If anyone had ever told me that surfing was a spiritual pursuit, I would have said they were completely nuts. The spirituality of surfing? Bah!
Funny, but it really is. I finally get why all those lonely guys in wet suits would be out riding the waves long after the summer crowd had gone. They’d be there early. I’d see them late. Rain didn’t keep them away either. So what is the magic of surfing?
Well, the only way to really do it is to surrender. The ocean is a powerful, moving force. You aren’t going to control it, manipulate it, or outsmart it. The only way to work with it is to become one with it. To do that, you have to surrender.
And surrender is bliss. It’s the complete letting go of your worries about the past and your plans for the future. Surfing requires you to be right here, right now. If your mind wanders, you could splat really badly. But right here, right now, all there is is peace.
I often talk about the feelings of being No Thing and Everything. Surfing can give you that. When you’re on a wave, it can feel like you and the wave are one, so your ego completely disappears. But yet at the same time, you’re part of this massive, powerful force that is both super soft and gentle and pounding and rough. It’s like all things that exist are either right here in this moment, or at least has the power to manifest right then. It’s a completely magical experience that I’ve not had in any other way.
But, like life, surfing isn’t like that all the time. In fact, most of the time, you’re just bobbing up and down waiting for the swell to carry you in. The water is moving up and down, like your belly taking in air and letting it out. It’s like the ocean is meditating, so it lulls you into a meditative state too. Your brain waves slow way down. Your thoughts slow way down, and you get really tuned into whatever is happening. You forget about the traffic, bills, and your dating life. It’s just about taking in the twinkle of light as the sun reflects off the waves or the majesty of the seagulls as they hang in the air. It’s about taking in and appreciating all that you miss on any other day.
But you don’t just tune into the outside. You tune into your inside. Whatever you have going on in your life becomes background noise and you know, even if it’s just for an hour, that deep inside is a ball of energy where everything is alright. So even if you have to go back to really big problems, you can put those problems in perspective so that they seem more manageable.
Surfing also teaches you spiritual values. You need discipline to surf. You’re not going to just get up the first time. You fall – a lot. Life is like that too. If you don’t have spiritual discipline, you could give up believing in anything.
And you need courage. Facing sharks, rogue waves, drowning, and wipe outs can intimidate lots of people. I’ve certainly seen people give up before they were able to learn how to do it. Without courage, we stay small. When you’re surfing, it’s easy to want to go for bigger and bigger waves so this keeps you growing.
Surfing also gives you the opportunity to have fun. I always get so much water in my mouth because I can’t stop laughing. Shouldn’t life be a joyous adventure? I always think that when you’re laughing you the closest you can be to love.
I suppose anything that gets you closer to God is a spiritual pursuit. If you are looking for something unusual and fun, you might give surfing a try. But be careful. You just might get hooked!