See Naples and die. It’s a saying that means once you’ve seen Naples, you’ve seen it all. There’s nothing left to see, so you might as well off yourself and avoid the boredom of the rest of your life. What if you knew you already surfed the best wave of your life? Would you stop surfing?
There’s a song I often think of about a man whose dream was to go down on Madonna. I’m going to use a bit of creative license here, because I can’t remember exactly what happens in the song or who sings it*, but this is what my drink-addled memory has turned it into: from the time he was a young teen, all this guy cared about was going down on Madonna. He spent his life trying to make it happen, and, by some stroke of luck coupled with years of manifesting destiny, when he was 34, he succeeded. His only dream was now a reality. The single item on his bucket list checked off. The culmination of his life’s work had culminated. And he was miserable. All his friends said, “too soon, too soon.”
I’m currently sitting in a large metal tube hurtling through the air at an incredible rate of speed 40,000 feet above the earth. Below is the vast blue ocean, in front the vast blue sky. The tube, they tell me, is held up by some vague laws of physics, but I’m reasonably sure it’s actually held up by the passengers’ insane belief that it’s held up by some vague laws of physics. If enough people on the plane all realized at the same time that a metal tube weighing thousands upon thousands of pounds simply cannot hurtle through the air at an incredible rate of speed 40,000 feet above the earth, we would drop out of the sky and plummet to our deaths, screaming about vague laws of physics and trying our best to start believing in them again. The farther we fell, however, the more difficult it would become to believe in them and the less likely it would become that the plane would not crumple on impact like a giant metal tube falling from a height of 40,000 feet. Thank God science is so convincing.
Juan just sat down next to me on the inside of the metal tube and posed an interesting question: what if you’ve already surfed the best wave of your life? He told me that Shane Dorian asked him that question through the screen of his laptop, which was playing Proximity. In the early stages of our conversation, I mistakenly thought that was a movie with Tom Cruise. It is not. I see now that Shane Dorian was not in a Tom Cruise movie and that the Proximity Juan was referring to was more likely to have been the Taylor Steele one. I’m actually not positive that Tom Cruise is even in a movie called Proximity, but I’m reasonably positive that Taylor Steele made one. I’m about as positive as I am that some vague law of physics are what’s holding this plane up and not the passengers’ staunch belief that science is indeed real.
We hurtle around on this planet, much like this plane hurtles, believing in ridiculous vague laws of physics like whichever one explains how a plane flies and gravity (yeah RIGHT, Newton). I like to think that instead of gravity, we actually have magnets in our feet that are attracted to the iron at the center of the earth, but no one will listen to me. I feel for the Flat Earthers, who shout incessantly at the sky while everyone laughs at them. “Ha ha!” those everyones say, looking around for encouragement from the ever-present Round Earthers. “They think there’s a giant wall of ice! Those kooky Flat Earthers! They probably think that gravity isn’t real and we have magnets in our feet that are attracted to the iron at the center of the earth!” But riddle me this, gravity believers: have you personally ever cut open your feet and proved me wrong? Or are you just relying on what the man tells you? Sheep.
If you’ve been surfing for say, more than 20 years, I hate to tell you this, but there’s a good chance that one of the waves you’ve already surfed will be better than any wave you will surf in the future. It does make one think, though. How much of surfing is actually about surfing? How much of surfing is about the physical act of riding a flat chunk of foam on top of a rolling mass of watery energy? And how much, pray tell, is about the act of looking for something better? Do we surf to experience the short period of time that we’re actually surfing on a wave? That would be pretty fucking dumb, if you take into account that 99 percent of surfing consists of paddling, driving, walking, bobbing, and wishing there were fewer people out. One percent, for those of you mathemagicians out there, is all that’s left. That is the wave sliding part. Pretty fucking dumb, right? Unless, that is, that we’re not surfing for the wave sliding part.
If we’re not surfing for the wave sliding and we’re not surfing for the paddling, driving, walking, and bobbing, then perhaps we’re surfing for the paddling, driving, walking, bobbing, AND the wave sliding. Perhaps “surfing” isn’t just surfing. Perhaps “surfing” is the entire act. The waiting, the looking, the chasing, the hoping, the wave sliding. That would mean that even if you have surfed the best wave of your life, it doesn’t matter. You’re not surfing for that best wave. You’re surfing for the act of looking for it. Even if you’ve already got that wave, it doesn’t mean that you went down on Madonna too fast. It just means there is an infinite number of Madonnas to go down on out there, moving around in that vast blue ocean that I’m hurting over at an incredible rate of speed in a metal tube weighing thousands upon thousands of pounds 40,000 feet above the earth. But those Madonnas aren’t waves–no, no. They’re simply the possibility of those waves. “Whether or not I’ve already caught the best wave of my life,” Shane Dorian told Juan in Proximity sans Tom Cruise, “is a question I don’t want to know the answer to.”
*I remembered! It’s Dan Bern!