There’s a saying in the surfing world that goes “only a surfer knows the feeling.”
It mostly refers to the inexpressible heart explosion surfers feel when we experience surf conditions that are perfect for us.
But today, in the guts of the bushfire crisis, the political-governance crisis, the climate crisis and on the cusp of Christmas 2019, I’m taking a moment to rave about the inexplicable and precious gift of finding the perfect surfboard or cultivating the perfect relationship with a surfboard.
Please feel free to walk on by if this is just too trivial for you. It’s something, though, I am moved to write about, right now in the midst of national chaos.
Over the course of the past eight years, I have crafted a relationship with my purple surfboard known as the Peacemaker (think the purple and peace of the crown chakra), that is akin to a long-time lover.
And I suspect this type of relationship between surfboard and surfer is seldom spoken of but silently felt among many of us.
When you surf for a length of time, you experience a vastness of weather and ocean conditions from crystal lake-like days to cyclone swells and everything in between.
It is the most astonishing, mysterious, uplifting and frightening adventure to paddle away from land into a fluid zone you cannot control. In any way.
Just you and your surfboard and the sea.
The Peacemaker and I have shared miraculous head-high and higher walls of water that we have flown across like gannets, flinging our arms wide and shouting our love out loud.
We have huddled through stinging squalls then watched in wide-eyed wonder as a weather front left or arrived, dropping temperatures or revealing the sun.
We have delicately danced along sliding, gliding, gorgeous rollers and ladies waves transfixed by stingrays and shifting sand below us.
We have charged and made late takeoffs and cranked through heart-stopping, critical turns and we have laughed. My god we have laughed.
I’ve always called surfing ‘living physics’ where the movement of water, surfboard and surfer bring the theory of momentum, balance, energy, weight distribution, speed, angle and more to life.
As my own surfing life expands and lengthens and my relationship with the ocean and the Peacemaker deepens, I now also recognise the intimacy of this physics…
Where you place your weight along the length of the board as you paddle.
How you catch the water with loosely cupped hands and pull it under the rails of the board when you paddle.
How you raise your chest high as a wave deliciously lifts you. Where you turn your head to look.
How you synchronise your timing to the wave’s, then perhaps pause for a moment or two as the wave takes you, to sense its speed and angle and drop. Then how you sweep your feet beneath you in a blink, to find their stance upon the deck of the board – grounded, solid, with a lightness of being.
The subtleties of knees and toes and heels – weighting, unweighting, compressing, lifting, stalling, accelerating, turning.
The nuances of the board and its own volume and distribution of weight, and fin/s, and rails, and curves, and lines and oh! The magic of it all in the exact same way we come to know a lover’s body and all its subtleties and secrets.
Many of us who surf, quietly believe that surfing is as good as and sometimes better than, sex. We drive our non-surfing partners and lovers mad with our continual call to be with the sea – a gravitational pull that never lets us go. Not ever.
A week ago, the Peacemaker: my partner, my ally, my protector, my magic carpet, my steed, my doorway into the oceanic dance, my lover, was randomly snapped in half by a rogue high-tide shorebreak wave at Lennox.
If you have read this far, you know now that the Peacemaker is not a ‘thing’; not a stick of fibreglassed, Styrofoam that floats, but so very much more.
If you have read this far you will sense my devastation as I surfaced to see her floating in two pieces, nine foot no longer.
This felt like the cruellest blow in a season that burned through my mountain community destroying homes and wrecking lives.
The loss of the Peacemaker was like the loss of a relationship, of a lover, of love.
I was mute with grief for days, but ah, behind the scenes toiled long-time shaper, repairer, surfer and friend Gaz; and today, just one week on, he has fixed my woman.
She’s stronger in the centre now and is an intruiging blend of colours. She’s perhaps a little heaver and I’m curious to know how she will now respond in the water and the waves.
Like me, she has been broken by life and like me, she rises again to charge more waves and gasp at more wonders and stand strong in more crises and to love again.