Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back: Out of Town, Hurricanes, Paddling, and Fish Mode

Everyone has pretty much guessed that I'm back, as I've been teaching non-stop lessons ever since I arrived on New York soil. About to head out to another as I write this. Just a little update to say that I'll be out of town next weekend, August 25th-26th. My birthday is the 23rd and school begins on the 28th, so gotta get one last out of towner in. I'm around for Labor Day. It's starting to book up. I'll do my best to keep everyone in the loop. Hurricane season is upon us, but we haven't seen anything real yet. It's currently just real small and real clean. Perfect for beginning and staying in paddling shape. When the real waves arise I advise all my students to go down to the beach and just sit and watch great waves.  Try and read the line up. See who's getting what, who's surfing best to your eye, etc. Watch for patterns in the ways the waves come in. Count in between sets. Prepare yourself visually. Do not paddle out. Many of us have sat and watched days that were over our heads at the time. For those that are still green it's best to keep going paddling on the small days: making sure your legs are together, your lower back is arched, and that you are making clean and even strokes. And I repeat: always keep your legs together! Surfing is all about paddling. A lot of people have skateboarded and snowboarded before taking lessons with me and these people always ask, "Does it translate?" My answer: only partly. In the beginning, not so much, because surfing is the only board sport where you start laying down and in which you much pull yourself into a moving circle of energy and then stand up upon it on the board on which you are laying. Sounds easy. It isn't. Learning to paddle efficiently is the first stepping stone of becoming a graceful surfer. Some might even argue that you have no business going for waves until paddling becomes a thing of effortlessness—when being on the board and with board become a second nature. I usually refer to it as "fish mode". No particular reason except that I get this feeling when I have been away from the water too long that my gills are dried up or something and then when I jump in—no matter how long it's been (1 day; 3 mo.)—everything just clicks and I am in my element. I named that feeling "fish mode" or "ocean mode" about 6 years ago. It's a phenomenological shift in attunement—a different, and valid, way of comporting oneself in the world. I hope for all of my students to one day find this. This is essentially what I mean when I say I teach "new ways of seeing". All of the articulation to this is of course still under development and I am using this blog to explore it and because I feel that it necessary to share this info with my readers, some of whom are past students, some of whom are future students, and others who are lifelong surfers who deeply care about surfing. The mystery of the radical indefinability of surfing is what keeps a lot of us healthily at it and which also makes a lot of us frustrated at some of its oddly ugly manifestations: crowds, aggressive locals, poorly structured competition and sponsorship systems, corporate greed, bad styles, entitlement, the list goes on. The cool thing is, however, that at the base of this activity is a supreme joy and in the end it is really that joy that brings us back to surfing over and over again. Part of the joy is that it is precisely an activity. And the beauty of this activity is that you are simultaneously passive when it comes to the whims of the sea. Surfing has the capacity, the potential, to blur all of those distinctions we like to make and see. More later.

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