Why I Love Surfing
But I'm Not a Surfer
An Ode to my Brother
Credit: Photograph by Kyle MacLennan https://www.kylemacvisuals.com/
"There is something that happens to one who rides inside of waves." (Unknown)
Words by Ariel Maccarone
September 30, 2020
You'd do yourself a disservice to think that surfing is as simple as a wooden block moving over water. I may not be a surfer, but I know enough about surfing to see that it's a language. When you read them correctly, waves become like very old letters about places that no longer exist. Those sandbars and reefs; they're words. Those lulls between sets; they're commas. Can you read the paragraphs and paragraphs about how this land was formed? Do you see the stories of countless lives that have called this liquid landscape home?
For people like my brother, surfing is the tap that leads to a reservoir of something transcendent; something that feels almost ancient, like the redwoods. Surfing (if you're doing it right) is about humility. It's not about imposing yourself on the wave as though you were branding an animal. It's about studying where the water wants to move and following it.
Credit: Photographs by Kyle MacLennan https://www.kylemacvisuals.com/
Everyone has a different point of access to their higher power. For some people, it's music; for others, pen and paper. For my brother, it's surfing. It's evident in the way he surfs: unaggressive, but not passive; bold but not entitled. I see it in the way he studies the ocean from the parking lot before even suiting up; the way he'll surf even the smallest waves with the same stoke as when it's double-overhead. I see it in the patient way he introduces his son to this love. (How does the wave move when it's low tide? What does that say about the ocean floor? Why does the wave break differently because of that?)
The ocean is very democratic. It doesn't care about the number in your bank account or on your bathroom scale. It doesn't care whether you were just dumped or recently promoted. It cares about where you put your attention. Do you notice the outside set building, or are you still focusing on the person who snaked your last wave? How much of your attention is being taken up by the story you're telling yourself about who you are and how the world should work?
Humility. Quiet your inner voice. You will begin to see the commas and sentences that form a story still being written; a story that has dissolved into the wave you are now riding. Pay attention. "There's something to learn every time you go to the woods or to the water" (Roger Stringer, Snap Judgement podcast).
Dear brother, on your 34th birthday, these words are my way of honoring one of the core foundations of who you are. Your desire to understand the world on its own terms - to study it and adapt to it - continues to inspire me.
Shred the gnar, little brother!
Produced by Ariel Maccarone
Main videographer: Evgenia Kirpichnikova
Ariel Maccarone is a Los Angeles-based author, musician ("Black Mouth"), and artist. Her writing has been featured in Boston Poetry Magazine, Argentina-based art magazine Apapacho Gallery, Yay! L.A. Arts & Culture Magazine, FOTO MOFO Photography Magazine, and elsewhere. At Yay! L.A. and FOTO MOFO, Ariel also served as Assistant Editor. She has worked as a freelance social media consultant for clients such as Red Bull and PEN Center sponsored publishing house Unnamed Press as well.
When not writing, she can be found wandering the Santa Monica mountains with a Jack Russell Terrier that hasn't learned to "sit", "stay", or "come."