Surfing is mindfulness in action. Riding the biggest waves is an all-out, fully-present-or-die-trying proposition.
Thanks to a persistent case of aquaphobia, I've never tried surfing. However, I've done my share of snowboarding, and I am trying to imagine what it would be like to carve the slopes with several tons of avalanche chasing me down the mountain.
First of all, I would have to hike to the top and wait to catch the biggest avalanche, getting pummeled by several in the process. Oh, and then try not to think too much about the abominable snowman poised to take a hunk out of my leg when I least expect it.
Yeah. I'm stoked.
I don't really “get" surfing, but I stand in awe of it. It's impossible to avoid acknowledging the strength, timing, grace and heart-blazing courage required just to catch those enormous waves, let alone ride them smoothly without wiping out.
Whether or not you're into water, “Riding Giants" is a breathtaking film guaranteed to raise your pulse rate. Following the rise of big wave surfing from its ragtag roots in the fifties to the jet-ski boosted endorsement deals of today, “Riding Giants" offers a fascinating look at surf culture in all its guts and glory-not to mention its sun-bleached hair, wave-toned bodies, and plenty of pre-cancerous skin cells.
Although several world-class surfers are profiled, the one I find most amazing is Jeff Clark, a 43-year-old native of Half Moon Bay, California who is credited with discovering Mavericks, a notoriously gnarly big wave mecca twenty miles south of San Francisco.
Clark spotted the monstrous waves from the cliffs of Half Moon Bay as a teenager. One day, he decided to paddle the half-mile in chilly ocean water to check it out. Never mind that he was too far out for his worried friend-or anyone else-to save him. Forget that these waves would turn out to be so huge that, years later, seasoned pros from Waimea would find them jaw-dropping. Disregard the razor-sharp rocks waiting to chew up anyone unfortunate enough to be slammed to the shore.
Clark had his first of many ride-of-your-life experiences that day. He couldn't believe the power of it, the magic, the unimaginable thrill.
He went out to surf that incredible vortex every day. Alone. For fifteen years.
I'm guessing that his parents were either a) clueless about where he was, or b) powerless to prevent him from returning. He couldn't find anyone insane enough to join him.
He wasn't doing it for the attention, for the chicks, for the cameras, or for the money. He was out there getting pounded for the sake of that big ol’ grin on his face and the unfathomable sense of connection to something larger than himself.
Clark was like some modern day ascetic, putting himself through tortuous rites and death defying acts of faith while living in seclusion. He became one with the water on a daily basis through rigorous attention and exhaustive exploration.
I am humbled. I envy him. And I can't stop thinking about how most of us will never have this all-consuming passion or such a magnificent opportunity to experience oneness with anything.
Jeff Clark may be crazy. He may be obsessed. But he is a man whose mindfulness has inspired and elevated him-and saved his skin on numerous occasions.
We should all be so lucky to discover such a wondrous wave.
Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse in Portland, Oregon. Through her company, Real-World Mindfulness Training, she teaches fun and effective eyes-wide-open alternatives to meditation. To subscribe to her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage, please visit http://www.MassageYourMind.com