When recently reading an entry in Sea Stoke I was reminded of something that I’ve been working on out in the water this winter and I decided to write about it. I’m not a writer; I’m more of a rambler so I’m not making any promises. But here is my stab at a short story.
I’m just about to complete my 3rd year surfing and this winter we’ve had a nice run of waves in the northeast with swells that have brought some decent size surf and challenged my ability and fears on some of the biggest waves I’ve surfed so far. I’ve had some successes and some failures. Let me rephrase… In surfing I don’t think there is ever a “failed” session, there is always something to take away from it. Of coarse I have days when I don’t believe that but it’s another blog entry all together.
Kidding aside, there were some days where I didn’t catch more than a wave or two, sometimes none. Maybe that day the feat was just to get out to the line up, or learn how to bail safer, or to learn the break differently due to the wind direction or the swell size or how to get back to shore after a ride when there is still so much water and rip currents or close out sets reforming and dumping on you just a few feet from shore. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are not able to conquer all of our obstacles in a single bound. We are not super heroes. Slow down, it’s ok to do one thing at a time and not overwhelm our self, stop, breathe, go with the flow and be present.
The thing I decided to focus on this winter was conquering the obstacle of my constant fear of drowning. Even though I’m a strong swimmer, I’m a weak paddler and I can’t breath long under the water. What’s interesting is that growing up a child of the ocean, as a swimmer not a surfer, I was never afraid of the sea. I loved big waves and swimming right up under and through them enjoying ever minute of it. I still do…when the ocean doesn’t have another idea in mind, catching me off guard and ripping me under, rolling and tumbling before I have a chance to know which is above and which is below. Add a few pounds of rubber, frigid waters and a large 9’ weapon of destruction attached to your leg, the challenge begins…
So I started imagining that stoke, the innocence and that peace I had under the water as a child. In my youth I knew so little and therefore I feared so little. Diving under the noise and the chaos of what lies above in the squirming coil of sand, stone and thunderous rounds of white water notice that the sound softens as you go further under, relax and don’t fight it, resisting the panic and be one with it’s energy. Have fun with it; acknowledge its power and beauty. It starts to feel safe.
The Ocean is in it’s own cycle and I’m in it, not the other way around so who am I to control it? The Ocean humbles me. The constant metaphoric connection that happens between the fluidity of the sea and the fluidity of life if you’re open to it is mind blowing. It is my constant teacher. Don’t get me wrong, this newly discovered way to fight my fear of truly “becoming one” with the sea isn’t entirely flawless. I still have my share of epic near drowning wipeouts but they are far fewer and I’m less afraid of them.
It amazes me how many parallels there are between my experiences and emotions in the sea and on land. The constant effort it takes to keep balance and rhythm moving in a cyclic way, to remain Zen and not to over think, over react, or resist what is.
After this winter even my dreams have been filled with more swimming and playing under the sea. Between that and my own experiences in the water they’ve enhanced my recent interest in experimenting with body surfing which I haven’t done much of aside from my sleeping adventures and playing around in the summer surf on small swell days. I’ve been tuned into it quite a bit lately and I think it’s shown me another perspective on how to embrace being under the water. All the Torpedo people of the world as well as the artists, who film and photograph them, inspire me greatly. I can’t wait for the waters to warm up, and the ice cream headaches to go away, grabbing some fins and the hand plane I just made and getting a true womping. Seeing so many beautiful images of the people under the sea has been a part of my strength and inspiration behind charging waves with a different mindset.