Surfing is many things to many people all over the world. We might strike the general public as a strong tribe united by our love for the ocean and the art of riding waves. But what if the non-surfer-surfing-fans could grasp what surfing is really like?
I was having a conversation with a man named Mario Beceril. He’s a renowned surfing instructor from Todos Santos, and he argued that “surfing” should be called “suffering.” While teaching countless tourists and locals how to surf at Cerritos beach, he has seen sunburns, busted eardrums, dislocated shoulders, stings, bites, bruises, fin slashes and broken fingers–his point was that people suffer because of surfing all the time. And it’s totally worth it.
I don’t know about you, but I consider myself the “soul surfer” type. Spirituality has given me a perspective that many other surfers might not have, so I’d like to share it.
If we dig down into spiritual literature, more specifically in Buddhism, there is an analogy for life which tells us we are living in a dream and we must wake up in order to unveil the divine light that shines within.
Buddhism also tells us that all beings on earth are condemned to suffer; there is no escape, rich or poor, black or white, man or woman, young and old. We all suffer the consequences of our actions, and the actions of others, too. It’s karma, but it doesn’t really work in the bitchy way that is generally believed by most people. #karmaisnotabitch. So how does this hippie stuff relate to surfing?
Only 34 men and 17 women get to experience and live “the dream” of going on the world tour and surfing the best waves in the planet for a pay check. Yes, there are countless freesurfers, local chargers and old masters that are enjoying the lifestyle that brings joy and happiness to our hearts and satisfies the yearnings of our souls. However, a lot of people make what they see on the WSL webcasts their reality. It’s just like watching a surf soap opera and all the drama that comes with it, like Gabriel Medina cursing on screen, or Parko getting tossed off a jet ski. There is, however, much more to surfing than the world tour.
I was recently hanging out at the Los Cabos Open of Surf and I wanted to experience REAL surfing as much as I could. I paddled out for a three hour session under the scorching sun at the adjacent break (The Rock) hoping for the pro surfers to make an appearance and maybe even exchange a smile and a few words. Just in time, Coco Ho, Malia Manuel, Alana Blanchard and a few other girls that I didn’t recognize showed up. And let me tell you that shit got somewhat real. Some of these girls just came back from the Fiji Pro, where things were very, very, real. Comparing our waist high waves to the monsters they were charging is basically the equivalent of comparing a kiddie pool at the hotel to the ocean out front of it.
This event is the only way I have every year to measure up to the pros in the water, and I always make an effort to be social and engage with athletes, reporters, organizers and even the stressed out surf moms. But why? Because it makes it real. It goes from the surf soap opera to real life.
Real surfers are not just professionals who get to be in the spotlight. It’s not about how many Instagram followers you have, or how many photographers are at your disposal to capture your best maneuvers. I wish that I could surf, take pictures, or make videos for a living. But real surfing isn’t about heats, trophies and champagne showers. Real surfing is being in the moment as you’re riding a wave, merging with the ocean and its pulses of energy.
Beyond the illusion that brands and our economic/political global system have created–which are just some symptoms of a bigger problem–there is something amazing. Let’s see through that veil of illusion and wake up to the realities of ocean pollution, the toxic materials that make up our surfboards, corporate greed, monetizing of sex appeal, and the fact that despite our different careers, surfing lineages or backgrounds, we are all just people. We are all just people who love surfing and the ocean. And as Buddhism teaches, we will all suffer. I guess it comes down to figuring out what is really worth suffering for.
Real surfing is not just about competition. It’s about healing and humbling ourselves; it’s about finding peace of mind and an upwelling of joy from the heart. No matter what board you ride or which region you surf at, we will always find something worth suffering for, and when we do, the true awakening begins to happen. We can see beyond brands, logos and names. We begin to awaken from this dream and start to see that we are all one, and act accordingly.