01 November 2010

Photographs Of Top Secret Oregon Surf Boarding Locations

photo by Chris Enlow, and destroyed by me.

My first surf in Oregon was almost eleven years ago, nearly two months after moving to Portland from Swansea, with $500 and a surfboard. I told myself the move was temporary and I'd be close to the sea again within a year or so. I'd seen too much to walk away permanently.  My older brother was in the process of walking into the sea forever and he soon did, while I was land-locked. Several years prior my friends and I tried in vein to reach a stranger as she was swept out to sea and it still weighed on my mind. I was convinced that a 'mastery' of surfing was a way of telling the sea that not all of us would surrender so easily to drowning. 

When I finally pushed off into the Pacific, the waves were pumping, a little out of my comfort zone but I thought I could handle it. The first hour was great and I gained confidence, but as is common in Oregon the tide turned and things started getting nasty. I found myself in a place I didn't want to be and it was taking all my strength to try and get to safety. I knew I was unfit from not surfing for a couple of months but something far deeper was going on as I struggled against the rip. After losing my composure and ending up on some unfriendly rocks, I was about ready to be done with this surfing malarky. The next day, I woke up and felt almost paralyzed and came down with a violent flu. I concluded that the onset of illness had zapped my strength the previous day and it  became my number one priority to conquer the Pacific.

It took a long time to figure things out. Countless skunkings and aquatic beatings. Scouring the coast, pondering the maps, gleaning information any way I could, year after year. Lots of mental investment in scoring good waves. Too much investment, in hindsight. Until I eventually surrendered and accepted I was going to get what I was given. No need to yearn and struggle anymore. 2010, was when I learned to walk away from both the agony and ecstasy. 

October 2010, I think I began reaping some rewards of all this. Session after session was proving to be pretty fruitful with very little  effort. I surfed some of my favorite spots under the best conditions I've seen them and was presented with a shit-tonne of waves. Avoiding serious danger, surviving in tact and turning my back on the sea again, without too much of  a struggle.

On Wednesday, discussing some blood work with my doctor, after she notices a natural deterioration in some mineral or another that should have begun deteriorating some time ago, she said, 'You are an adult, now.' We both laughed and I replied, 'Yeah it's been a long struggle but I think I can see that now.'

On Saturday, watching a fellow surfer effortlessly pull into tube after tube, I told myself I should be doing what he is doing. After some great waves with no tubes and a couple of air-drop to batterings, I started to get pretty angst-ridden. Each time I rode the rip back out to the peak, feeling otherwise completely at home in the sea, I wondered why the fuck I wasn't getting tubed. Sure, I'm not a very good surfer but it was there for the taking. Surely I deserved it at this point. The more I hunted the tube down the more I got slapped and the more I felt drained. Meanwhile, my mates and I kept nodding at each saying, 'this is simply too good to paddle in.' And, indeed it was but the lack of even a little cover-up continued to gnaw at me and eventually sucked me dry.

The next morning I woke up, stiff, energy-less, with a sore-throat, dizzy but not quite paralyzed this time as I was eleven years ago. 

I Recounted the positives of an otherwise magical session in an email to my friend Josh in Ireland, and he replied with a photograph of himself in a tube. A tube he caught after feeling at ease with some pretty serious life-decisions. It was then I was reminded that this whole thing is a process and a practice you are never going to finish. Tibetans say, that even if you are going to die tomorrow you should still read a book today. 

"Tenderly, he looked into the rushing water, into the transparent green, into the crystal lines of its drawing, so rich in secrets. Bright pearls he saw rising from the deep, quiet bubbles of air floating on the reflecting surface, the blue of the sky being depicted in it. With a thousand eyes, the river looked at him, with green ones, with white ones, with crystal ones, with sky-blue ones. How did he love this water, how did it delight him, how grateful was he to it! In his heart he heard the voice talking, which was newly awaking, and it told him: Love this water! Stay near it! Learn from it! Oh yes, he wanted to learn from it, he wanted to listen to it. He who would understand this water and its secrets, so it seemed to him, would also understand many other things, many secrets, all secrets. But out of all secrets of the river, he today only saw one, this one touched his soul. He saw: this water ran and ran, incessantly it ran, and was nevertheless always there, was always at all times the same and yet new in every moment! Great be he who would grasp this, understand this! He understood and grasped it not, only felt someidea of it stirring, a distant memory, divine voices."- Hesse, 'Siddhartha'