I find it funny when people who know I’m a writer ask me what I do for fun. I surfed for fun for 25 years until I felt it had run it’s course for me. I remember saying when I was a teenager that I would surf forever. Somehow that seemed all I would ever need. But even surfing, having been an excitingly new and seemingly endless source of fun and enjoyment, now seems a sort of hollow and repetitive exercise. I guess I might say the same about dating. Too much investment for so little return. Who knows, maybe I’m just getting old.
Early on I felt that surfing had a lot to teach me and that perhaps once I internalized the lessons it had to offer I might not need to continue the physical act. Surfing teaches you to, literally, go with the proverbial flow, to find grace under pressure, and to always look to the next wave to be the best; to keep on living with the openness and unfettered expectancy of future possibilities.
The peak moments I found in surfing are almost identical to those I find in writing and even sometimes when going for a bike ride. There are moments when you lose yourself, time stands still, and you’re more alive and in tune than you ever thought possible. It’s these “gone” moments that I crave. The first time I remember feeling this was when I lived on the island of Maui and surfing a spot called “Lanes.” The waves were well overhead and the swell was growing with each new set. I dropped in on a left-hander (right foot forward and facing the wave) and was swallowed entirely by water. I slowly moved back into this tropical blue vortex, my hands extended out to either side of me, and, at some point, lost all consciousness of everything. The wave spit me out a few moments later and I was back to reality. Some say the cause of is this just a rush of adrenaline, but I believe it’s more than that. It’s a moment when time and space seem to have no end and no beginning. It’s as if you’ve become one with eternity and are connected so powerfully to your present-ness in the world that all else ceases to exist. You are free from your earth-bound self and are, again, literally, in the flow; that indefinable, most times elusive, connectedness that we all wish we could inhabit forever. Perhaps this will come in the after-life, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Can I say that I find this same experience through writing. To this I offer a resounding Yes. It’s far more likely to happen seated at my writing desk than when I’m surfing, riding my bike or on a date with a beautiful woman. I’m never happier than when I’m inspired to write. Writing is my center and it’s when I’m writing that I feel most in tune. The only down-side comes when you’ve finished a thought and realize you’ve given it all you can for the time being, and it’s time to do something else. I love to walk away from my desk knowing that I’ve just added another installment to my brushes with eternity. And thinking how much love I have for the words that rarely fail me.
[Update: 5-23-13; 3 years later I’m surfing my ass off again back on Maui, writing next to nothing, and I couldn’t be happier.]