A surfer’s wish this holiday season eh? ‘That’s easy’ you say with a Grinch-like grin! No, dear friends, it is not for a bigger quiver of surfboards or a surf break alone to myself every dawn session (although those things are quite desirable too!). Let’s take a pause from all this holiday gift-giving and tidings for a different perspective.
It has been many years since I have indulged in that childhood tradition of wishing and hoping for all good things to come at christmas time, but the spirit behind it … that of believing in something bigger than myself; of simply just believing in something magical … has never abandoned the little dickens inside of me. And so, this holiday season, with all the hope and every ounce of wishing that I have in me, I look to the powers that be and make a wish. A surfer’s wish!
But this wish has to take the form of a story that happened early one morning while surfing:
Surfing saved my life. The distinguished lady on the surfboard next to me said softly, looking steadily towards the horizon. She didn’t sound dramatic or overly emotional about it, just matter of factly and content.
Is that right? How so? I ask, looking at her momentarily then returning my gaze at the waves steadily forming in the distance.
Downward spiral. she says, as she turns her board around to paddle for the set rolling in at about head high. My life was going into a downward spiral until I discovered surfing, figured out what was important, and learned to focus myself!
I watched her gracefully paddle into the wave and disappear into the crest as it moved further away from me, her voice fading softly as I watch her outstretched hand move across the top of the wave.
I sat there at the line up and bobbed around lost in my thoughts until she paddled back next to me and sat up on her longboard. We didn’t speak for a while, instead opting to watch the waves roll by, surfers from way outside the lineup gliding past us. She knew I was thinking about what she had said, and she opted to let me absorb it in my own time as she floated next to me rather than speak on.
What is it then? I turned to ask her, with my brows furrowed to show confusion … or at least intelligent questioning.
What is “what”? She knew, but needed for me to speak my thoughts rather than imply my intent.
What is it that is ‘important’ that pulled you out of your spiral?
It depends. It’s different for everyone. But the key is to find out that one important thing and focus yourself on it! And she was off again on another wave. I wondered if this was some sort of psychological tool to allow me time to process the words she carefully released to me. And then again, maybe we were just surfing after all.
I didn’t see her paddle back out to the lineup again after her last wave, guessing that she had caught a wave in to the beach. And I was left there with my thoughts. ‘Surfing saved my life’ she said, and left me with more questions than answers. Perhaps it is better this way … that I don’t exactly know what she meant by that brief conversation. Perhaps I already know the answer.
Surfing saved me too, I would have told her if I had the chance. At a time of personal demoralization and crisis, amidst a failed marriage and a wildly meandering professional and social life … surfing managed to save me as well. In the pit of my own despair during the holiday season, left alone and lonely by a failed marriage and an unrewarding career, I sought freedom from the ocean. Although it is difficult to say why or what, despite being unable to swim or surf, I paddled out into the great blue ocean on a ratty rental board into shoulder high waves. At its worst, I thought, I was tethered to a massive flotation device and would not be missed by anyone in particular.
It was during those first moments of desperate paddling and exhausted gasps for air as I rose through the whitewash remnants of what had been shoulder high waves, I caught clarity. What I would hazard to guess as being quite similar to an alcoholic’s sudden realization of the need to change his habits – that moment of clarity – surfing granted me the ability to think clearly, if only momentarily, to see the folly of my ways.
I made changes to move towards discovering what was important to me: family, friends, and time with those I love, and knowing that my passion for living and life focused on being around those people. I realigned my perspective on how important career and job sacrifices were, how much attention and focus I placed on keeping and maintaining my relationships with those I care for AND those that I have yet to care for. I began to look at time as my salary earned, rather than cash, as I evaluated my daily decisions. So yeah, to say that surfing also saved me would be an understatement.
So what is this, my surfer’s wish? I wish for those that are lost, momentarily exhausted of their daily grind, disenfranchised … everyone who needs clarity, to discover their own version of surfing … whatever form that may take, and much like the wise surfer lady said find for themselves what is truly important.
Happy holidays, and good surfing!