As I felt my board slide into a wave, I popped up, a miniature burpee, found my feet firmly planted beneath me on the board, and as I stood, I watched a wave unfolding next to me.
A glassy wall of water peeling up next to my head, the sound of the wave crashing just behind me, the wind blowing my wet hair away from my face, the chill of the air against my skin, the feeling of the wave chasing me from behind, and the weightless sensation of gaining speed from the bottom before moving up the face of the wave, setting myself up to turn back into the power of the wave.
I have never felt more present than I have on a wave.
While on a wave, there is a direct connection between me and nature. There is energy coursing from deep in the ocean toward the shoreline, and somehow, we surfers have found a way to dance along the surface of the water as that energy comes to collide with the shoreline.
There is little space to be thinking about anything other than a wave while surfing. You find an empty wave, and as you move down the face of the wave, you are feeling the power of it, watching the wave, and how you are interacting with it. The only thing I am thinking about in that moment is the wave. I feel for the wave beneath my feet, feeling its energy, and trimming my board in tandem with its flow.
Surfing is pulling on rubber so thick you can hardly move your arms to paddle, air so cold that the sea is steaming, squealing when your wetsuit gets flushed and the frigid water leaks over your back and belly. It is barely being able to hear anything other than your own heartbeat through the hood covering your head.
Surfing is your teeth chattering, using your frozen fingers to desperately get your board back in the car as quickly as possible. It’s losing sensation in your feet but still managing to use them to walk across the deck of the surfboard. Surfing is braving the cold because it gives you time in the ocean, away from the clutches of society, and finding sneaky days with no one around. Surfing is standing on water so clear, you can see the rocks as you glide over them and watching fish nibble at the sea grass underneath your toes while you wait between wave sets.
Surfing is also 4 a.m. alarms in the summertime, striking out for first light to beat the crowds during the more temperate months. It’s peace at sunrise, watching it peek its head out from over the shoreline, casting a pink glow along the dappled surface of the water.
There are no phones, no emails, no chatter from the outside world, other than the pleasant conversation shared amongst surfers.
Surfing is the sticky feeling of zinc plastered across your face, the smell of the brine in the air, and the taste of salt on your lips. Surfing is watching a wave from behind, the chopmist casting rainbows as it sprays off the top of the wave, dancing in the wind.
The ocean, the surf, and the tides have become my religion.
Every day, there is a watching of the tides, in the transition between flush waters and drained shorelines, and knowing where I am going to surf based on the transition. It is knowing how much higher the tides are when the moon is full, and how much lower the tide is when the moon is dark. Surfing is awaiting the next swell, patiently waiting (and not so patiently during flat spells) for the size to fill in, and the wind to switch offshore, knowing the push from the wind will help the wave stand up longer and bigger.
It has taught me about respect. The ocean has given me a landscape to play in, a place to make friends, a place to find tranquility. The simplest thing I can do is to honor it. Respecting the sea when it is turbulent, a storm battering the shore, winds creating chaotic beasts surging toward land, knowing this is not my time to enter the water; it is a time to allow the sea to rage. It is taking care of her, grabbing trash and cramming it into my wetsuit to throw out when I leave the ocean, spending time at local clean-ups, and gathering thousands of pounds of garbage with my community.
Surfing is listening to my body. It is knowing what excitement feels like in the body, the pure feeling of joy when seeing a friend expertly navigating a wave from a viewpoint few other people get to see, and knowing how nervousness shows up in my body when paddling out in hurricane swell. It is feeling the power I can generate from my core, my legs, my arms, feeling my strength, and it propelling me into the waves. Surfing is knowing when my body has reached its limit, when it is time to paddle in, and when it is time to rest.
Surfing is my teacher; it is a practice of mindfulness, patience, and endurance.
What is your surfing?