Surfing USA

Several years ago I traveled to San Diego for a business conference.  I’d never been to California and I was really looking forward to the trip.  Matter of fact, my first order of business after I dropped my stuff off at the hotel was to walk across the street and dip my feet for the first time into the Pacific Ocean.  It was something, man; my seventh-grade Latin teacher had a phrase for what that first dip felt like: ‘a mountaintop experience.’

Later in the week I went for a run on Mission Beach before the day’s work.  I got there early enough to see a cadre of surfers getting ready for their morning runs.  Most were in their fifties and sixties and it occurred to me that this might be something I’d like to do for the rest of my life, and then all of the sudden I was Bodhi and ready to tell everyone to back off Warchild…seriously.

Only deal is, we were about to have our first kid.  And I lived just outside of Boston.  And I’m a terrible swimmer.  There were not going to be very many early morning moondoggies happening in the near future.

So I was left to my own devices: what was it exactly that attracted me to the idea of surfing?  I’d never done it, so I could rule out the actual feeling of the thing.  Was it the water?  Being in the water that long?  Sure, I love the ocean.  What about the aloneness, out in the waves by yourself along the outriggers of everything?  Yep.  That too.  And the early morning, the sounds, the birds, the sense of being before everything else starts moving.

Were there ways to get at these ideas without actually surfing?  Yes.  Waking up early, taking more trips to the ocean, going for long walks.  We’ve all got things we’d like to do, ways we’d like to be, but sometimes life and circumstances mitigate against their purest expression.  So we improvise; we fit what we can into where we can.  As time passed I discovered that the feeling of an empty gym in the middle of 50/20 squats was not unlike what I’d imagined a big wave out in the deep of the ocean might do for me.

I should still probably get better at swimming, though.

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