I have, in my life, mostly lived near water. The ocean, a lake, river, or stream have nearly always been, at least, a backdrop, at most, an active participant in the making of the diarama of my life.
I find much of the thing that I would name religion in my life in the vast and eternal embrace of the ocean. I am both in love with and petrified by it. The ocean is both full of awe and awful.
The enormous size of her physicality and also of her eternity in time serve as reminders of my proper perspective in the universe.
I remember that while I may be the emperor of the universe inside my head (this is debatable, but I am certainly the chief communications officer and the information technology overlord), outside of my head I am small, powerless, and infantesimal is duration.
So are the trials and tribulations that I must face and overcome.
That is what the ocean does for me. It tells me that eventually it wears the mountain down until it becomes a beach full of sand.
The beaches at Lake Tahoe are really rough and hard on your feet. It occurred to me last time I was there that it’s because they are little chunks of granite that have been bitten off and chewed up by the wave action of the water. That granite is what those spectacular mountains are made of and given enough time, the lake will just make more beach, thank you very much.
The thing is that the ocean (or lake) does not care about me or a mountain or a volcano. It just does what it does, as it wants to, forever and ever, amen. If I tried to stand in it’s way, it would eventually turn me into sand. Or pudding anyway. But not out of some vendetta, just because that is what happens to things in the path of the waves.
This is one of the things that has always fascinated me about surfing. I find myself torn between wanting to learn to do it and entirely too scared to do so.
From what I’ve seen and read about it, there is something very Zen about surfing. You must be entirely present in the moment on the wave. You can’t be worried about whatever your life strife is at home. You can’t be worrying about the future or the past. You have to just be, and pay close attention to the moods and movement of the water horse you are trying to ride.
And then there is Laird Hamilton.
Rather than gush much about him, let me say that I love to watch people doing things they love to do and that they’ve mastered. Even if it’s not necessarily my favorite thing.
But surfing is one of those things I do like, so watching the surf and the surfers, for me, is probably not unlike going to church on the days when the pastor has his oration skills on point and the message is aimed directly at you.
And then there are these outliers. These crazy devotees who aren’t content with everyday worship. Not unlike monks who hermit themselves in secluded caves, these disciples seek out bigger and more dangerous waves to ride.
And hope that with a little luck and lot of skill, they’ll get to skim on the knife edge of rapture without getting cut. At least not too much anyway.
According to Oprah, luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Which is almost the definition of Big Wave Surfing. Training and prepping in order to be ready when the conditions line up to bring you the opportunity of giant waves upon which to cast your mettle and see what it’s made of.
That’s where you’ll find Laird Hamilton. Perched upon the knife’s edge, seeking neither glory nor death, but that sliver between them where the rest of us mere mortals fear to tread.
I think I need to learn to surf.