Surfing is Soul Food

Surfing is a metaphor for human life. Surfing is the utilization of certain forces of nature to do something that goes beyond mere survival. Surfing is the expression of creativity.

The Art of Surfing involves riding waves in large bodies of water.

Waves are created by wind. This happens because of friction. Friction is a transfer or build up of energy. Friction exist between all objects and substances, provided that the substances are so different from one another that they cannot mix. Air and water are such substances.

Mediums are things that allows for other things to to be expressed through them. Waves are the movement of energy through a medium. Liquid water is an excellent medium and because a wave is essentially energy moving through a medium, it is not the water moving, but a wave of energy that moves through it.

If wind (moving air) blows over the surface of water, energy will be transferred into the water because of the friction that exists between air and water. If a wind blows at 100 km/h for a distance of 100 km without changing direction over a flat surface of water the wave generated will be 1 meter high.

Once that wave is generated surfers refer to it as ‘swell’. A ‘wave’, in surfer language, is actually a ‘swell’ that is in the process of ‘breaking’.

Swells break because of gravity. If a swell moves through deep water you will not see much. Even if the swell is huge there will be little change in the surface structure of the water provided that the water is deep enough. It is only when the water becomes shallow that you can start observing the swell. Why? Because in shallow water the lack of water forces the energy of the swell higher than the surface of the water.

Think about it this way. An extra small person puts on extra large clothes. You will hardly see the person. Now, an extra large person puts on extra small clothes. What will happen? The extra large person will bulge out of the clothes. The clothes will stretch to accommodate their size. Basically, when you can actually see a swell moving through water, it is the equivalent of the water stretching to accommodate the size of the swell.

So the combination of wave-energy AND lack of water space causes the wave-energy to extend upwards.

Gravity, as we all know, will pull anything back down toward earth.

What goes up must come down.

Clothes can only stretch so far before they tear. When a swell breaks it is the equivalent of there not being enough water to stretch any further. The water has become so little, in comparison with the size of the swell, that it can no longer stretch to accommodate the size of the swell.

And, when clothes are torn, the pieces will not aimlessly float around in space, they will fall back down towards earth, as all things do. Because of Gravity.

Generally if a swell reaches a water depth of one and a half times its size it will break. Therefore a 1 meter swell will break at a depth of 1.5 meters, but waves lose energy, and therefore decrease in size and lose speed, as they travel towards the shore, precisely because the energy of the wave is forced to extend above the surface of the water. The ocean floor becomes a form of resistance. This is why open ocean swell size will not accurately reflect the size of waves breaking closer to shore.

Any swell will break to become a surfer’s wave when the energy of the wave is pushed so far above the surface of the water that it becomes too much for the structure to handle. All structures have a breaking point. Ask any engineer. If you design a building you design it to be a certain height. If you want the building to be higher you have to redesign the entire structure, you cannot simply add extra height onto it.

Simply “adding extra height” onto the “structure” is what happens when a swell is forced higher and higher above the surface of the water. The combined structure of the water and the swell can only accommodate a certain height. That height depends on the size of the swell itself. The bigger the swell (the more energy was originally transferred into the water from the wind) the higher its structure will rise above the surface before it breaks.

If the water continues to get shallower (which it generally does as one gets closer to the shore) and the swell is forced higher and higher above the surface, at some point gravity will pull the structure down.

Presto! You have a breaking wave. Now that the wave is breaking the contour of the ocean floor, as the wave approaches the shoreline, will determine how the wave breaks, the shape of the wave so to speak, while its size was determined long ago by the original wind that created it. A shoreline that meets the swell direction at a right angle causes the entire swell to break all at once, because the entire length of the swell experiences the same change in depth simultaneously. Surfers call this a ‘close-out’ and it is not good for surfing. The length of ride will be very short. However, a shoreline that is angled just right can create a wave that breaks for a longer time. Surfers call this a ‘running wave’. Running waves provide longer rides and are created by a combination of the right swell direction & shoreline angle, which creates gradual changes in depth along the length of the swell. This allows for the swell to break little bit by little bit, along its length, either from right to left or left to right.

In the art of surfing we ride waves as they break. Every surfer knows the sweet spot. Between the broken and unbroken parts of the wave. In the sport of competitive surfing judges refer to this spot on the wave as the most critical point. The closer you are to that critical point, the higher your score will be. That is the essence of the competitive surfing criteria according to which waves are scored.

Barrel riding is a particular aspect of surfing where you surf inside the wave, so to speak. When the wave breaks (and the ‘lip’ curls over) you allow it to break over you so that you are covered by the broken part of the wave. (or the ‘lip’) From the perspective of the beach, it looks as if no one is surfing the wave. That is why barrel riding always scores the highest points in competitive surfing. You cannot get any closer to the most critical point on the wave because you are literally inside it.

Of course it takes a perfect wave to form a barrel. Not all waves barrel.

A completely broken wave is called a ‘white wash’ or simply the ‘white water’. This is where beginners learn to surf. Surfing the white water is an easy place to learn because it moves much slower than a breaking wave (waves lose most of their energy when they break) and you are restricted to moving in one direction only, straight toward the beach.

Once you progress the aim of surfing is to stay between the white water and the unbroken part of the wave, which is also called the ‘wave face’. In this sweet spot you have maximum manoeuvrability. If you move too close toward the white water or if you move too far out onto the wave face you risk losing the wave.

Surfing is the art of balancing opposing forces.

The essence of the art of surfing is balance. Not maintaining your balance on your board, which to the experienced surfer is second nature, but maintaining a fine balance between the opposing forces of gravity, which pulls you down, and the energy of the wave, which pushes you up.

It is only with a good balance between wave energy (upwards) and gravity (downwards) that you can ever get close to the sweet spot on a wave. And it is only with absolutely perfect balance between up and down that you can ever hope to ride a barrel.

The aim of surfing is: 1. Catch a wave before it breaks by paddling. 2. Find the balance between up (wave energy) and down (gravity) and you will be rewarded with lots of forward momentum. 3. Use that momentum to stand up and keep surfing. 4. With optimum balance between the forces of up and down you can achieve incredible speeds and do things that look impossible.

Why is surfing Soul Food?

Because we are all acutely aware of ourselves. If you are able to read this you are aware of your own existence as ‘your experience’. With this awareness comes certain things. Like feelings. Some of them “good” and others “bad”, like pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness or smiles and tears. We experience these things AND we are aware of the fact that some of them feel good and others feel bad.

What goes up must come down. We all know that feelings of “good” and “bad” cannot last forever. They change. Constantly. I would venture so far as to say that all of us experience at least one change between “good” and “bad” feelings every day.

That feelings change is not a problem. The problem is that we do not know how to handle those changes because our distorted culture goes out of its way to hide the truth of the matter.

We are taught that “good” experiences are indeed good and should be sought out and pursued at all costs. We are taught that “bad” experiences are indeed bad and should be avoided at all costs.

Yet we all inevitably experience both.

The truth is simple. These experiences only feel “good” and “bad” to us, but they are neither good nor bad in and of themselves.

We are told that a “successful” life is one that is filled with “good” experiences only and that we must seek out these and fill our life with them. But we all know instinctively that this is a fantasy sustained by “happy ever after” stories.

We are taught to avoid tears and seek out laughter. It shows when we almost instinctively admit that laughing is “better” than crying. How can it be if both are an equally natural part of life.

There are no “happy ever after” lives. All life goes up and down, up and down, up and down. In the simplest way possible you go up by being born and down when you die. How then can it be true that to be successful one’s life must be filled with “good” (pleasant & up) experiences only? Everybody, without exception, experiences up and down. If everybody inevitably experience up and down why do people continue to desperately seek out up experiences and avoid down experiences at all costs?

The truth is simple but cleverly hidden by our culture.

What makes human life distinctive is the combination of experience and an awareness of that experience. All experience is simply that, different things and events passing through life. Losing a loved one is as much an experience as a blossoming flower. Neither one is “good” or “bad”, both happen regardless of what we want.

“Better” and “worse” or “good” and “bad” are concepts that belong to our awareness of experience. These are concepts that reflect what we feel. They do not belong to the experiences themselves.

A good life is one that understands that experience and awareness-of-experience are not one and the same.

There will always be up and down within the realm of experience. We cannot stop death nor can we control birth. But our awareness of experience belongs to us. Death can either cause further uncontrollable suffering (which is to lose yourself in a down experience) or it can lead to contemplation of one’s own life. You may find feelings of gratitude for being alive. The difference lies in our awareness, not in the experience.

A successful person is not one who’s life is filled with up experiences only but a person who does not lose himself in experience. A person who does not (con)fuse his awareness with experience.

Experience does not belong to us, it happens to us. Awareness does belong to us and it determines what we make of our experience.

When there is stormy weather I often hear people say that the weather is terrible. The weather simply is what it is. Their awareness, at that moment, is terrible. If they had been a farmer or a surfer they would’ve said that the weather is great as farmers need rain for crops to grow and surfers need wind for waves to break.

Up and down experiences are only “good” and “bad” because we so easily lose ourselves within either one. When we are up we forget about down and when we are down we forget about up. But both up and down are integral parts of our experience. And we would not exist without either one.

You would not exist without death. If your ancestors were immortal and lived forever they would have lost the need to make children a long time ago. There really is no life without death.

This is what our culture does not teach us. When you experience down it is time to be alone and contemplate life. Down experiences make you ask difficult questions you would not otherwise ask. When you experience up it is time to be creative and use the realisations that you have come to during times of contemplation. Up experiences give you the energy to do more than what you would otherwise be capable of, while down experiences give you wisdom with which to work during up times.

When we are down we need to ask ourselves: “What am I supposed to do?” A question each of us can only answer individually. When we are up the time has come to execute those realisations.

Instead our culture teaches us to do everything possible to ignore difficult questions when we are down and to use up times to forget that down times exist at all.

Surfing is soul food because up and down forces are both an integral part of the experience. Any experienced surfer will tell you that the key to good surfing is what is known as ‘top-to-bottom’ surfing. Top to bottom surfing is this: Every turn at the top of the wave is followed by a bottom turn. Without exception. And every ‘bottom turn’ is executed with the sole purpose of gaining maximum speed for being creative with the next ‘top turn’.

A surfer that loses himself in the up turn will lose the wave by flying over the top. A surfer that loses himself in the down turn will be overtaken and swallowed by the white water.

All our individual experiences are like waves. While our awareness is represented by a surfer riding the wave. A surfer cannot change the wave, just like we cannot change experience, but their approach will determine what can be done with the wave. If they understand that up and down are interconnected, that the one does not exist without the other, they will be able to generate incredible speed with the bottom turn and use that speed to do incredible manoeuvres with the top turn.

Your soul is your awareness as it exists separate from experience. It is that part of yourself that wants to to be at peace.

It is only awareness (con)fused into experience that craves excitement.

Your soul is hidden underneath another part which is dominant and primarily responsible for creating our culture. This other part of you would’ve been shouting as you read the second half of this post. It would’ve shouted that “Equilibrium is boring!” “I want excitement!” “Where is the fun in being at peace all the time?!” This part of you always craves for more. This part of you is awareness (con)fused with experience.

This is not you. This is a false you. A false you that keeps your awareness locked in darkness and confusion. It is because of this part that up and down seems like an endless cycle of suffering. Some people have referred to this part of you as Ego. Ego wants more more and more. It wants only to go up, higher than ever before and higher than everybody else. Ego denies the existence of down. Therefore when it experiences down it becomes angry, irritated and spiteful. Which also means that it can never truly enjoy going up. When Ego does experience going up it only wants to go further, it cannot enjoy the experience. Ego makes the crucial mistake of thinking that it is one with experience. An awareness, dominated by Ego, that thinks of itself as the experience that it has, cannot learn from that experience.

If you read a book and immediately assumed all the thoughts contained in the book as your own, you have not learnt anything from the book. To learn something from experience you need to be aware that you are not the experience. Instead you are aware of the experience.

Equilibrium means you do not lose yourself in up or down. Equilibrium means that your awareness is at peace and can observe and learn from experience. Equilibrium does not mean that up and down experiences do not happen. Life and death will come and go. Equilibrium simply means that your awareness belongs to you and that you learn from life and death as opposed to abusing life and avoiding death.

To blame experience for the state of your awareness is an excuse to take the easy way out, to relinquish control of your responsibility. You are responsible for your awareness. It was given to you as a gift. No one else will ever have the same awareness that you have. Therefore it is more sacred than anything else and needs to be treated as such.

Breaking some ancient tradition is not sacrilege. Spoiling your awareness with over the top reactions is sacrilege.

What is the point of getting upset about your experience if you cannot control what happens? When you go down don’t get upset, you are being prepared for up. When you are up don’t forget that you must go down again, so use your time and energy wisely.

Equilibrium simply means that you are at peace regardless of what happens because you understand the purpose of what is happening.

Not everybody wants peace because not everybody knows that they have a soul.

Surfing will feed your soul by teaching you about balancing up and down on a breaking wave. A breaking wave which is no different from life. In life structures are built and then broken down and renewed, and this is precisely what Ego wants to deny. No two waves anywhere in the world will ever be exactly the same as no two lives will ever match up exactly. Waves are unpredictable. When you start riding a wave you cannot know what the end will look like.

Surf and your soul will start to grow. In turn you will awaken to its existence. This is awareness.

You will realise that you want nothing more than to be at peace.

In our culture peace is nothing more than a reprieve between wars. War only ever pauses, momentarily allowing us to take a breath before the next plunge into the abyss.

When all wars stop we will know peace. But war will not stop until we awaken to the existence of our soul, until we separate our awareness from experience.

To those of you who think that you do not have a soul or that you cannot be happy and content with being at peace and that peace is boring, to those of you who think that they need excitement, and to those of you want to continue chasing the up and avoiding the down at all costs, stop thinking.

Instead try to feel the horror of someone caught up in a real war where people are killed and maimed as if they are less than animals.

We need to find peace. We need to awaken our soul from its hundred thousand year slumber. We cannot continue to chase the up and avoid the down at all costs. It will only make the pathological need for the up worse and intensify the misery of the down.

The more a country bathes in its material luxury the worse its crimes against humanity becomes.

We need to awaken our awareness to the existence of up and down. We need to accept both as inevitable parts of our experience. We need to take responsibility for our own awareness instead of chasing the illusion that we control experience. Do not lose yourself in up or down. Do not get upset because it is utterly pointless to scream, shout and swear. Do not relish good times too much and do not revel endlessly in the glory of pleasure because all will always come to an end.

Surf the wave. Do not try to change it.

Up and down will come and go. Separate your awareness from experience.

Your awareness belongs to you. Do not spoil it.

Do not give up your awareness by losing yourself in up and down. Your awareness is sacred. It is the essence of your soul and it wants peace.

Use your awareness to look at the up and down of experience and know that each one gives you something to take with into the next moment. You are given experiences not get upset about them but to learn from them.

To shout and swear when you are angry and to forget that it ever happens when you are happy is to give up your awareness and relinquish your only responsibility.

Without taking responsibility for your own awareness life really is a pointless cycle of up and down suffering.

Instead find your own balance, gain insights and be creative.

Find peace. Feed your soul.




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2 thoughts on “Surfing is Soul Food

  1. i loved how you started it in a very academic style with well articulated facts and then blended it into an equally well articulated but more spiritual and introspective style. two thumbs up. cant wait for the coffee-table edition: fully illustrated/photo’s with those wise words on paper, bound in solid hardcover with you freakin name on it.
    peace love and Aweness


  2. Dankie vir die sharing. Stem saam met Ryno oor die koffietafelboek waar mens kan terugsit met glas wyn en die filosofie saam met foto’s kan absorbeer! Bevoorreg om ook al vele “waves” te ge-surf het … soms met katastrofiese gevolge … maar tog altyd ‘n unieke lewenservaring … Hou van / stem vir jou line of thought. Miskien moet ek net ook die regte waves tackle vir daardie perfekte nirvana peace moment!


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