Long before the ancient Hawaiians brought surfing to the world in the later part of the sixth century, St. Gregory the Great introduced the Seven Deadly Sins. Little did he know that centuries later these hell inviting deeds would capture an entire culture. Ironically, it is a culture that has been described by many as soulful and spiritual; one in which the practicing members are forever seeking to become one with their art form. If you have ever identified yourself in this ever growing group of surfers, you will also recognize that even if you are one of the peaceful nature loving “soul surfers,” you have been guilty of one – if not all – of the Seven Deadly Sins.
The first of these evil acts is lust. Anyone who has laid awake at night unable to sleep because all that you can see when you close your eyes are the perfect peelers that you will be pulling into when you paddle out at dawn the next morning, are culpable of lust. When you are sitting in class and you can taste the salt water on your tongue and feel the spray mist your face as you imagine hitting the lip on a perfect head high section, you are lusting, big time.
This brings us to the second sin: gluttony. A classic glutton knows the feeling of those sunrise to sunset sessions taking a break only to exercise even more gluttony on that 1/2 lb BBQ burger or that chicken katsu plate-lunch, or both. I mean, one works up an appetite after a six-hour surf and needs energy for the next six to come, right?
Greed, like gluttony and lust, is also a sin of excess. You see, when it comes to perfect uncrowded waves, they may as well be money because even when they are crowded, surfers will take every wave they can get. The word “sharing” does not exist on a six-foot, lined up day at Sands, or anywhere for that matter.
The next sin is one that has been paired with the title of being a surfer even before Jeff Spicoli strolled into the scene in the 80s: sloth/laziness. To anyone who doesn’t surf, this sin may seem more apparent, and they are often quick to judge a surfer as a lazy beach bum. But there is no need to get defensive, my fellow surf seekers. You can’t blame us for wanting to lie around all day after hours of slaving for waves in the blazing hot sun.
And when I say slaving for waves, I mean it. That is why wrath overtakes a surfer who gets overtook – or cutoff, snaked, swooped, dropped in on. Call it what you want, but also call a doctor if you take off in front of a wave that is obviously not yours. With all the people out there these days, waves are limited, and it will piss off anyone who paddled their brains out to make a wave only to have it swiped. Not only may their wave be ruined, but if their board is messed up in the process, wrath may just give way to sheer insanity.
The sixth sin is envy. Have you ever paddled out on your three year-old, duck-taped, multi-ding repaired, old faithful thruster only to find yourself in the lineup next to someone with a brand spankin’ custom designed Al Merrick, and the board is just plain pretty? Luckily the water on your face disguises the drool that is falling from your mouth. While “new board guy” is busy checking his reflection in his shiny stick, you paddle right around him to score the wave of the day and do a solid backside air right over him and his board. Now who’s drooling with envy?
Finally we arrive at the seventh and most serious sin. Pride has been considered by many to be the “original sin.” And pride does not escape even the most humble of surfers. If you surf, you know that wave. The wave against which all others are now compared, the one that has continued your search for the now, even more perfect wave. It is the wave that, no matter how humble you are, caused you to throw your biggest fist pump into the air and put that ear-to-ear grin on your face as you paddled back out for more. For those just starting out, it might be that first wave you stood up on, or it might be the one that landed a pro their first cover shot. Whoever the surfer, it is the wave that made you so proud you had to claim it.
St. Gregory the Great must have had it out for those destined to find pleasure in surfing. Anyone who surfs knows that not one of these Seven Deadly Sins can fully be escaped. You either give it up for a life of purity or you do like me and accept your fate, waking up each morning praying, “Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned.”
Obviously Nexus surf columnist Lika Walker is among a small minority of those who sin on a daily basis in Isla Vista.