Zen and the Art of Surfing

Surfing is all about commitment, trust and the right timing.

by Michelle Newbon • More.com Member { View Profile }

Dropping in is the moment of commitment on a wave, it’s the point at which you let go of the rails with both hands and trust that your feet will find your board over the mountains of moving ocean that you’re about to claim and you literally drop from the top of the wave into the translucent place of trust and potential and you fly in the curved space of the wave on the water.  You absorb the weight of the sea in your bones and your body, and with each carve and turn on the face of the wave you’re lighter and heavier all at the same time—moving at the speed of the sun and the light. 

There is also another outcome; you perl.  It’s going over the falls and getting rag-dolled under the wave, most often with salt water finding its way into your sinuses and other unnamed places.  Perling happens because you take off too early, or you drop in too soon; it happens because you did not wait for the wave to come to you.  It’s the place of being too eager, of not having patience and not sensing your space in time with the wave.  Perling can lead to a hesitation the next time you are about to drop in, and the universe will usually answer your hesitation with another drilling session over the falls. Total conundrum at times since to drop in you cannot hesitate, you must commit and you have to find that perfect equilibrium between waiting and going with everything you’ve got – at the exact moment required. 

And sometimes that’s the least of it.  On a crowded day, you might get tangled up with another surfer –  in a completely embarrassing haze of mashed up boards, tangled leashes and the impending doom of another wave about to crash on your head with more surfers coming your way. The whole scenario is enough to make you determine then and there that you will never commit yourself to something that could lead to that kind of outcome again.

But you finally do manage to get untangled without miraculously getting hit on the head by another board and quickly paddle out of the impact zone and shallow water, and you make your way to the channel, the safe zone where the waves don’t break because the ocean floor is deeper there, and you gather yourself up and together.  Since there’s a more than greater chance that everyone just witnessed that, you brush off the humiliation and slow down your paddling gate, a sign that your confidence is resuming; one deep pull of water with your right arm followed by the next deep pull of water with your left arm, head raised up, eyes focused on the horizon and you find your place back in the line-up, the small patch of marine geography where the surfers wait to catch waves, and you locate yourself close enough to be in position, but far enough away to not incite commentary and you wait, heart pounding against your chest and hungry to do it again.

In that moment, there is your desire and nothing else.  In the moment that you are about to drop in the next time, there is the scramble of words and thoughts, and the fear in your blood, but you go anyway and always. You drop in because it’s primal.  You perl because it’s human; and you seek waves relentlessly because you’re both.



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