Surfing has always had a negative connotation surrounding it. The rise of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, coming full circle with Sean Penn’s legendary portrayal of Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times of Ridgemont High, has created a stereotype of what a surfer is. This stereotype has become a blond haired, tanned stoner who can hardly compose a thought. Their only purpose in life is to surf. They are out for themselves and are menaces to society. They have their own language and their own culture. In many ways, this stereotype is correct. Surfers do have their own language, they usually sport a nice tan and blond hair, and they usually are not the smartest group of people. Above all, surfers are selfish. All they care about is catching the next wave. They do not care about whom they step on to get what they want. Often times their purpose in life is surfing. Surfing often means more to them than life itself.
Surfing is a gift. It is something very few people have the opportunity to experience. It is unique. Nature has almost all control over you, but at the same time you exercise all control over the wave. This is going to sound cliché, but as a surfer, you are the artist and the wave is your easel. You choose where you turn, where you cutback, and where you let the wave barrel over top of you. At the same time though, the wave controls you. It decides when it will break and how it will break. It can decide to throw you off of it in only inches of water, or it can open up and give you the biggest barrel of your career. Your life is in its grasp. As quick as something can turn magnificent, it can turn catastrophic. The feeling is indescribable to non-surfers. The only way to truly experience it is to surf.
Major surf tycoon Billabong recently released a new ad campaign titled “I surf because…”. This campaign called for surfers from all over the globe to proclaim why they surf for the chance to win a barrage of different prizes. Every response was great and many may have been very true in the particular case of that surfer, however every response was incorrect. Surfers may have a personal or physical reason for surfing, but they keep coming back to the water because they are searching for something to satisfy their cravings. You surf to get a better wave than you did last time. As surf legend Rob Machado proclaimed in his soul-searching movie The Drifter, “We dream of the perfect wave, the perfect job, the perfect house. When we get there, we dream of something else.” Every wave ridden is a search to find the longest ride, the deepest barrel, or the steepest ramp to launch the highest air. The search for waves never ends. If it looks like down the beach the waves are better, you paddle there because you can. When you get there, you realize the waves were better where you originally were and you paddle all the way back. It is a never-ending cycle. That is why you are always a surfer. No matter how old you get, you never stop searching to out do the exhilaration of the last wave you rode.
I surf because there is nothing like it. Nothing compares to the view of the beach from the inside of a cavernous barrel or gliding down the line with nothing but the wave pushing you. On top of the sheer joy I receive from surfing, I also become one with the ocean. When I get into a rhythm, I know when waves are coming. I know exactly how they are going to react. I become one fluent system with the ocean. Nothing from the outside world can bother me. It is an escape from all of my worries and stressors. Surfing is both my blessing and my burden. I want more but what the ocean gives me is enough.
(When I talk about getting barreled, this is basically the view you see from inside the wave)