Surfing spirituality: Hang Zen

There’s something being in a beautiful, alien environment can do your consciousness. It can change the way you feel, the way you look at the world, your entire sense of being. Sounds a bit like religion, doesn’t it? For some surfers, this feeling is called “surfing spirituality”.

It’s easy to understand – one moment you’re at work or school, surrounded by noise and stress, the next all you hear is rushing water, wind and birds and you’re gliding across a liquid blue expanse, feeling it rise and fall below you. There is nothing like the power of the ocean, yet you can ride it, be one with it. Surfing spirituality is that godly feeling.

For some this takes on a more religious meaning, whether it fits in with their Christian tradition or if they take a more Zen approach. Some choose not to force surfing spirituality into pre-defined religious molds. In a way they take it for what it is, but can’t help but somehow see the hand of God at work in the waves.

Surfer and writer Jock Serong comes clean in the Guardian:

I’m no philosopher, and it’s likely that sticking my head over the parapet is going to result in a Kant-obsessed mob slapping me in virtual stocks and pelting me with existential tomatoes. But I choose to believe that the consciousness Foster Wallace was pressing upon us, the vital importance of avoiding a default setting of dumb materialism, is to be found in the ocean. In my case it’s surfing, but cut me some slack. I’m at the outer edges of my argumentative range here. If yours is floaties and a kickboard, that’s just fine. Immersion, OK?

Personally, I think throwing God into the mix is just a way to express the awe and wonder, supercharged on endorphins, that you feel while surfing. I imagine surfing spirituality is a bit like skydiving spirituality or the feeling some musicians get when they strike the perfect chord and everyone in the band just “gels”.

From an interview with Buddhist surfer Jaimal Yogis in Spirituality & Health magazine:

Ninety-eight percent of a surf session is sitting, waiting for a wave, bobbing, looking at the horizon. The waiting is a good time to stop, check in, and appreciate the surroundings. Because ocean life is so different from our land lives, you can’t help but be a bit mesmerized by the beauty of it. It puts you in a beginner’s mind. Doing that every day, just bobbing — even if you don’t get a wave, just appreciating that you get to be part of this world — is amazing. It’s time to be quiet, to be with yourself.

I might be an atheist, but I can totally dig that.

surfing spirituality

Pic: rvacapinta (Flickr CC)

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