Why I Surf

“All is born of water; all is sustained by water.”

~Johann Waolfgang Von Goethe

Epiphanies come easy past the breaks. Gently bobbing up and down on salty swells produces a similar relaxed feeling to that of a shower’s warm soak. Wrapped in a panorama of beautiful scenery, and steeping in the tranquil broth from which all life finds its source, enables the mind to release the confounding burdens it copes with regularly.

So I asked myself, ‘Am I an adrenaline junkie?’

My first devoted passion was highlining; a version of slacklining wherein a line is stretched between two points at terminal heights. I’ve also always enjoyed rock climbing, and I’ve spent many hours on slabs of granite in the outdoors. All these sports involve an element of adrenaline pumping fear. But I don’t think I’m an adrenaline junkie.

I don’t take plunges down heavy waves for the thrill of it. I don’t scoot out on an inch-wide piece of fabric suspended over a deep chasm for the rush. And I don’t cling precariously to tiny folds of rock at break-neck heights for the twisted pleasure. Thrill doesn’t inspire me.

On an ascetic level, I love the natural component. One common thread between all these sports is that they all take place in the arena of nature. Whether high on mountain summits, affixed to valley walls, or afloat on the ocean, the communion with nature is intimate. Through my participation in them I’ve come to truly appreciate the vertiginous magnitude of height, the regal immensity of a mountain, and the raw power of a wave. The essences of wind, Earth, and water are experienced with astounding significance. All produce a deeply humbling effect akin to finding God in any sanctuary of worship.

On an ascetic level I pursue these interests for the Nature.

But there’s another common link that more profoundly touches my intrinsic motivation.

I appreciate surfing, and other extreme sports, for the purity of focus they demand. There are no moments in my life as compelling, as so totally absorbing, as when I’m balanced on a swaying highline, or while paddling in front of a beast wave, or reaching with burning fingertips for a tiny handhold. In effect, these experiences are a forced meditation wherein all extraneous thought, all encroaching fear, must be completely eliminated. In those moments, everything that can possibly be thought is drowned by the viscera. These experiences demand a present-minded focus with an urgency that is blatantly absent in a traditional practice of meditation. The fear that must be tamed is like a bear in comparison to the flies of thought that buzz around the mind in a quiet room.

But the great [advantage of meditation] is not in merely achieving complete presence within the moment. Meditation, through quiet practice or extreme sport, strengthens the will whereby the higher mind is able to silence the lower mind’s nagging chatter. In rigorous terms this is an act of reducing cognitive dissonance. ┬áIt is the prioritizing of one active neural circuit over another conflicting one.

In my real-world examples, this means reducing the chatter of fear (of heights, of falling, of being crushed by two tons of water) and remaining conscious of the physical movements needed to perform. And ironically, dispelling my primal instincts of fear is what actually keeps me safe.

That is why I love these sports so much. I love using the fear intrinsic in them as a whetstone to sharpen my mind. The consequential adrenaline rush is just a juicy benefit; a bi-product of my lower mind freaking out and hitting a biological panic button.

Thank you for reading.

-C

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