That article, (the one that wasn’t rude, offensive or stupid), one for the surfers…
The sun doesn’t rise slowly, it’s not like sunset. It blazes over the headlands, throwing bright light and long dark shadows. Everybody has seen a sunset, but not many have watched a sunrise. Maybe a some have been up at sunrise. In a car, on a train or eating toast before work, but that’s not the same as waiting for the sun to rise. It’s certainly not the same as sat on the beach in your wetsuit, while it’s still a bit too dark. There is a golden line between the sky and the land behind you, and it’s growing fast. Turning the beach from indigo, to cyan as daylight fights the night. Revealing virgin sand, free of any footprints and the undulating corduroy lines of surf hitting a bank. Firing off empty waves. Nothing beats being the first to leave a line of footprints to the waves. Or feeling the temperature shift up, as sunlight touches your skin with the chill of foam around your feet. A little sprint paddle through the still blue dark water as you position yourself at the peak. Nobody to push you too deep. Nobody to snake you or drop in further down the line, mistaking a late backdoor set up barrel for not making the section. Just you, a sunrise and empty waves. Very few people in the world will ever get barrelled. I’m not religious at all, I don’t believe in any God, but if anything was to convince me of his existence it is a barrel. It truly is a gift, pulling in, the erie silence and making it out. But if you’ve got up early and driven through night. Made the effort, there at sunrise and then get shacked. It feels so much better, more than a gift – you’ve earned it.
You wont be alone for long though. It isn’t a problem and they are familiar faces. What I call the ‘invisible surfers’ and if what I’ve written above is familiar to you, you are one. Invisible surfers are a pack who dawn patrol every day. Putting in an hours before work, not just the occasional weekend ‘dawnie’. Surfing to them keeps the world in check. It’s natures painkiller to a shitty reality that is life. The invisible surfers have not conceded, they did bend, but didn’t break, fitting surfing in around the demands of life. As I write this, as you read this, I feel like I am leading you into battle. many will read this and be moved by it. But the truth is, you won’t all be here in the end. Some of you will fall off. Some will fall off the path and go chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and move too far away. For some of you it will be marriage, kids or simply work that makes you stop surfing. In my 40 years, I’ve seen many come and go. To some of us, surfing is too important. It’s who we are. I look at it this way, if you play rugby or football for a local side, people don’t call you a footballer. They may call you by what you do, John the plasterer, Mike the Vet. But if you surf, its John the Surfer, Mike the Surfer. You ‘play’ football. You ‘go’ surfing. You ARE a surfer. Invisible surfers cant be a slave to the alarm clock & work cycle, and will steal time while the world is sleeping to feed their disease.
Work colleagues will say your crazy and ask how you do it. “Aren’t you tiered – I could never get up at 4am” You will laugh and make some joke. But the truth is, if you have to explain it, then they will never understand. Only a surfer knows the butterflies feeling in the stomach as you drive through the dark, looking at treetops to reassure yourself the wind hasn’t picked up. The huge injection of adrenalin you get as a big, wide set appears. You sprint out to it, wondering if you will make it on time or get your ass handed to you. Digging deep with each stroke as you race toward it, then turn and now paddle with it. Making a late drop, winding it off the bottom, setting a rail and hacking a huge turn. The dopamine high, the euphoria after it. You are not tired, your alive. Shea Lopez commented on the golden moments at the end of the day. I’d take the uncrowded ‘Magic moments’ in the beginning. The XXL nominations site the ‘committed’ surfers. Committed? No. brave yes. But also blessed to be able to surf such exotic places. A committed surfer is the one who gets up at 5am, drives through the cold and rain of a February morning, surfs 3 foot slop before work so he can spend some quality time with his kids in the evening. Many times a car has rocked up in the car park at 9.30 and I’m just getting out from a 4 hour uncrowded surf, and I wonder if he will become one of us ‘Invisibles’.
Life burns, it hurts and it scars. Shitty jobs, heartbreak, recessions, worry about children. War. The only thing that has ever made sense to me was surfing. It has never asked anything of me. Has never judged me. Has always been there. Doesn’t care if I have an off day. No matter how shit life is, a quick surf can make the worst day feel OK. at 40 years of age, I have maybe 15 years of surfing left. 15 years sounds a long time but 15 summers doesn’t. I see it this way, there are 52 weeks per year, so that’s 52 weekends. Some only get to surf at weekends, and you can’t guarantee waves every weekend or that you will be able to go. So lets be generous and half that to 26. Could you live with just 26 surfs a year? Should I be counting down my 390 surfs left? Well fuck that. I can’t and won’t. As long as the sun keeps rising and there are waves, I will be there.
If when you die you had to write an essay on your life. What would you say? “I gave up on the thing that I loved most, but, I worked really hard for 50 years in an office”? Or will you say “I didn’t give up, I lived every moment and watched as may sunrises and sunsets as I could” If you want to go chase that pot of gold, have at it. Go buy things you don’t need. I know so many that have returned after decades, finding there was no pot of gold after all. Those days spent surfing were simpler happier times. I know that surfing means living close to the surf, and that often means driving old tatty cars, driving with the fuel light on and going without a lot of nice things. But what I get in return for my investment is a life. You can buy nice cars and holidays. But you can’t buy time. Some of my best memories are of time spent while the world sleeps.
It isn’t death I fear… it’s a life un-lived.