Surfing: A Metaphor for Life
A Rainy Season in Costa Rica
It is not difficult to understand the very addictive nature of surfing once you have caught a wave and experience the sensation of it. I caught my first real wave nine years ago and I immediately understood. I got it. I felt the power of nature and the ocean and got to flow on top of it for one brief moment in time. I was hooked.
After that experience, I returned to Austin and began standup paddleboarding. Standup paddleboarding was actually invented by surfers trying to get out further into bigger waves beyond what they could paddle with their arms. As I discovered on my first attempt, the powerful waves just keep pushing you back into shore as you attempt to paddle out. It is possibly the most intense cardiovascular workout I have ever had. You are continuously paddling for dear life, heart rate all the way up, then getting pounded straight in the face with massive wave upon massive wave, drinking and inhaling gallons of salt water.
My first real attempt to get “back on the board” was actually considered low tide. It was literally like bing invited to my first night of Fight Club as I spent a good hour getting pounded by wave after wave like a fourth grade weakling. One of the most basic and fundamental techniques one must learn to begin surfing is how to maneuver the board out past the incoming waves. If a wave is just beginning to form and you are on your belly paddling out, you simply flow over the top of the forming wave. If the wave is beginning to crest with foam and you attempt to go head on into it, the wave catches the board and literally takes the board and you on top of the board up to a 90-degree angle and completely flips you backward and upside down. Think of the scene in Castaway where Tom Hanks is trying to paddle out to sea against the tide in his tiny, makeshift raft.
To avoid this calamity, there are only two options: one, if you have a short board, which I do not, you can dip the front of the board into the coming wave, sort of attacking it. Since I am on a long board, the second option is what is called a “turtle roll.” A turtle roll involves spotting the oncoming wave about to pummel you in the face, then, on your belly, you and the board completely roll over so that you are underneath the water, the board is on top of you keeping you under water, then the oncoming wave crests over the upside down board on top of the water.
Underneath the water, it is a bit like being in the rinse cycle of a washing machine on high speed. Once you feel the tsunami has passed, you roll back over and wait for the next wave. Seems simple enough.
Surfing in the ocean is really the perfect metaphor for life.
One should never underestimate the sheer force of power behind Mother Nature and her rhythms. If you think in your delusion that you have any control over life whatsoever, just go surfing. Reflecting back over my life, it has been a series of waves, some very intense, powerful highs, and some crushing and devastating lows. Some long, some short. But the waves, with consistency in motion, always return to shore and then the tide flows back out again.
View from the Road
Costa Rica’s English speaking newspaper, The Tico Times, recently began running a column on my travel journals from my first three months in Costa Rica during the rainy season. The column will be an ongoing series through the eyes of my experiences during my first season here along the Guanacaste coast. I hope you enjoy following along.
Life is a Game
Life is like a game if we choose to see it that way. We come into the game with no pieces, no score, no play money. The game begins and we all start out at roughly the same place. Some have more pieces or money in their pile thanks to those who have gone before them. Others come into the game with old and broken pieces. Throughout the game some are ahead and some are behind. Sometimes we get the thrill of a good hand or round and other times we are the losers. In the end, it's just a game. We put away the pieces and close the box. Life is much easier if we look at it like a game. There is beginning and and end. It's fun to win and not always fun to lose. In the end, the money is all play money, the pieces are just pieces of the game and the joy is in how we played and the time we spent with others. If life has you stressed, remember, it's really just a game.
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Zen and Ink Journals represents hundreds of hours of writing over the past decade, sometimes from a train in remote China or a coffee shop in Kyoto, a hammock in Costa Rica or a simple cabin on a mountaintop in Boquete, Panama.
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