The first time I rode a wave, I mean really rode a wave, I remember feeling a connection that I hadn’t experienced before. I felt so in tune with that wave, and that bond has only grown tighter throughout my years of surfing. I think the thing I love most about the pursuit of surfing is the relationship with the natural world that it provides.
As I age, my appreciation for the natural world only seems to grow. I want to immerse myself in it as much as possible, and surfing is a fantastic way to literally plunge yourself into nature. The elemental, powerful, and raw qualities of the ocean command respect. I simply can’t respect or revere a man-made wave, because I know it to be a farce.
We seem to be entering the era of pools that can create legitimate waves for surfing, but I have no interest whatsoever in trying one out. That’s not to say that I’m not impressed by what Kelly Slater’s wave pool can do. That wave looks absolutely perfect, but I don’t want perfection.
For me, part of the experience of surfing is checking the conditions in the morning and maybe even driving to a few different locations to scout options. Checking the forecast to see what the winds might do, assessing when the best tide will be; these things add to the experience of surfing and my relationship with the ocean. The wave pool robs us of these intricacies.
If the waves were pumping all day every day, we’d lose our gratitude in great surf conditions. The sweet isn’t so sweet without the sour. Afternoons spent battling onshore winds and strong currents just to score a couple of decent rides make those glassy mornings seem all the sweeter. We need the shit days to make us truly appreciate the epic ones.
I think I would get bored in a wave pool rather quickly. I don’t want it to be that predictable, that easy. I want to have to watch out for that random big set outside that might just mow down the entire lineup. I want to adjust my positioning and find new peaks as the conditions change throughout the session. Learning the intricacies of a break at certain tides and using that knowledge to overcome tricky sections is satisfying.
Lulls between sets provide an opportunity to take stock of how lucky we are to be bobbing up and down in the ocean. I love to look up and down the coast and marvel at the beauty around me. Greetings from friendly dolphins, wrestling matches with kelp monsters, the view of the reef below on a clear day; I relish all of it.
The world around us seems to be getting more artificial by the day. Surfing should be an escape from that trend, not a part of it. I don’t want surfing to lose its purity, and I don’t want to lose the connection to the natural world that I get through it. I’ve never understood the people I see running on treadmills when there is plenty of running to be done outside. I guess wave pools just seem like surfing’s treadmill to me.