The Endless Blue
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The Endless Blue

The Art of Surfing with the Flow

Photo by J.S. Lender © 2021

STUDYING THE ANCIENT Chinese philosophy of Tao can be frustrating at times. Tao is there, but then it’s not. It provides guidance, but then it doesn’t. Some of the core tenets of Tao involve forgoing desires, breaking attachments to physical things, and avoiding the urge to try to change the natural course of the universe.

I woke up early on Saturday morning and paddled out at San Onofre. It was my first time surfing in six weeks. The last time I had surfed was on a Thursday morning in September, and it was one of my greatest surfing days ever. Excellent conditions and just a few people in the water. I caught so many waves that morning that even my legs got tired.

But on Saturday, things would just not go my way. Southern California is still recovering from a nasty offshore oil spill in early October, and a noticeable layer of black oil still coats the sand along the shoreline. There must have been 200 people in the water by the time I arrived at 7:30 AM. The skies were gray and cloudy, and a clumsy wind was shoving the waves in every direction possible. Despite my best efforts, I did not catch a single wave all morning. It seemed as if the waves were physically running away from me.

I was frustrated at first. All that paddling and duck diving and getting slapped in the head by passing waves took all the fight out of me. But then I realized that my heart was racing and my lungs were burning and my shoulders and biceps were aching, and my body was finally getting the intense workout that it had needed all month. I was seriously out of shape, man! So, I sat up on my board and placed my hands on my thighs and took a well needed rest. I watched some of the other locals catch righteous waves and cruise on by. The water was still warm and pelicans were gliding by in V formation about 6 inches above the water, and the gray clouds floating off in the horizon made me stop and enjoy the moment. It was nice out there.

I stopped fighting the current, and let it drag me south to an adjacent peak where the waves were bigger. I said bigger, not better. The waves were still oh so choppy and were being sliced up by the increasing wind. By then, my arms felt like they had been sculpted from a couple of clumps of silly putty. It was time to call it a day.

I got out of the water and peeled off my wetsuit while standing on the cold, wet sand. After changing into a dry pair of shorts and my trusty hooded poncho (I bought it in Mexico in 1987 and it still fits), I stood there with my feet buried in the sand and my hands resting cozily within the soft, front pocket of my poncho. I didn’t catch a single wave all morning, and that was just fine.

A massive storm is rolling into California this weekend, and it will be pouring rain all day on Monday. The rain runoff will make the ocean too dirty to surf for three days. On Friday morning, I’ll be back out at San Onofre at 6 AM sharp. The night sky will be black and hopefully there will be a full moon to light the way so I can see where I am going before the mighty sun rises over the sandy bluffs to start the new day.

J.S. Lender’s new book White Sail, Blue Seas is on sale now! Copyright © J.S. Lender / Reef Point Press 2021

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