You may indeed have stumbled across the existential crisis which faces all dedicated surfers at some point in their lives:
“How does a dedicated surfer balance love, responsibility, and relationships with a surf lifestyle?”
It’s the great risk which comes with any great passion: that one day, your passion will ask too much of you, will be placed into conflict with the soul. (The real actual human soul, that is, not its lame surf-market version.)
Love is a beautiful thing, for instance, but as a guide to how to live, it’s somewhat unreliable. Incredibly cruel, selfish [things] are done every day in its name. The same goes for surfing. You’ll chase your tail all your life and in the end the next wave is all that’ll matter.
But what happens when you catch your last wave? And who will you have abandoned in order to do it? How will you answer when it asks too much?
We doubt very much that any formula exists for dealing with this crisis. We’re all complex human beings; the paths we choose will never be quite the same as anyone else’s, nor will they look the same from the outside as from within.
But we would suggest that the process of learning to surf — or perhaps more importantly, learning to be a surfer — may hold some great metaphorical lessons.
Look at the idea of “balance“. What a primal surfing skill that is. The good surfer does little else, in fact. Riding a wave in balance is a constant process of anticipating the changes ahead and adjusting to them. A good surfer does this well because he or she has learned, usually after some painful trial and error, to understand the nature of waves and love them for their aspects both good and bad, and ride each section as it comes. Perhaps human relationships are not entirely dissimilar.
Surfing selfishness has a bad track record, by the way. It invariably disappoints, and you’ll see that disappointment etched on the faces of more than a few grumpy old-guy locals on the coastlines of our little world.
Few of us are suited to a life spent in pursuit of personal pleasure at the expense of all else. In fact, it’s possible that the psychological arc of the surfing life is only completed if and when the surfer chooses to share his or her learning with others.
We suspect this is part of the motive force behind so many of the surf schools around the world at the moment. Isn’t it fascinating how many of these schools are led by well-known former professional surfers? We have often noticed in conversations with these surfers that they have a calmness, a completeness about them that was rarely apparent back in their professional days. Very few of them are getting rich through their schools, but they’re happy in a way surf contests were never able to manage for them. In essence, they’ve resolved the conflict through acting in the service of others — through sharing.
What’s good for you? You’re the only one who can answer that. In any case, we suggest keep asking the question! Just by doing that — and by enlisting those closest to you in the effort to find out — you’re on the right track to your own calm place.
Rob love surfing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing. He’s writing about them in this blog.