Sometimes I wonder what I am doing back here on the sports page. Surfing is not really a sport; it is more akin to some sort of addictive hobby. It is fundamentally different from the team sports that fill this page.
Surfing is fiercely individualistic; we might go surfing with friends but we ride waves by ourselves. I say that, but upon reflection I realize that surfers are a team; we are a tribe of people united by that ethereal experience to be found riding waves. It is that moment during the drop when the self dissolves and all that is left is the raw here-and-now experience of screaming down the line that makes us all the same. Of course, upon further reflection I realize that surfing, just like the real word, has its share of assholes, so maybe not all surfers get it.
I definitely get it. When I don’t have it I crave it. I haven’t gotten wet in over a week, and it is starting to have its effects. I got annoyed at the snail pace of the old ladies running the voting booths yesterday morning, wondering in my head how we entrusted our democratic processes to these incompetent geriatrics. I was about to share these thoughts with those standing near me in line before I noticed myself and realized that I desperately needed to get in the water.
You see, surfing provides some sort of grounding, connection or fulfillment that makes me a happier person. Really, whatever surfing provides is vague, indefinable and inexpressible, but for a writer to say that would be a major cop-out, so I will try to give an example: Days when I drag my body out of bed at dawn to go frolic in cold water for an hour or so are better days. Starting my day with really good waves turns the volume down on everything that follows. My mind is quieter, and nothing else matters as much. In a world where everyone is shuffling around searching for contentment, I can stroll by with a grin on my face, having already gotten my fill that morning.
Of course it never lasts, and that is why surfing is an addiction. Those moments on the face of a wave feel timeless but are actually so fleeting I can hardly remember them once I return to the beach. After a few days the effects fade, and I find myself getting frustrated with old ladies and cursing at bad drivers. I need my contentment. I am addicted to surfing. I looked online to confirm my diagnosis and it all fits: I spend money and time I can’t afford on my habit; I have a pattern of neglecting work, family and social responsibilities in order to indulge my habit; I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about my habit; and, most troubling of all, I often surf alone.
My addiction doesn’t concern me; rather, I celebrate it, because as far as addictions go, surfing is a good one. I could be one of those people who watch television for hours a day in order to quiet the mind; I could stick needles in my arm to feel good about the world; I could resort to shopping to fill the emptiness inside. Instead I just paddle out every couple of days and binge on my addictive habit. As clich