“Sunday morning and I'm falling
I've got a feeling I don't want to know
Early dawning, sunday morning
It's all the streets you crossed, not so long ago”
Velvet Underground turned Sunday into whimsical melodies that send me into nostalgic melancholy. A wish-wash of memories of old friends and good times. PJ Harvery and Postal Service. Bittersweet; a day of reckoning, slightly jaded by the 9-5 reality of things to come. This is Sunday, for me, at least. To a working girl in a flurry of Who Knows What, this is her Sunday. But today, this Sunday, this gusty day cross-hatched in sunlight, would be different. A topia of sensory delight, I’d be venturing into a world inhabited by a recklessly driven subculture; the surfers.
Around me, ‘they’ seem to share something I know I am not a part of, humbled in a way that only nature can employ. Majestic and omniscient, the ocean makes no allowances for anyone. The ocean sees no worldly status, no colour, no gender and no bank balance. Its beauty lies in its absence of prejudice and arrogance, human traits we all indulge in at times. The ocean taps into one’s most primitive emotion; curiosity. We gaze upon the white horses, not asked to venture closer. This is what catches us. Just like the fresh hot cookies just out of the oven that you’re told not to touch. You can’t help it. The temptation is far too overwhelming.
The night before was a hazy rendezvous, flavoured with hints of Fear & Loathing’s first highway scene. No bats, but generous doses of glitchy dub, tequila, taxis and then strippers. Let’s not get too involved in the details, these type of memories should be left to do their thing. To join the others my other, that will, in time, merge to capture this reckless, precious, wonderfully determined time of m life.
The night before welcomed a day that began with 2 miprodol and a glass of water. Possibly, no, rather more than likely, my intense sense of restless anticipation to get in the water was the outcome of my still slightly intoxicated state. Probably a good thing though. Once again my warped state of mind overpowers my state of being. This is how my first experience of surfing began. For the explosive ever-prevalent subculture of today, the beginning, well it was somewhat different. Where’d it all begin? Who really knows? It’s all here-say and possible maybes. Anyway, I’m a research slut. Rather an ambassador for Actual-Work-Procrastination Syndrome. You know the one. Like highlighting and underlining. To Do lists and countless coffee breaks.
Childhood bedtime stories of pirates and rust-knifed fisherman. Ocean monsters and the Secret Seven. This is the history, the research – of magical tales and far away places – that I lose myself in. There is always a little enchantment embedded in even the most tedious of subjects, you just have to look hard enough.
Like me, and you perhaps, another character who was fuelled by the question of What Else is Out There, an adventurer and explorer, was Captain James Cook. Cook, his crew and their “Discovery & Resolution” entered Kealakekua Bay on the Kona coast of the Big Island around 1778. Despite Cooks death - a murder of misinterpretation perhaps? - Lieutenant James King completed Cooks journals, recording, for the first time in writing, an account of surfing.
A few sentences I found interesting in King’s account….” But a diversion the most common is upon the Water, where there is a very great Sea” and “these men may be said to be almost amphibious” and lastly ” they seem to feel a great pleasure in the motion which this exercise gives.”
But surfing had been deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture much before the travels of Cook, and in a culture void of a written language, surfing existed elusively and without greed. The ocean was found in song and dance, myths and prayers to the Gods. I am not a surfer, nor do I pretend to know what I’m really talking about. But the idea of this century old lifestyle, to me, is one that is wrapped in ethereal beauty, humbleness and passion – as it is today.
Whilst writing this, I cannot help but picture that typical stereotype image of a surfer in my mind. White-washed hair, sun-kissed skin, shorts and no shoes…..the Drop Out…the Stoner. This is a common one, yes, indeed. The kids with No Real Ambition, who are Not Really Going Anywhere.
Yes. Stereotyping is something Surfing is very much familiar with. Sticky ‘n sneaky, prejudices creep in like a vine, the mind’s weed. Smoking a spliff, catch a wave, grab a beer…..I still fail to understand people’s disapproval of this? Let’s rather sit in an office - all day, then sweat in a bright lighted mirrored gym, then drink wine over pseudo-conversations hushed by the latest TV show. Or, even better, let’s sit in an office- all day, go get pissed at a bar, drive home drunk, crash into a pole. Yes. Or a person. Or a Car. And kill a person, or two.
Now, please tell me which deserves more approval? Hmm. The lifestyle of the surfer in no way signifies a lack of intelligence or drive, nor a specific position in society or wallet size. Some of the most ambitious individuals I know are surfers. They are 9-5ers that have found a thriling interlude of bliss. Anyway, I’ve never been one for judging, and if anything, I’m way more off the track than the surfers are.
I feel strange in this new material clinging to my skin, exposing my form.
I begin to become aware of how, albeit the surfers entering the sea alone, they appear together in the ocean. I get the feeling that whether you know the other guys and girls around you or not, in the water everyone’s together.
Together, and all bonded by a passion and a shared mentality of an uncompromised respect for nature. My friend, your pride will go crashing against the reef, arrogance and lack of respect become your downfall. Over and over again you will be reminded that you are, in the greater perspective of things, really nothing. But, you see, when you are stripped down to nothing you feel most alive. ALIVE ALIVE ALIVE! Fuck yes. Rushing through your body and shining out your eyes.
As I enter the water my fear of sharks invisible to me dissipate rapidly, and after my first attempt of standing these fears become every-day mindless whispers. My first stand comes as a surprise. I am all smiles and wobbly legs, and only slightly aware of the voiced support from the others behind me. It all happens so swiftly, then crash, fall. Swallowed by the wave. A Laundromat of salt and flesh. It is just in that brief moment that grabs me, mind, body and soul, and will never let go. As They say, only a moment can change your life for ever.
Ever-powerful and never intrusive; the tide will rise and fall; a consistency that is weaved with change. Like thumbprints, each wave is unique and intricate. Surfing is a drug. A drug where every hit is as good, if not better, than the first. And it cannot be bought.
Droplets of sunlight and electrifying salty freshness of the ocean seems to stay with one long after the sand has been washed off. Back in the office, back to school, off for a beer, off to pick up the kids or get some milk and bread. Fuck the stereotype. The stereotypes are cultivated by green voyeurs, ignorant and insecure in their chosen exclusion. It’s easier for one to judge and generate reason for remaining on the side, instead of humbling oneself and letting it all go.
I am sitting at Rafikis with three surfers, but they’re not just that. They’re three friends, three individuals who inspire me and make me smile every day of my life. This is rare. The scene in Garden State …. I am in it right now. Not sure how, or if I want to, get out.
The contemporary surfing subculture might be one that speaks of Money, Sponsors, and Status….but these are the tools that allow the guys and girls to surf the spots they’ve dreamed about since they had first stood on a board. And from what I can see, is that even if all the money and fame was thrown to the wind..no more sponsors or magazine double spreads…. that these guys and girls wouldn’t give a fuck.
It was never about the money, and never will be.
Surfing, and all the magic it encompasses, becomes a part of you, living in your veins and in your mind. In your smile and in your life. In song, in dance, in stories and in prayers. As it did centuries ago in Kealakekua Bay, and will continue for centuries to come.
Alphonse Karr quoted “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." (1849)
….The more things change, the more they stay the same”