In Jaimal Yogis’ new memoir, All Our Waves Are Water (just out this week) watching a local tube master at Puerto Escondido inspires a reflection on the meaning of it all.
Watching this man was like watching a hawk swoop for a gopher, a cheetah stalking prey, a corporate lobbyist working a political cocktail party. And it crystallized an idea that had been forming latently: tube riding was enlightenment. I mean, not literally. But the tube was the perfect metaphor.
Waves arise when air molecules, seeking pockets of low density, blow over water. Like goose bumps, wind forms ripples on the water’s skin, and those ripples act as sails, trapping more air. When wind sustains, that energy congeals into hefty mounds of water. Swell.
Energy in motion will stay in motion. So the swells travel, often for thousands of miles, sorting themselves as they move into tribes of similar speed and size, sets. From above, these sets appear a parade of blue objects. Hard. Defined. But this is an illusion. Little water is moving.
The definition of a wave is a “disturbance moving through a medium,” and the memory of wind is spiral- ing through the medium of ocean. Atoms, molecules, cells are bouncing air’s message in an endless domino effect—a game of telephone. Each swell is a sort of ghost, an illusion that only looks like matter in motion.
And people are too. We look firm with our cookie-cutter parameters: head, shoulders, knees, and toes. But the bits of matter that compose our bodies are constantly getting traded out by new water, new food, new air, new chemicals. There is no static amount of stuff that stays with us from birth to death, no lump of clay you could point to and say, “See here I was as a baby, and now I’m stretched to my current size—roughly the same lump I began as.”
As the wave only exists as the memory of wind transferring between particles, we are the memory of some primordial, beginningless exhale (the cause that caused the cause of the Big Bang and every Big Bang before it). And we only exist as separate entities insofar as this breath has evolved us to perceive ourselves that way.
So we too are an illusion, a mirage. And the solar system and galaxy and universe around us, all made of tiny subatomic waves, are spiraling wavelike mirages. Realizing this on an experiential level is, they say, what the Buddhas and sages see. It’s why they can enjoy bliss and be unbothered by loss. But usually, we are so caught in the force and swirl of the illusion, we don’t have any ability to see through it—to see that it’s hollow at its core.
The magic of the tube, however, is that, well, it is already hollow at its core. And there you are, still and poised in the belly of the swirl, unified with it, but also outside its relentless karma. Seeing the emptiness of everything while enjoying the everything.
Granted, this is a heady metaphor. Maybe a stretch. But seeing the tube master reminded me how much I wanted to learn how to do what he was doing.
The last rays of light disappeared behind a thin layer of horizon fog. And just as the sky was nearly the same color as the water, a dark, smooth swell appeared on the horizon. I paddled hard, ready for my tube—or at the very least a smooth ride to the beach for sunset tacos with Siri.
I felt myself pick up speed and stood a split second earlier, trying to mimic the tattooed tube master. And I sort of did. I stood right in the pocket of the slurping sea, nailed my stance, angled right, and glided down the line.
In front of me, the tunnel began to form, crest throwing outward, hooking with waning sun in its curl. I ducked, ready. Then the sea swallowed.
Editor’s Note: You can pick up a copy of Yogis’ new book, All Our Waves Are Water right here. We highly recommend you do. He’s an amazing writer and top bloke. If you like high quality writing about the experience and meaning of surfing as it relates to life on earth, he’s a great bet.