So last weekend, I went surfing for the first time in my life. It was exhilarating! But first, some background and a fun fact…
See, I can’t actually swim.
I learned as a child, but that was years ago and I never practiced after so I didn’t even get to the point where it was ingrained and impossible to forget. As you can imagine, I was nervous going in. Thing was, surfing wasn’t even the original plan, or I might have just said no. But the activity we intended to do required more wind than we had and that’s when the plan B of surfing was first brought up.
When I told the instructors I couldn’t swim, it was obvious they hadn’t quite had such a scenario before, but they thought about it a minute and were like, “Give it a go, and let’s know if you don’t want to continue, but we’re not going deep enough in the water that you should need to.”
(Funny thing is I was already ready to jump in: me telling them was just me trying to be reasonable.)
So off I went and man! did I have fun! I never knew I loved being in the water so much. I got dunked a number of times, and after I got over the initial slight embarrassment from feeling like the only one being dunked (not that I actually was), I actually enjoyed it.
But the best part of course was riding the waves. They showed us what to do and it took a few tries to get it right (okay, a lot, but who’s counting?), but when I caught my first one? It was surreal.
Maybe I’ll write a bit more about it another time: how you have to practice patience learning to wait for the wave, how I had to learn to recognise a good wave, get in position to catch it, time the moment right (they were blink-and-you-miss-it, those waves), and then actually ride the thing (which itself required having the right stance and balance on the board) — and all of that in a matter off seconds, and that’s the wave gone. I might write about all that, but it’d make this far too long. (Maybe I’ll do a thread on Twitter?)
But one thing I’ll say: I get it now. I never understood why people surf. But I get it now. Mind, these weren’t even big waves. But that feeling of being carried by the water? Nothing like it. Imagine if the wave had been not two or three, but ten our fifteen feet high! I caught only a few waves, less than 10 in our two hours on the sea, but I kept going back for just that feeling, even with my small waves.
Nature is wild, but being in sync with nature, not taming the wildness but riding it, working with it, letting it carry you? Glorious.
It gave me a picture for how we can really relate with the world. Those of you who’ve known me a while know I’m Christian. Well, there’s this Christian idea that humans are meant to subdue the world, and it’s often interpreted to mean we are supposed to dominate it and make it whatever we want — some Christians even take it to mean we don’t have to care for the earth or take climate change seriously (although one wonders how much of that is really just a cover for making money of destroying the earth).
In those moments of riding those waves, though, I felt at one with the sea and felt like, maybe this is the real meaning of “subduing.”
Not overriding nature, but riding it.
Not overriding reality, but riding it.
And it leaves me wondering: what else in my life am I trying to override, instead of just ride?
How about you?
PS. A huge thank you to everyone who responded to last week’s newsletter! I had feared you being uninterested and it’s humbling to realise how far more interested you were than I could have dared hope. You’re amazing and I’m grateful for your attention. 😊😃🤗