the journey back through all the cold harsh currents and waves again. He catches a few waves, and then catches one all the way back to shore, where he showers, gets dressed and then goes off to work.
He has one of the most stressful jobs I can think of. He is a counselor at one of the local shelters for teenage runaways. He deals with teen depression, suicidal tendencies, and coordinates bringing these kids back together with their families. And even though these tasks aren’t what most people would want to have to put up with in their lives, he does it every day. Furthermore, as stressful as his job seems to be, this man is one of the mellowest guys that I know. When asked why he does this morning ritual every day, he said, “surfing helps keep me focused”. And I believe him.
Think about it for a moment, each time a surfer goes to a beach, waxes up his board, and surveys the waves from the shore, he is preparing to go into the water to do something quite amazing. This person is willing to test not only his limits, but also the limits of what the ocean can do to him. He wants to battle the power of the entity that covers over seventy percent of the earth, manifested in the form of a wave, and ride it for all its worth. He’s willing to do it armed only with a surfboard and the clothes on his back. And to do this, this person has to be focused.
To me surfing is a metaphor for life, and many people (mostly surfers) could relate to that idea. That’s why many people that surf regularly, make surfing a lifestyle and not just a thing to do. Any person can learn a great deal from principles and practices that go into surfing. Focus, humility, awareness, perseverance, as well as physical well being, respect, hard work and balance are just a few of these principles. The list can go on forever. And the more knowledge gained about principles like these, the better off that person would be.
A surfer often has to be aware of their surroundings. What ever he knows about what’s around, him will greatly affect what he does while he is in the water. For instance, if a surfer sees a large set of waves off in the distance, he will paddle himself out towards deeper water, where he is safe, because waves break in shallow waters, and nobody wants a wave to break on them. It’s also the reason why surfers use deep-water channels between reefs to swim out past breaking waves, instead of using up most of there energy trying to paddle through them. Sometimes there is no channel, so surfers “duck-dive” under the breaking waves. Surfers have to know where these things are and how to use them. It’s all about being clever: Using smarts instead of strength. A single twenty-five foot wave at Waimea bay on Oahu’s north shore can provide enough power to generate electricity for the entire island for three days. Not even the strongest man in the world can do that. So you have to be smart. It’s just like real life; learn to work around problems, instead if smashing right into them face-first.
Most surfers also have to have respect and humility. They have no choice but to be humbled by the ocean and its power. At any given time the ocean can claim a life, with no regard to how good a surfer or swimmer a person is. They respect it by taking care of the environment. Because it’s important to a surfer to have waves to catch. And it’s not the preference of surfers to surf in polluted waters. They also respect other surfers. They learn to let the other person catch a wave, or to pull off of a wave if there’s another person behind him, and not to get in the way of other surfers. They also learn to respect the person who came before them. If a surfer is new to a surfing spot, he doesn’t go around disregarding the regulars. He respects them by being aware of who they are and not pissing them off.
Surfers also learn perseverance. Paddling ten minutes to catch a wave that lasts for ten seconds isn’t a reward that many people would find gratifying. But surfers do it time and again. They learn to reap the rewards of a well-put effort. Even if a wave knocks them off their board and washes them ashore, they’ll get right back on it and start pushing through all the currents, focusing on their goal, just to get another chance at it. It’s the rush that they get when sliding down a wave and letting all its power push them that motivates them. It’s such a simple thing to work for, yet it provides so much gratification.
But surfing isn’t all about the “rush”. As a matter of fact, it’s therapeutic both for the mind and the body. Being alone in the ocean for an hour or two would give anyone a lot of time to think. There are no distractions, just beauty that surrounds like the sky above, and the water below. It’s like being one with nature. Not many people have the chance to experience something like that. Soaking in the salt water in the ocean relaxes any tense muscles a surfer might have. It’s like a day spa. And just like a day spa, after a good session, any one would feel more relaxed and rejuvenated. And when people learn to relax and aren’t tense, they wont have to vent their frustration out on me. And this makes my life that much more manageable.
Surfing is the perfect model for life. Knowing how to surf is like knowing how to live life. If people knew how to surf and practiced all the principles that go into surfing, they would be more at one with themselves. They’d be focused, relaxed, and would reap the benefits of a well-put effort, as well as be in good physical shape. Any one who knows how to surf has an advantage over those who don’t know how to surf too. If a meteor was projected to hit the earth in the middle of the ocean and caused a two hundred-story tidal wave that would sweep over all the continents, and wipe out humanity, I know I would be ready, with my surfboard in hand, waiting for the ride of my life.