Through the years, I’ve noticed that it’s a particular type of person that persists with the purist oceanic pastime of surfing. There is a certain set of characteristics developed through nature and nurture that lay the foundation for a lifetime pursuit of chasing wave energy. It strikes me that it’s one of the reasons we feel connected to other surfers when we travel, regardless of culture, age and, language. Surfing seems to act as a natural human filter, bringing together and uniting a tribe of people around the world who have both chosen and been chosen by a love for riding waves.
Each of us has our surfing story – the events that led us to today – whether it’s the young Australian grom scoring waves after school, the Norwegian business consultant heading to the coast on her weekends, the Moroccan surf instructor coaching burkini clad beginners, or the Israeli retiree faithfully committed to dawn patrol longboard sessions. There are infinite variations of the surfer’s path, yet we’re a community of people who share much more common ground than we most often realize. In a world tormented by divisive politics and segregation, there are traits which I see time and again in the souls I cross during surf travels. Perhaps you also see one or two in yourself.
Thirst for Exploration
Before we set foot in the water, there is an intrigue that unites future surfers. A wondering about the natural world sets the foundation for a lifetime of learning from the greatest of all teachers; mother nature. Curiosity may well have led to the cat’s demise, but it also kills ignorance, and a knowledge of the ocean and her intricacies is part of every surfer’s journey. Surfers are explorers, both locally and globally, so easily creating an intimate relationship between surfing and traveling.
There is no guarantee of beautiful moments in surfing, but all surfers eventually experience them. The personal and indescribable experiences in our lives that keep us paddling out. And the willingness to wait for them often defines a surfer more than his or her individual ability. Impatience has no place in surfing, and the impatient will grow tired of marginal conditions and personal mistakes. Waiting, and being content to wait, is the only path to surfing nirvana.
The surfer’s ability to fail and learn from failure is one reason why mere mortals (non-surfers) simply cannot comprehend what we are able to do with a slice of fiberglass a splash of wax. Surfing can be an intensely frustrating way to spend time and progressing as a surfer can involve highs and lows that require Herculean levels commitment. Surfing, in its essence, is the antithesis of our modern quick-fix culture. For many, it provides a meditative respite from the pressure of fast results.
Without doubt, some of the scariest moments of any surfer’s life will be in the ocean. Perhaps it is that pendulum swing in and out of our comfort zones which keeps us returning again and again to the sea. The ability to consciously challenge yourself and the thrill of thriving where others fear to tread.
A Love for Nature
Imagine a world where all politicians were also surfers. It is no accident that most surfers are also environmentalists to some degree. Nowhere is the juxtaposition of human influence and natural degradation so apparent than the place where land and sea meet. And surfers have a front row seat in this arena, witnessing nature’s magnificence while becoming intimately aware of the destructive potential of our actions.
These five traits are our common ground. There are powers in the modern world with an interest in division of the human race. Many social and political pressures we all feel to put up the walls of nationalism, protection, and security, which often lead to segregation and dehumanization of those unlike us.
Waves, however, don’t discriminate. They fall upon all shores across our small planet, offering no privilege or favoritism. On all shorelines from the United States to Iran, there are humans who gaze in wonder at the ocean and its breaking waves, just as there are people of all races, creeds and orientations that choose to engage the energy in the surfing dance. Our paths differ, but the core of our humanity is so often the same. We have all chosen surfing and surfing has chosen us all. We are united as a global tribe.
As a wave of political popularism rises throughout much of the world in the wake of middle-eastern instability and over-publicized religious extremism, it is our duty as a tribe of united souls to look past our prejudices. It is our duty to help our friends, family and colleagues to see what we see. See the surfer, not the color. See the surfer, not the nationality. See the surfer, not the religion. See the characteristics that unite us, not those that divide.