One of the sad things about surfing is that the best memories are fleeting. Before one knows it, they have all but disappeared, erased like they never existed. Sometimes when the focus is so intense, the concentration so great, it seems as though they don't even get recorded.
Many times I have finished a wave to find a blank space in my mind about what just occurred during that ride. -Gerry Lopez ‘A Big Score’
Up until very recently I agreed with this quote. Up until very recently, I placed a lot of stock in my mental- well-being on getting good waves or should I say holding onto the memory of good waves to be able to tap back into during dark times.
I thought it was a healthy approach to life. Better than relying on drugs, religion, career, wealth and material accumulation, right? But along with that, came a need to hold onto as much of the experience as possible, like Gerry notes in the above quote. Yet, surfing is so very fleeting. So much time and effort is spent in exchange for mere seconds of ecstasy. Our cultural pre-programming in late-capitalist societies dictates that should a consumer expend such time and effort on the acquisition of a product or experience, they should have something tangible to hold onto forever, at the very least a photograph or a vivid memory…
A couple of weeks ago, I caught a wave that once upon a time I would have wished I could have held onto for the rest of my earthly days. The setting: a spooky river-mouth and a thumping sandbar, making the most of a very mediocre summer swell and several dedicated friends jumping off the rocks into the murky unknown on a cloudy central Oregon morning.
I can barely remember it now but a nice right hand peak presented itself to me just off the northend rocks. I assumed it would be another dumping close-out but I thought it would be worth the thrashing for a little thrill-drop. The wave let me in with ease and as I took the drop, I saw the bottom suck from beneath me and I was ready for an impending engulfment of white-water but as I cranked the bottom-turn, the wave walled up and it was on. I can’t remember any further details aside from a very quick deliberation of whether to go for the barrel or to connect the wave to the middle sandbar (I avoided the barrel). But I do remember, the post-wave joy, grinning to myself, and nodding to myself that the hundreds of miles driven were worth that one wave. In hindsight it wasn’t that great but in the context of recent sessions it was an absolute mind-blower. On the paddle back out the words of Gerry Lopez floated to the front of my mind, even though I hadn’t read them yet.
I thought to myself “You will soon forget that wave. You won’t remember any of its nuances and before long you’ll only have an abstract and vague recollection that at this one spot on July 4th 2009, you had a pretty good wave.” So what? And I had to laugh at the pure meaningless of it all. In days of yore, it would trouble me no end, that such a joyous few seconds were all so fleeting, and would eventually mean nothing to no one, especially to my mortal self. To counter the pain of attachment, in the past, I’d simply desire more and torture myself in pursuit. But this time something was different. It was genuinely comical to me and the joy was amplified ten-fold. It is all so pointless, so temporary, so fleeting, so motherfucking beautiful. And I love it all the more.
As it happens, another wave did come my way and so did another but then my session went to shit and I spent the next hour tripping over myself trying to make the drop on thumping close-out or sinking on dribbling shoulders. It was over as soon as it began and thank God for that.
Despite Gerry’s words, I can’t find anything sad, in how that wave partially ironed out my anxiety-ridden and tormented ego.
Like they never existed.
Surfing: It is everything and nothing to me.