Opinion: Musings from the Coast

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The Surfing Mentality

By Michael Ray 

Surfing is a unique sport that requires not only physical strength and technique but also a deep connection to nature. Surfers have to harmonize with the ocean, feeling its moods and responding to its movements. This connection starts long before surfers ride a wave, and it begins with the pre-surf ritual of communing with nature.

Before heading out into the water, the first thing surfers do is analyze the ocean conditions. This initial step involves an evaluation of the tides, winds and swell size. These factors are crucial because they determine the quality of the waves and the actual surfing experience that a surfer will have. For example, high tide and strong winds lead to choppier waves and rougher conditions, while low tide and calm winds can result in smoother waves and a gentler experience. Surf reports are utilized to help surfers understand what conditions they’ll be facing in the water.

Once surfers have analyzed the ocean conditions, they take a moment to pause and center themselves to achieve a state of relaxed focus. This state of mind is essential because it enables surfers to be present in the moment and allows them to focus on the task ahead. Surfers are then ready to begin their physical preparations, which typically involves stretching exercises. Surfing is a physically demanding sport, and proper stretching helps to prevent injury and prepare muscles for the rigors of paddling and surfing. Stretching also helps surfers maintain flexibility, which is essential in navigating the waves.

Surfers also have a profound respect for the ocean, and they view it as a sacred place. Consequently, they have developed many traditions and rituals that demonstrate this reverence, ranging from simple practices to elaborate and more formal ceremonies.

Some surfers prefer to pray or meditate before entering the water. This is an essential step for those who view the ocean as a spiritual force and aim to commune with it. Such meditations give surfers a sense of calm, peace, and respect for nature, particularly when they face challenging wave conditions.

Similarly, some surfers celebrate the act of surfing by sharing food and drink, which is often done after the surfing session rather than before. This ritual, known as the ‘braai-roll or the “after surf tea,” is especially popular in South Africa but is growing in prevalence worldwide. The ceremony involves enjoying traditional surfers’ meals, such as sandwiches and cold drinks while reflecting on the beauty of nature and the experiences they shared surfing.

In conclusion, surfing is a sport that combines physical prowess, mental focus, and a profound connection with nature. This sense of reverence for the ocean and its power is why surfers are known for their pre-surf rituals and ceremonies. Surfing is more than just a sport; it’s a way of life for many, and that’s why respect for nature is a fundamental component of the surfing experience. Whether it’s through praying, meditating or sharing food and drink, surfers continually show their appreciation for the ocean and its influence on their lives.

Michael is a Laguna Beach resident and principal officer emeritus of Laguna Forward PAC.

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