Friday, December 3, 2010

The Art of enjoying One-self in the Surf by Len Barrow

The surf world can sometimes seem out of control. Some breaks can be crammed full of all manner of surf craft, surfers with different skill levels and often neurotic personalities. Because of this it is sometimes difficult to enjoy oneself in the surf.

There are ways to solve these problems and enjoy oneself in any crowd or conditions. In fact I never have a bad session in the surf as I have worked on a method of happiness in regards to the surf conditions and crowds, which almost never fails me. I have enumerated them in the following essay.

1. Set realistic expectations for your surf session.

If it is crowded, don’t expect to paddle out and catch a ton of waves. You will just become frustrated, as your expectations will come crashing down.
 I have a method of setting a quota. If it is really crowded, I expect only to catch two good to decent waves. In the mean time I dedicate my concentration (which is developed in Meditation) to enjoying the coolness of the water, the green mountains and I just overall get stoked about being in the water. Any waves that I get above my quota become icing on the cake!

2. Concentrate: Don’t let bad vibes get to you

When the waves are crowded, the worst behavior can manifest in surfers. People become greedy, angry and aggressive. Social hierarchies inevitably develop and we may find ourselves at the bottom of the totem pole. People use various methods both verbal and nonverbal to assert their status. Sometimes surfers “bad vibe other surfers” in this manner. In Zen Buddhist terminology, the surf is filled with Hungry Ghosts and Demons.

Again this is where the power of concentration attained in meditation can turn a good day into a bad day; or turn hell into heaven. If you allow your mind to wander and focus on the bad vibes, you will tune into to every-ones bad trip and become a type of Demon or Hungry ghost in Zen Buddhist terminology. If you cannot control the direction of your attention and be reactive to silly people, you will become a silly person also.

That is why it is important to meditate. Meditation allows one to control the focus of ones attention. If a person can defocus on the aggression and bad vibes and refocus on where the waves are focusing or defocusing, the beautiful scenery, and the miracle of being a surfer in the ocean (a truly amazing fact), and other wonderful phenomena (such as birds, the reef, the blue sky and seaweed), a surfer can turn a crowded “Hell Day” in to a slice of Heaven. Would that not be nice?

3. We are but mirrors

The saying, you reap what you sow, is actually very Buddhist in spirit. Again we must use the power of attention, to “pay attention” to our own behavior. If you are on a long-board or an SUP don’t just paddle to the outside and get every single set. This is fun in the short term yet this type of behavior has bad “Karmic” returns in the long run. Firstly, it is a very uncompassionate thing to do, and Zen Buddhism is based on a great striving for compassion for all beings (yes, even body boarders and beginners). Secondly, this behavior will rebound to you as a type of “curse”.

Surfing is not Capitalism. We need to use our power of attention to regulate the “profit only, who cares about others” or greed aspect of our minds. We all have the seeds in our minds of hyper-competitiveness, and ego-centrism. It is not a good idea to water them, at least from a Zen perspective .

If you are greedy, hogging all the set waves, you are inadvertently letting your uncontrolled attention “water” these destructive seeds and in return you will create a little hell for yourself and others. Surfers will take note of this greed and angry seeds will be watered in their minds. We can say “who cares; that’s their problem”, but when you return to the break you will be faced with a whole cadre of demons who dislike you. Most people are ignorant of this phenomena but it makes perfect sense in a Buddhist world.

If you are kind and compassionate you will not get a lot of waves in the short term but you will water the seeds of happiness for others in the water and eventually get waves in the long term. If you think this is random tree hugger babble, you are mistaken.

I use the “attention” that I have gained in meditation to create a little heaven for myself. For more than a decade, I have tried to be kind to others and wait my turn. People have mirrored this behavior back to me. To this day I can paddle out to virtually any break on Oahu and be greeted by smiles and kindness.

Can you do this in your surf area? If you cannot, it may be in your best interest to check what seeds you are watering in your mind and others.

Remember: You reap what you sow

Aloha Len Barrow

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