Let me start by saying that I don’t believe in Astrology. I keep an open mind on many subjects (several of which, I’m sure, would have people shaking their heads), but I’ve pretty much closed the book on astrology. It will take extraordinary evidence to get me to believe that the position of the stars and planets at your birth permanently affects your personality and future. And so far I have seen zero evidence.
That being said, I find it interesting that, as someone born under the sign of Aquarius (the water bearer), I am so intimately tied to the water. In fact, I am more comfortable in the water (even under the water) than I am on land. Although fresh water is fine, it is really in the ocean — specifically the Pacific Ocean — where I am most at home. I’ve never cared for team sports, and I don’t like to run, but I love water skiing, snorkeling, scuba-diving, and especially surfing. The two places where I really find my bliss are 1) 25-30 feet underwater, cruising over a coral reef on a breath-hold dive, and 2) dropping in on a glassy, left-breaking, 6 to 8-foot wave.
Surfing tops everything. People who do not surf have a hard time understanding why it is so important to me, and it’s difficult to explain. To most people, it’s just a sport at best, and a childish pursuit at worst. And one sport’s as good as any other, right? So if you can’t surf, do something else. You’re not a teenager, get over it.
If only it were that simple.
I’ve been surfing for over 40 years, ever since I was a kid living in Hawaii (except, of course, when I was in Antarctica, and except for these last few years in New Hampshire, when I spend an inordinate amount of my ocean time staring at the flat, surf-free Atlantic). I’ve heard surfing described as a way of life, and I’ve heard it described in terms of its biochemical effects. Apparently, surfing causes a joint release of serotonin, endorphins, and adrenaline, which when combined provide both the bliss and the rush. Perhaps that unique release of brain chemicals is one reason why there’s nothing else like surfing, but I know it goes deeper than that.
Surfing is like dancing with the ocean. The minute you step into the water, you enter an untamed wilderness. It may not seem like it when you’re sitting on your board looking back at the beach, but below you all manner of wild creatures are moving around (fish, rays, sharks (generally the non-dangerous kind), dolphins, and diving birds), while above you seabirds are spinning and circling. When I’m in the Pacific, pelicans will surf the pressure front in front of a wave, sometimes passing within inches of me. Seals and sea lions pop up out of nowhere. I’ve had dolphins surfing the wave in front of me. Sometimes they pass beneath my board and turn to look up at me. (None of this happens in the Atlantic off of New Hampshire. It seems like a marine desert by comparison, but that’s another story.)
For me, surfing also has a spiritual component. The ocean is the source of all life on Earth, so to be splashing around in it and mixing it up with all that wildlife is almost baptismal. The salt water seems to clean everything out. My skin feels better, my eyes feel better. Combine all that with the physical effort, which is rejuvenating, the rush of pounding out through the waves, and the rush of catching the perfect ride, and there is just nothing else like it. I feel one with the world after a good session.
Surfing uses every muscle group, and it requires balance and reflexes. I’m convinced it helps keep you young. If I’m not surfing regularly, I just don’t feel right. If I had my way, I’d surf every morning and write all afternoon. It would be the perfect life. I wouldn’t need anything else.
Life has been described as a dream, and I can see why. The years seem to fly by, and looking back at all my adventures does seem like a dream sometimes. But in a way, life is a lot like surfing. Sometime you have to really fight to get somewhere, like paddling out through the breakers, but when you get there, it’s all peaceful as the swells roll beneath your board. And then comes that moment of excitement when you catch the wave you’ve been waiting for and you get the ride of your life. Much like seeing your book finally come out in print.
So in case anyone was wondering, that’s why I came up with the name for this blog. In the dreamtime of life, I’m working hard to get where I want to be as a writer (pushing through the breakers), then going with the flow when things are moving (riding the wave). Surfing the Dream.