In this piece titled ‘In The Beginning’, Brett Shearer ponders the influence surfing has upon our lives. It’s his second entry into our Write to Surf competition, which has some great prizes up for grabs (see below for details).
IN THE BEGINNING – by: Brett Shearer
In the beginning it was all laughter and fun, an unparalleled energy and freedom of youth. Expressed with heart and soul by spending every spare minute in the ocean, till your heart beats with the same pulse that radiates from the deep beyond.
As time goes on, the experience evolves into something more internal and personal and ultimately paramount to ones very existence. Each morning dawns with one thought and one intention.
Tirelessly we paddled, rode and ripped our way through every day. Before school and after, until our eyes were red and our limbs numb. The ocean embraced us lovingly and taught us to be respectful, calm under pressure, and how to take a rough and yet non-violent beating. The feeling of excitement and anticipation bubbles over until your heart literally feels as light as a sunray. It is something I can still conjure up and feel the tickles of joy that have been ingrained in my salty veins. It’s something I will never lose, no matter the amount of months spent landlocked and out the water.
As individuals journey on the flow of the liquid path, there is unification and harmonising taking place. Undercurrents which sync and shape our lives and destinies just as the sea patiently and inexorably alters the configuration of the rocky South African coastline. When a surfer starts early enough, the ocean automatically becomes one of their most influential life instructors. Lessons learnt in this element are never forgotten and always recycled. The intensity and consistency of this variety of education all depends on how far you are willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Alternatively, there is always that someone who sets the bar for you to test your skill level. In heaving 10 to 12-foot Crayfish Factory. Exhilarating.
Surfing is amongst a select few unique forms classified as sports, which are able to represent the concept “freedom of expression”. The kind of expression that makes the receiver feel, well, free. Surfing is a multi-faceted and exponential articulation of both the words “freedom” and “expression.” Just the other day, I heard someone shout my name from across the way. It was a work colleague who had gone for her first surf over the weekend, and she eagerly described every moment spent on and off the board. It is always revitalising to witness the beaming stoke of a first-timer and to realise that it will never leave those who partake in the simple act of wave-riding.
Something that fascinates me is how a beginner can be just as satisfied and engaged as a seasoned charger, and together both can discuss their sessions with equal verve and understanding. The ocean draws like-minded individuals and we can all appreciate sitting between sets and observing our surroundings. Especially at spots like Dunes in Cape Town, Vic Bay up the Garden Route, or somewhere as remote as Reunion Island – it is quite simply, breathtakingly beautiful. As Albert Einstein put it “When the world ceases to be the scene of our personal hopes and wishes, where we face it as free beings, admiring, asking and observing, there we enter the realm of art and science.” And although Surfing is seen as a sport and has become a profession for a very talented and hard working minority, there are many who do it purely for the love and satisfaction and draw exquisite lines that resemble fine art.
In addition, style is merely an extension of personality. Although at times one might have to look hard for the relationship because a quiet, laid back person might surprise you by tearing hardest and taking-off deepest. Look at the range of equipment these days. Something for everyone! It’s always interesting to see what your friends or even total strangers are riding at any given moment. The board usually compliments the rider’s nuances and character.
Once in a while we take an unexpected or forced hiatus from the ocean. These are never easy, especially if you’ve grown up with surfing as a constant presence in your life. I for one, spent a year landlocked in Paraguay, South America and it was by far the most testing experience I have ever been through. Culture shock I can deal with, language barriers too are easily overcome, but without the release and cleansing that the sea provides things become rather tricky. I tried to bull my way through by playing regular football and worked my hands to blisters in the veggie garden, but there was and is no substitute.
There is tranquility and peace found while in the water that I personally believe has no rival. Being out of touch with Neptune is certainly not easy. But it sure is character building and eventually created a suction effect that became almost unbearable to the point where my girlfriend and I packed our bags, caught three (or was it four?) rattling, droning busses to a hidden waterfall deep in a crispy cool forest. Aaaah. I acknowledge absolutely that without surfing my life would have gone down an extremely different path. The friends, the trips, the parties, even down to the places I grew up were greatly influenced by the simple fact that I surfed. One of the toughest things to come to terms with is that at some point in your life, the reality of survival and financial stability rears its time consuming, energy demanding and capitalistic head.
I find myself firmly entrenched in this reality and doing all I can to maintain the balance. Looking back, my experiences (in equal parts) prepared me for this. Without having had the experience of being landlocked I would never have the patience and level headedness to get up at 6:00am, work all day and get home at 7:00pm. I wouldn’t take for granted being able to stroke into a reeling, spitting cavern and getting puffed-out by the mist that comes from the pressurised vortex that has travelled hundreds or even thousands of nautical miles. What I do know for certain, all conjecture aside, is that being immersed in the ocean makes me feel blessed to my bones, balances my creative mindset, and rejuvenates my biological rhythms.
The author, finding his rhythm in Namibia.
Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. One submission will be selected every six weeks to appear in Zigzag magazine. The selected submission will also receive a hamper from Billabong. Zigzag retains the right to use any work submitted for the Zag Surf Journo competition on zigzag.co.za as outlined in the rules and terms of the competition. Zigzag reserves the right not to award a published winner in the magazine every six weeks, depending on the quality of entries. Zigzag is not obligated to run any and all entries submitted, either online or in print. Zigzag retains the right to edit all work submitted for brevity and / or clarity.
For the next three issues the Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Boardies; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 1 x Set of Kinetic Racing (KR) fins. After which the hamper will get a shake-up with new product of equal value for the following three issues.