Why We Surf
Director of Tropicsurf, Ross Phillips, examines the magnificent obsession that unites us.
Photo: Eric Soderqvist
We all surf for different reasons. Freedom, fitness, adventure, the adrenaline of the drop or the simple pleasure of getting wet. If I were to ask you why you surf, you’d probably initially reply, ‘because it’s fun’.
Yet when I sat down and asked friends why they surfed, the answers were surprisingly varied. One series of conversations with good friends Mark and Jeanie Clark clocked in at around three fascinating hours and inspired many of the ideas in this investigation.
I guiltily admit that my own motivation to surf ebbs and flows like the tide at my local. I’m spoiled. I’ve been blessed to travel and surf the best spots and the best days. So, if there’s a wolf pack haggling for set waves, I often can’t be bothered like I used to. At times, I haven’t even been motivated to surf at all, and that got me questioning my motives. Why do I surf? And what is it that keeps me coming back for more? The answers surprised me. Having ‘fun’ was only part of it. Catching the best wave and impressing my friends were not big drivers. As I discovered, the real reasons I surf are complex and varied.
This essay is my attempt to explore the deeper rationales that could be driving you, me and the crazy tribe of devotees that we’re part of.
FUN OR NO FUN?
There are numerous reasons why we surf, but at the core is fun. However, fun is a broader concept than you may realize. You may not know the diagnostic terms for different types of fun, but you’ve surely experienced them. Learned folk who spend more time in institutions of higher learning than at the beach even created different classifications for fun.
Type 1 fun is always fun the entire time you’re doing it. You’re never glad it’s over and you want it to keep going on and on. It’s what most of us are hoping for when we prep for a surf. It’s when the plan comes together, the weather lines up, the sets roll through and you ride the wave of the day. Type 1 is what you brag to your friends about, telling them they really missed it and should have been here yesterday.
Then there’s Type 2 fun. Fun when it’s done. This prickly version kind of sucks the entire time you’re doing it, but you’re either excited to brag about it later or you’ll look back on it as character-building and worthy. Yes, I feel you nodding your head in agreement. Type 2 fun is a strange beast, because it can feel almost like suffering, and only upon reflection, you come to realize you had an adventure and learned something. Some of my best memories are of occasions when I got way out of my comfort zone, sitting wide with a suddenly rising swell and kissing the sand once back on the beach after not even catching a wave. Adventures with moments of despair apparently are indicators of a Type 2 good time.
Type 1 puts you in the mood for a celebratory beer. Type 2 leaves you feeling like you need a beer.
Type 3 fun is where you feel your life is threatened and certain doom is imminent. I’ve been there too. In the moment I swore to never surf again. But of course I did.
Some people just love Type 1. You’ll find them at First Point Noosa or San Onofre. But for many, myself included, Type 2 is the most enriching and fulfilling of the three. The days we leave our comfort zone, push a little further, and sometimes pay the price for our ambition, provide stories that we cherish, often telling them over and over again (and often embellished).
Fun becomes elevated with doses of fear and uncertainty. Some prefer more. Some less. But deep down we’re all the same, and I’m suggesting that’s why we love to surf. To understand this better, look more closely at the world of fear. Fear can be cathartic. A little like de-fragmenting your computer hard drive, the strong emotions encountered during a beat-up on the rocks or during a hold-down can become the source of some kind of psychological relief: a reset from the ordinariness of our day to day lives.
Humans will pay good money to be scared. Fear is just an emotional response to either a real or a perceived threat. Its purpose is to alert us to danger. By triggering our fight or flight response, it helps keep us physically safe. “When we’re terrified, our sympathetic nervous system floods the body with adrenalin and the brain with neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine,” says Margee Kerr, a sociologist from the University of Pittsburgh. “Our blood vessels constrict to preserve blood for muscles and organs that we may need if we decide to run. And this is truly when our mind focuses on the present and background noise washes away. The physical response typically lasts only four to six hours, but the memory of how you got through it is what you draw strength from in the future.”
Kerr’s research also suggests that fear can boost our mood for the better. Experiments at UP recently proved that normal people who submitted to a crazy, scary experience came out of it with reduced brainwave activity. Fear caused them to later feel less stressed, more energized and even euphoric.
But I like this part the most: apparently the biggest emotional benefit comes when fear is combined with skill and when the skill is performed in nature. Research shows this helps us tap into our primal self, makes us feel competent at survival and gives us a sense of awe. That’s good news for surfers, and explains a bit about why we keep coming back for more hardship. The pay-off to the ups and downs of surfing can be a sense of accomplishment, energy and even euphoria.
Photo: Ming Nomchong
Plenty of surfers are dopamine junkies. Addicted to the rush, they often defy logic to employ anti-social or irresponsible behavior to get off on the next hit. (Ross Clarke-Jones’s biographical The Sixth Element was playing on a background TV when I started writing this).
I look back thirty years to a road trip with mates in a Holden HR station wagon loaded to the ceiling with boards, camping gear and food. We were about to embark on a one-thousand-kilometre drive from Perth to the famed “Camp of the Moon”. We couldn’t wait to surf some dreamy long lefts. The only thing between us and our Nirvana was a little red warning light on the car dashboard that showed up not even five minutes into the trip. We found a local mechanic and hoped for a quick fix, but instead he advised that our engine might last one hour or it might last ten. But for certain, the engine would blow up unless it spent a week in his workshop. That’s where our dopamine addiction over-rode common sense with an unspoken consensus that we would depart immediately at the fastest speed possible and worry about getting home later. Surfers.
So what is it that we’re actually addicted to? I like to call them my “ten second spaces.” Short yet vivid windows in time that etch themselves into my mind and never leave. They never dim and bring a smile to my face with every recollection. The biggest paddle-in of my life at Sunset Beach, that deep barrel that I exited over looming coral heads in the Mentawais, racing hundreds of metres without a turn across double-overhead Jeffreys Bay. A lifetime of surfing condensed into several short but extremely powerful moments. That’s what we’re all addicted to – the brief but powerful memories of those rushes. They’re very compelling.
What makes us feel fully alive? Surely we’re not meant to only think our way through life? Meaning is in our head but the gift of feeling is experienced through the body. Yes, work is admirable, contribution important and we all must earn money to keep the debt collectors from the door. But is running in circles on the hamster wheel of modern day life really the most fulfilling way for us to spend our numbered days?
Personally, I don’t want to only think my responses to life. I also want to experience life in a tactile way. Let’s call this the felt body. I believe that this palpable sense is imperative to actually being fully alive. The tactile path is the purpose of all sports, and brings energy and revitalization. I’ve shared surf moments with friends where we just looked at each other after a ride and nothing needed to be said, because every neuron was firing and we knew the other was feeling the same felt body experience.
Sometimes I find the need to stop chasing physical stimulation and adrenalin, so I challenge myself with this question: “How can I be more appreciative of life and simple things?”
I’ll never forget talking to Dave Rastovich after he won the final of the Four Seasons Champions Trophy in the Maldives. The waves had been pumping with just he and Taylor Knox in the water. I asked him what had been running through his mind during the final and he said he’d enjoyed just looking at the clouds passing by in the sky. My interpretation was that it was the way of the open hand: so much of our life is about manipulating outcomes and holding onto stuff. Yet how often do we really live mindfully and powerfully in our own skins, as opposed to worrying about where we’ll be thirty minutes or thirty years from now? Surfing has the power to produce that in us.
Photo: Sean Scott
Getting wet is where I believe surfing takes an edge over many other pursuits. We feel better with waves around us, and there’s a legitimate explanation for this. Scientists tell us that breaking waves produce a kind of ‘magic air’ which makes us feel surprisingly happy.
It’s all about ions. An ion is simply an atom or molecule electrically charged by the presence or lack of protons, neutrons and electrons. An atom can acquire either a positive charge or a negative charge. Negative ions are odorless, tasteless and invisible oxygen atoms with extra-negatively-charged electrons. We inhale them in abundance in certain environments like the ocean. Scientists reckon beneficial ions include Sodium and Chloride (commonly known as sea salt) and other trace elements such as Magnesium. These are created in nature by the effects of water, air, sunlight and the Earth’s inherent radiation. Negatively charged ions are most prevalent in natural places and particularly around moving water. You’ll make contact with them sitting next to a waterfall or on a snowy mountain, but even better by immersing yourself in crashing waves. If you’ve ever wondered why you feel so alive in the surf, it’s partly because the turbulence created by breaking waves alters the physical structure of the air and water, breaking apart the water and air molecules and releasing these cool, little charged ions into the atmosphere. When you breathe the charged-up sea spray into your lungs, they get absorbed into your blood and produce biochemical reactions that increase serotonin, which relieves stress and elevates mood.
Some research recently published in California showed that people feeling ‘surf stoked’ were, in fact, enjoying a chemical cocktail triggered by the charged ions found around the turbulent water. While the dopamine rush may fire us up in the water, the effects subside back on shore. Whereas the negative ion effect typically lasts much longer.
The Californian studies also investigated the mental health benefits of surfing by asking surfers to describe how they felt before and after a surf. Surfers reported feeling calmer and more tranquil afterwards. The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation in California uses a program known as Ocean Therapy to teach people with combat-related post-traumatic stress. Other organizations and surf schools around the globe also apply surfing to treat afflictions such as depression, schizophrenia, seasonal affective disorder (a type of winter depression) and PSD.
But the benefits are not just from negative ions. They also come to us from electrons. In the electrical installation in your house, an earthing system connects specific parts with the Earth’s conductive surface, for both safety and functional purposes. In a similar way, humans are also electrically charged because at a cellular level we’re made up of proton, neutron and electron particles. Think of those particles as tiny energy machines that seek out, collect and process suitable energy packets dispatched by other energy machines. Science writer Albert Simpson argues that humans, just like the protons, neurons and electrons of which they are made, are designed to gather energy, and that is why we have evolved.
Humans once walked barefoot, slept on the ground and cultivated the land with bare hands. But over time our modern lifestyle disconnected us from the Earth’s energy through the widespread use of insulated shoes, insulated mattresses and living in buildings off the ground. Our lives are surrounded with electronic devices, wireless connections, microwaves and cell towers which assail us continuously with a positive charge. Without that balancing, earthing connection, we become over-radiated. In recent decades the incidence of chronic diseases and auto-immune conditions has skyrocketed. One overlooked reason is that the immune system became less efficient as humans increasingly separated themselves from the Earth’s energy. Walking bare-footed on the earth is a simple, yet profound concept to health and wellbeing. Test it and remind yourself how good it feels. Then add water, such as found on a wet sandy beach or in the ocean and you have the ultimate conductor of energy. A beach walk, ocean swim or surf provides the grounding that you crave in order to provide your body with a constant source of free electrons to reduce inflammation and chronic disease.
Put simply, when you feel amped up after a surf, you literally are.
On a surf trip in Micronesia my wife and I met an interesting guy riding a surf mat. We hung out for a few days, shared some empty line-ups and then when we invited him to take a rainforest walk up to a waterfall, he said something profound I’ve never forgotten: ‘We’ve had our ocean energy - now it’s time for some forest energy.”
I was at first inclined to write that statement off as some hippy philosophy – after all, he was a hippy. But we often forget that by way of definition, we are in fact nature ourselves. We are natural beings. When we hear in our modern-day urban lives that we’ve lost our connection to nature, then maybe that’s because we’ve lost our connection to self.
Indigenous people such as the Australian Aborigines or the Navajo had that source of connection and it was constant. Surfers have it too, and it’s the ocean. It’s easy to lose ourselves in our modern style of living with our air-conditioned offices, cars and cell phones. Without doubt, we’re more disconnected from nature today than ever before, and we’re sorely lacking the rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation that only nature can bring.
So the takeaway is that if you want to power up, reduce stress, improve mood, bolster self-esteem, boost memory and improve self-control, start scheduling more regular surf trips into pristine environments.
Whether it be art, poetry, architecture, calligraphy, how the Navajo Indians used to build their houses or Michael Peterson’s famous cutback, there’s always been a human fascination with the arc. Our interest with curves and lines is prevalent throughout humanity. In Zen in The Art of Archery, a book by German philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel, published in 1948, about his experiences studying Kyúdú, a form of Japanese archery. Herrigel writes:
“...The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art ...”
The bow has always had a deep historical and cultural significance for the Japanese. Since earliest times it’s served as both the sacred and the functional. Technique cannot be considered without an understanding of spiritual energy. Neither aspect can function without the other. The acquisition of technique grows with the increase in body-mind awareness to form a harmonious working together of the bow, body and spirit. Balance is taken physically and emotionally from the centre of the body. Each movement of the shooting is coordinated with the breath to flow in a continuity of action which forms an inseparable whole.
If there’s a comparison here to surfing, it’s certainly that we too have a fascination with symmetry. We too admire continuity of action. We too admire the harmonious working together of body and equipment. Surfing is all about economy and spaciousness. Control is key. Our obsession is to arc sublime pathways and make it look easy. Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form. It’s in the spaciousness in between. This may partly explain why some prefer to call surfing an art form rather than a sport. It certainly highlights why style has been the most revered surfing trait for the last hundred years at least. Each line we take across a wave and every turn we carve can become an expression of our individualism. The way John Florence and Joel Tudor approach the same wave will be completely different. Neither is right, wrong, better or worse. The beauty of surfing is that we can make a personal statement and claim it as uniquely ours.
Having said that, some surfers’ statements are more admired than others (just like artists). Arguably the most famous cutback image of all time is of Australian Michael Peterson at Kirra on a single fin in 1971. Immortalized by Albert Falzon in Morning of the Earth, the image projects that perfect strike of power, flow and style. Not just a willy-nilly application of power, Peterson’s turn offers a degree of finesse and control that appears captivatingly easy. We see that and we want that.
Today a few auspicious surfers get paid millions of dollars because they can do this exceedingly well. It looks easy. But it’s hard. Until you get it right, and then it feels as easy as it looks. Subtle. Sublime. Alluring.
Photo: Ming Nomchong
“J Paul Getty once said that the only time he was ever really happy was when he was a young child playing in the surf. That quote has stuck with me ever since I heard it. As a surfer, I’ve pushed myself in big waves as far as I wanted or needed to, and I’m completely happy to never do that again, because I’ve challenged myself in places like Mexico and Waimea Bay. But when I look back over my surfing career, like Getty, for me the happiest times were when I was a small child playing in the surf with a little belly board. I can reconnect with those moments every time I surf now. I’ve got nothing to prove and I’m not hungry. I can just enjoy riding waves for the blessings that they are, and that’s a good place to be.”
Tom Wegener, surfboard shaper.
Every time I see Tom Wegener in the surf he has the hugest smile I’ve ever seen – often in contrast to a lot of others in my crowded local line-up. The difference with Tom is that he’s splashing around in some C-grade shorey, riding some weird, latest-design such as a honeycomb, finless belly board. He’s not taking surfing or himself too seriously, and it shows. He knows how to be playful and that’s an inspiration, and why I often ride finless. Riding on counter-performance equipment allows me to view surfing in new and fresh ways and not care what the wave is like. One foot, onshore is perfect. For me it makes it new and fun.
Life is already serious enough, and if you’re reading this between sessions on a surf trip, you probably have many responsibilities and things to worry about back at home. Surfing is a great outlet away from all that’s serious. A chance to be young and free again, even just for a while when we’ve become all ‘adult’ for far too long.
But with the value of playfulness in mind, I’m still a believer that we should keep surfing in perspective. There are plenty of other things that can enrich our lives too: family, how we treat other people, maintaining our integrity, health, contributing to society and so on. Surfing’s not everything. But it sure is a good way to balance out all the serious stuff. A middle-aged mum summed it up to me on a recent trip: “My boys are better people when they surf.” She didn’t surf but she observed it as a positive effect on her teenage sons.
Hopefully we can all keep a playful aspect to our lives no matter what our age.
Often when I meet a rookie surfer, I’ll ask the same handful of questions: Why do you do it? What is it that moves you to pursue the hardest sport in the world? And would you surf if it were easy?
Just about every time, they describe how they’re drawn to the challenge and the satisfying, intrinsic rewards of being successful at something really difficult. Ask just about any athlete who engages in a range of sports, and they’ll confirm that surfing is the hardest sport of all. Every wave, different from the last, is a moving, changing medium. Give up on trying to attain the repetition necessary for swift improvement. There is none. No two rides are alike, and this is what makes surfing radically difficult to decrypt. Fortunately for me, this also ensures that I’ll always have a job as a surf coach. (It’s hard to imagine an A.I. robot stealing my job!) Tropicsurf’s success has been partly attributed to guests seeking knowledge because surfing is so difficult.
Henry Thoreau summed it up when he wrote: “The value of any experience is measured of course not by the amount of money but the amount of development we get out of it. Humans strangely often value tough or painful experiences. A life of easy pleasure or idle anaesthesia is sometimes a restless one.”
We humans tend to look for rewarding experiences and success in order to offset the negative experiences in life. Our successes can be either achievement (when we meet a standard imposed by others) or accomplishment (when we reach a goal we personally value.) Society tends to make us focus on achievements but we intrinsically much prefer accomplishments because they’re more significant to us by giving us a sense of pride, positive structure of our memories and making us more confident about our future.
If our highest level of need is to become good at things, why not pursue being good at the hardest thing of all? Honestly, I think that’s what drives you, me and surfers all over the world. But there must be some psychological explanation for our fanaticism.
So is it mental or visceral stimulation that we seek? I’d always assumed it was physical but when I looked around, I realized that many people are equally devoted to less physical pursuits. I greatly disagree with Timothy Leary’s Seventies LSD-inspired rant where he claimed that surfing was “our highest evolutionary activity... and the spiritual style of the liberated self.” In contrast, eighty-year-old poet, essayist and farmer Wendel Berry writes about the unadulterated joy he attains simply through repetitive work in his field. His description of the satisfaction farming gives him sounds not too dissimilar to the devotion of the surfer.
Many people are devoted to their ‘thing.’ I recently saw caves in Bhutan where monks live solo in order to meditate for three years, three months and three days straight. Now that’s devotion of the mental kind! Then I went and surfed after a snow storm in three degree water (37 Fahrenheit) and knew for sure (until my brain froze) that I too was devoted. Why? When I knife into that steep, late drop and the board slingshots off the bottom to race across a glistening overhead face, the rush is indescribable. But it’s made so much sweeter by the fact that it took me years of practice and hardship to master, and that’s where the visceral satisfaction kicks in. Success doing difficult stuff feels good. It’s a human need.
Photo: Tom Servais
Difficult things can also cause us to pay attention. Either because they’re in our face demanding it, or because we choose to enter into that zone of mindfulness where nothing else matters for that brief moment. Even today, I still marvel that during my brief moments of sliding across a green wave face, I cannot for the life of me think of anything else. It’s a momentary bliss, a reprieve from the clatter going on in my head. If ever there was a zen-like pursuit capable of achieving stillness of mind, then surfing wins. In the past I’ve paid good money to fidget during meditation classes, struggling to rest my active mind. I now realize it’s easier just to ride a wave.
Paying attention really is the objective of meditation and the mindfulness movement. Live in the moment because that’s the only certainty that we have. It’s ultimately a mental freedom that can be hard to attain in modern society. But it’s easy to attain playing on a wave, and perhaps this might be the best of all aspect of surfing.
I love how surfing has a unique way of dealing with over-confidence. I was in Sri Lanka surfing the swell of the decade at a secret, offshore bombie with a friend. The break was called Cobras because of the way it stands up at the last minute and throws with venom. We were sitting a little wide of the peak, due to a really stiff offshore wind that made taking off under the hood almost impossible. We’d been the only two out until another visitor paddled out to join us. He was friendly enough but I could tell he had a serious froth on.
“Howzit?” he asked. “Unreal,” I replied. “Except for the wind which is making the take-off really tricky.” I could tell he thought we were being soft by sitting wide. But he proceeded to wait his turn patiently ... for all of about three minutes. Then he paddled straight inside us into the biggest set of the afternoon. He was in the perfect position, had the apparent wind speed up the face not been about 35 knots, and the break not been called Cobras. I gave him an A+ for commitment because he kept his feet glued to the board on what appeared to be a fifteen-foot blind freefall to oblivion. D-minus for success, though. He surfaced about a hundred, underwater metres later, eyes like saucers, gulping like a goldfish and tail between his legs. I found this entirely agreeable to myself, enough to offer a hearty cheer. Oh the glorious snakes and ladders game of surfing.
We’ve all been there, of course. I know I have. The ocean loves to romance us with its dance of courtship and lull us into a false sense of security. Then bam! Either way, surfers walk the tightrope between resting their minds and learning to pay attention and I think this is a desirable thing. It’s good to both live in the moment and enjoy moments of enlightenment. You could live in a monastery and practice this for the rest of your life. Or you could surf.
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again – to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
This quote from Pico Iyer, a modern-day travel writing savant, says a lot to me about why I love to travel, and even why I love to travel to surf. But long before Pico, Mark Twain inspired generations of travelers with the philosophical underscoring of his adventures in lines such as: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” or “...throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
I’ve made a hobby of collecting neat travel quotes from some of the great writers or orators of history:
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.” Saint Augustine
“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” Lao TzuAnd
And my favourite: “From whatever place I write you will expect that part of my travels will consist of excursions in my own mind.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Whether it’s our search for an Endless Summer or the perfect wave, surfers are invariably led to travel. And if you, like the authors above, believe in the value of travel, then many rich and fulfilling experiences become the by-product of the search. Insights, adventures and tall tales. Like the tuk-tuk driver in Sri Lanka who kissed me on the lips when I gave him an extra ten bucks. Or exploring for surf potential in early-days Maldives on a rough sea, only to discover our Muslim captain on his knees praying to Allah to save our sinking boat.
Travel brings spice to life and makes the fodder for good stories. And how boring would dinner parties be without a bevy of them up our sleeves? Travel adventures inevitably stock us with those and much more. Escape from familiarity. Education. Exposure to new cultures, languages, foods and customs. The quirky aspect of surf travel is that it often draws you to weird and wonderful places where you otherwise wouldn’t go in a million years. Jungles, deserts, tiny villages with snake charmers. These places often provide the best memories.
For my money, no company has captured the surfing spirit better than Rip Curl with their marketing campaign called ‘The Search.’ The Search is in all of us and it frequently leads us to broaden our horizons and experience more that this planet has to offer. It’s always restless, but I love that aspect of surfing. Seeing more of the world, learning how it all works and relating better to the common threads of our shared humanity.
Sunny Garcia sharing Aloha. Photo: Ross Phillips
By far the most rewarding aspect of my journey as a surfer has been the friendships. After the euphoria of the ride settles and the ten-second memories seem more distant, friendships remain and bring me gifts of the highest value.
In Australia we call them ‘mates’. More than just a friend, it’s a term that implies a sense of shared experience, mutual respect and unconditional assistance.
Surfing can be a strange beast. In the line-up we compete, doing our best to outsmart each other for set waves. Yet on land we can be a close-knit community. Conversation flows easier and rivalries can be forgotten. The old ice-breaker line of, “wow, that was an amazing ride you had,” or, “what kind of board are you riding there?” just about always breaks down barriers and opens doors to potential friendships.
Surfing is also very humbling and therefore a great egalitarian equalizer. (A critical aspect of the Aussie mateship concept.) When you’re in the water, your identity seems to be stripped back and it matters less what race or background you are or how much money you have. There are no private country clubs and everyone is equal. Laird Hamilton once said, ‘we’re all equal before a wave’. Yes, even Laird.
Surfers are like-minded people who share common interests and sometimes view-points. In some areas we perceive the world through similarly-shaped lenses and thus interpret certain things in similar ways. It’s either flat or it’s pumping, right? Therefore should I mow the lawn or go paddle out? It’s not overly complex. Sharing views. Sharing anticipation of the next good swell. Sharing experiences. Sharing a good feed (or a few beers) together afterwards. Either way, the goodness seems to be in the shared aspect. Surfing alone is not much fun.
The Hawaiian spirit of Aloha is also about sharing. More than a traditional greeting, it’s a way of life, an attitude and even a guideline for life. Its deeper meaning is “the joyful sharing of life energy in the present.” Tropicsurf might be an Australian company, but we honour the sport’s roots by sharing this Hawaiian tradition with our guests.
Back in 1993, I was surfing at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, dodging West peaks and riding the biggest, best waves of my life, only to strangely discover a kind of boredom. Yet a few weeks later, back in Australia, I was coaching twelve-year old grommets into the biggest waves of their lives and discovering that sharing passion for the sport and enjoying thrills, spills and camaraderie can be more satisfying than surfing for oneself.
Photo: Sean Scott
You’ve probably never bothered to investigate with such complexity the reasons why you surf. Don’t worry. You don’t need to. Fortunately, it matters little how good or bad you are at it. Just as long as you simply get out amongst it and do it, then you’re reaping the numerous benefits ranging through fun, energy, accomplishment, success, nourishment, fitness, friendship, health, playfulness, and even zen. But keep this essay handy. Whenever the fun police close in and question your need for that next sneaky little session or expensive overseas trip, pull it out and use it to try and justify your actions. Surfing sure is fun, But it’s also really, really good for you too. Hooray for that.