Editor’s Note: Gerry Lopez provided us with the following letter (written in July of 2010) while completing research for another story. Moved by his writing, we asked Lopez to publish the piece in its entirety. We’re hoping that you’ll find it as inspiring as we did.
Dear Surfers of Gaza and Surfers of Israel,
It is with great regret that I am unable to accept the kind invitation you have extended to visit your country. My dear friend, Doc Paskowitz, told me about this and I’m sorry to say that I already have a prior engagement that I am unable to change. I would very much like to meet and spend time with all of you some day and go surfing together.
I have spent more than the past 50 years of my life surfing. It has been a wonderful way to live and it has also been an ongoing learning experience. Most of the lessons learned from the surf have had more to do with life once I stopped and studied them. Perhaps the most profound lesson was the one upon which the entire surfing culture was based in the early days of Ancient Hawaii.
This is the lesson of Aloha. Most people have heard the word Aloha. It is much used every day in Hawaii greeting family, friends or even a stranger. While this is the basic usage of the word, Aloha is a great deal more. Aloha means love, compassion, grace and kindness. These virtues become important in building not only our relationship with the waves and sea but are also the foundation of all relationships with people. Of course, obviously love, compassion, grace and kindness figure into relating to people but one may ask, how do they have anything to do with the surf? It took me a long time to understand this. I’ve always felt the first 20 years I surfed was just a test to see if I was really interested because only after doing it for this long did the deeper meanings of the surf lessons begin to reveal themselves. To truly understand the surf and the natural world, one must love it unconditionally. It is much the same in beginning to understand each other. Everything is always moving out in the waves and this is why surfing becomes such a beautiful metaphor for life. Because life doesn’t hold still for anyone, if we don’t move with it, life passes us by. The basic lesson of surfing is to go with the flow smoothly and be in the moment spontaneously. In this way, we get the most out of the wave as well as out of life.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama once said, “We are visitors, only here for a short time, use this time to do something good, something useful with our lives. Be at peace with yourself and share that peace. By contributing to other people’s happiness, we can find the true meaning of life.” I believe no truer thing has ever been said. Live with aloha and keep paddling.
Yours in Surf,