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Are you a soul surfer?

Are you a soul surfer? Photo: Ming Nomchong.


The Inertia

You might not think of yourself as a hippie, new age, spiritual, soul surfer kinda guy or girl. But if you can say yes to six or more of the following statements, consider the possibility that you might be an enlightened surf-guru who lives by the grace of the great mother, the ocean.

1. You go surfing at least once a week, even on Sundays.
Now, don’t get me wrong, but people go to church at least once a week, right? No matter how busy you are during the week, you still choose to get baptized by the cold water as you paddle out. You confess your sins during that bad wipeout, and you feel the blessing of a force superior to you while you’re inside the energetic vortex of a barrel.

2. You see the value of surfing as a form of art that goes beyond sport.
Don’t get mad at me Kelly, you know I admire you (I have a poster of you on my wall) and enjoy watching you and your WCT buddies rip. But I honestly prefer watching a 68-year-old riding a 9’5 green longboard on a solid 8-foot Conejo day.  I admire the stories of Eddie Aikau, and I get mesmerized watching Laird Hamilton foilboarding.

Genuine surfing isn’t about winning heats, scoring perfect 10’s and slashing, snapping and cutting at the waves. It’s about gracefully merging with the energy of a wave. Making the difficult look effortless. You can’t put a score on it. it’s just beautiful when you see it.

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3. You know that surfing is not entirely about consumerism.
 As much as I love the way my Rip Curl ocean-search tidal watch matches my O’Neill fast dry, water repellant board shorts, I acknowledge the fact that they were probably made in some outsourced cheap-labour factory somewhere in Asia. Being aware of it is the first step.

The second step is realizing that this is not surfing’s fault, but is a problem due to our current  capitalized, globalized world (dis)order. After all, you need that wetsuit to conserve heat; you need those booties to save you from urchins, rocks, and frostbite in some locations. You take care of your toxic foam-resin surfboards, and your eyes get watery when you see more environmentally friendly alternatives.

4. You believe in the surfing community and our collective power.
Save the Waves, Waves 4 Water, and Surfing for Change are just a few of the efforts from the surfing community to act upon environmental threats and do our part in this difficult world we live in. Acting together as one sounds like a pretty soul-sprouted endeavor to me.

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Despite the asshole, wreckless and punk-ass surfers out there (no offense, Bra Boys) we are generally aware of the environment, and we deeply value the blessings of nurturing and fun that the ocean bestows upon us. It’s worth fighting for, together; surfing is an inclusive, benevolent and even more widespread faith than most others.

5. You’ve felt the bliss of being in the zone.
Completely focused on the present moment, staying with the flow, and harnessing the energy of the pocket. Then, the wave finishes and before you start to paddle back out for another one, there is a brief moment of pure ecstasy, joy and contentment deep in the heart.

As pipeline master Gerry Lopez said:
 “We became hippies and got into yoga and that whole self realization thing, and started to realize that those moments when you were completely focused on riding a wave are actually kind of spiritual… religious moments”

6. You’ve had an amazing animal encounter.
You’ve seen the viral videos of surfers with sea lions, dolphins, turtles, or even sharks. Perhaps you have had the luck (but not a camera) to witness such an event, and experience the captivating beauty of an encounter with a marine animal.

My favorite thing to do is observe the pelicans glide just inches above the surface and let the wave-shaped wind surge transport them effortlessly across space, without a flap of their wings. A miracle of stillness.

7. You’d like to die in (with) the ocean.
People often think of drowning as a horrible way to die, but when I was a kid and watched the ending scene of The Big Blue, I knew that I’d rather die in the ocean doing something I love. Car crash? Horrible disease?  No thanks… Jaws wipeout? Sounds more like it.

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And the best part is that your surfer friends, and local surf community will all paddle out, form an circle and throw flowers in the air, while splashing water and crying with joy. What a great way to say goodbye and celebrate life.

8. A negative experience is humbling and often empowering.
Once, I went  bodyboarding without fins. I got caught a rip current and  feared for my life. I did remember to swim slowly sideways with the current, but I needed help from a lifeguard to paddle back in. There are those horrific wipeouts where you get seriously injured or take the biggest set of the day on your head.

In other sports, like skateboarding, it’s common for someone to stop participating after an accident. And not to say that this is not true for surfing, but somehow, those experiences reassure you of how powerful the ocean is. It teaches you to admire it, but most importantly, it teaches you to respect that superior force of nature.

9. You’ve found balance in other aspects of your life.
You took off late, but somehow this time your feet stuck, the fins caught, the rail set, and your board propelled you to the next section. Surfing improves your balance in and out of the water, like that one time you chose to eat a healthier meal, or hydrate yourself with water instead of beer.

Matt Warshaw once said “When wars and flags and religions and nations and cities and rockets are gone, there will still be an order of things far beyond the order of power-crazed men. It will be the order of a universe at equilibrium with all natural forces in balance. And that’s what riding a wave is.”

10. Metaphysical waves
Have you given a metaphysical focus to the way you think about waves? What are waves ? They are pulses of energy moving through water particles, formed, shaped and affected by various oceanographic and climatological factors. A wave, in its deepest sense, is pure universal, cosmic energy, manifested into the physical realm. Technically speaking, it’s quantum physics, but it’s even way more poetic and imaginative than that:

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“Everything is waves. The universe of space and matter is charged with energy…waves of energy. Like echoes of the heartbeat of the absolute being, waves give expression to the divine will. They give form to the universe…Waves pass through everything—steel, stone, flesh and blood and water and air and space alike. Waves are the imprint, the signature, not only of life, but of existence itself.” 

The Book of Waves.

I was once told by one of my yoga teachers that I could start a religion around surfing. I could help people heal, grow and find happiness in the ocean. I believe such religion already exists, and we are all devotees, priests and believers.

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