The allure of surfing is underestimated. I got into it at an early age; I didn’t consider the long-term effects. Neither did my parents. In 1995 surfing was pretty much socially acceptable. And as a kid I had a lot of free time, so it never conflicted with anything.
photo by: Matador Ambassador / Allie Bombach
At Wainui Beach, in Raglan, where I write from, I recently saw a beginner riding the line, grinning from ear to ear. Why was she grinning? When you see how each wave breaks uniquely and bizarrely, each one like a gift to you, and as you harness that energy and the gravity of the earth to propel yourself across a liquid surface, you develop an appreciation for the natural world.
One wave can bring you immense joy. If you surf regularly you reap health benefits: you stay lean and fit, you keep a good appetite, and get plenty of sun. At a high level, surfing is a spiritual pursuit. Gerry Lopez called it “attitude dancing.” If you surf, there are a lot of reasons to smile.
The funny thing is, the seasoned watermen on the outside weren’t smiling. “It’s so small,” the one grumbled. They sat there like buoys marking the takeoff spot for the wave of the day. With their backs turned, they scoffed at the ignorant kooks scrounging around in the mushy inside sections. If you surf long enough, you seem to want bigger, faster, and more perfect waves.
We’re just humans, a pathetic and weird offshoot of primitive monkeys. We can’t control ourselves because something much larger is. Addiction is part of our condition. We all have to deal with it, whether directly or through others we know. Things bring us pleasure, and we want to do them again.
We want it to be as good as it was the first time. We get desensitized and must throw ourselves in death defying situations to get the same rush as before. People have died surfing.
I haven’t found any studies specifically on the neuroscience of wave-riders, but there’s a Yale neuroscientist named Judson Brewer who’s looked at addiction in comparison to other types of exercise. Can we extend his conclusions to surfing?
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