Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Forces of nature -- A philosophy of surfing

When we are thinking about surfing, I think most of us will be immediately visualizing in our mind those impressive and exciting surfing pictures. We generally take for granted that those are what surfers do, including those occasional wipe outs while we marvel the unbelievable abilities and skills of the surfers. I doubt that any of us have ever, if at all, stop to wonder how those surfers really feel.

Well, the Bleacher Report just published an article by Steven Ward that described, rather poetically, how a surfer feels during those surfing moments. The article is entitled "Forces of Nature: How Surfing Rescued Me" but I think it could also be considered as philosophy of surfing. Here's the opening paragraph:
There are very few feelings in one's lifetime that actually inebriate the senses to such a degree that a separation of spirit from flesh occurs in a mere instant of time. It is not necessarily induced by speed, nor as a result of gravitational thrust, but more so as a result of a transition from one state of consciousness to another by unregulated energy while suspended amid a quasi-natural stance or standing.
Does anyone ever regard surfing as "a separation of spirit from flesh occurs in a mere instant of time"?

As we are used to seeing giant waves in west coast California, north shore Oahu, or other surfing places in the world, the author learned surfing at New Smyrna Beach, Florida. He contends:
East Coast waves, comparably small, are capable, especially when the offshore waters entertained passing hurricanes, of delivering powerful swells toward the shores while the riders waited patiently their deliverance. As hurricane season proceeded, we would maintain a wary eye, watching, waiting, even praying the Outer Banks would summon and we'd be off in search of our own "Perfect Wave."
East Coast includes:
Cape Hatteras, N.C. allotted me the largest, most furious wave I ever attempted to conquer. This took place while a hurricane danced offshore, feeding this beautiful beach a constant, ever increasing supply of huge, hungry swells.
For us non-surfers, the article accounted some real feeling and sensation of surfing:

I remember paddling, the wave up under me, and suddenly a drop that seemed an eternity. I tried to hold on, but I doubt if I made it halfway down the wave when I lost it. The speed was incredible, but the force of the swell was what I really recall. A wipeout at such heights is never a good thing, but here amid a hurricane swell—well, thank God we survived. It took a great deal of battling the laws of nature, but we finally found solid ground.

It wasn't that wave that filled me with an unsurpassed awe, but waves in general; a collective gathering of large and small, each one in possession of its own identity. The sport of Surfing rescued me when I was a fledgling teen and allowed me to claim something very special, very personal, and a link to nature at its various and tedious strength. Indeed a Force of Nature!

That's it! I guess the pursuance of all surfers is essentially seeking to "claim something very special, very personal, and a link to nature." Aren't that what we all seeking in life in different pursuance anyway? I find his perception of waves in general: "a collective gathering of large and small, each one in possession of its own identity" is rather refreshing. For a ocean wave researcher, I especially conscious of the fact that scientific research has been basically aimed at suppress those identities and forcing those "large and small" waves to obey an artifical "model" in the never never land. Many of those wave researchers, I reckon, seldom if ever, ventured out into the real ocean, myself included. I always admire the surfers because they are the ones really facing up to the nearshore waves, day in and day out, no models of any kind can help them surf better or easier!


The picture at the beginning of this blog was the picture accompanied the article with no photo credit. I assume it was a picture of the author.

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