I am sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean; a nine foot surfboard lies beneath me, bow raised and pointing out to sea as I scan the horizon.
I am alone.
Surfing isn’t about riding waves. It’s about moments like this; being aware, feeling the ocean move beneath you, and waiting for the next big set to roll in from some distant storm in the pacific.
The north shore of Oahu feels like it’s in a different country than Honolulu. From the town of Halewa in the west, a road rolls north along the coast for some sixty miles. On that entire stretch, a single Starbucks is the only reminder that this is still America in the 21st century.
But that’s all behind me. Now, my attention is on predicting the waves, feeling where they will break, and where I need to be to catch them at the right speed, at the right moment. When the right wave comes, I will lean back, spin my board around and paddle towards the break. If I’m too fast, I’ll fall over the lip and be swamped. Too slow and I’ll never catch the wave. If I’m too far forward, the wave will crash over my head, too far back and it will pass underneath me without moving me, an opportunity wasted.
My feet dangle in the water, kicking slowly to keep me upright, and connecting me with the flows and currents of the ocean. I feel a current pulling me along the beach to the left, the force of the waves pulling me first into them, and then back towards the shore. I note this, and adjust my position accordingly.
Beneath me, a volcanic reef is the reason why I have chosen this place. The waves roll for thousands of miles, across the ocean, but their power hidden deep beneath the surface of the water. When they reach this place, angle of the reef redirects their energy, forcing it upward, breaking the surface and causing the waves to curl at this exact point.
I have no power over the ocean. I do not even comprehend the forces that created the waves that I ride, or that created the reef below me. I can only sit and wait for these forces beyond my control to come together here, beneath me.
Surfing dispels your illusions of control over things. You have no control over the oceans, no control over the waves. All you have control over is yourself, and the tiny little board beneath you. With that, and an understanding of the forces that surround you, you can ride the waves, and have them carry you effortlessly. If you ignore the forces that surround you, you will be swept away or pulled under.
Kind of like life, I think.
And so I sit on my board, my feet in the ocean, and scan the horizon as I wait for the next big set to roll in from some distant storm in the pacific.