Surfing and wanderlust are one in the same. There’s a desire, a palpable impulse within one’s heart, a soulful fluttering within one’s gut, to experience abounding or ephemeral bliss. You want to escape. You want to experience an undying happiness. Even if a wave does crash, the euphoria it creates is timeless. Even if you surf in the same spot for the rest of your life, you’re always traveling. Surfers know how to take on the gift of life and fulfill nature’s worth. The simplest things, such as finding an undiscovered break or getting barreled, can produce the most unparalleled ecstasy. Surfers know pure joy. There’s a deep craving within us all to journey through life and drop everything we have, all to avoid stagnancy. No one wants to feel static. Yes, wanderlust may seem illogical for the workingman, but you can find motion. A surfboard is the simplest means of traveling outside one’s own life into a realm of ceaseless rapture.
Surfing does often lead to a literal wanderlust, though. Surfers are always in search of the perfect wave. It’s a way of life, a strong desire to travel and immerse oneself in the simplicity and abundance of nature. It’s spiritual, really. Surfing becomes a religion for many, a kind of transcendental connection to the sea. When I paddle into a wave, my body becomes one with the ocean. Time stops. The movement and energy of the wave unites with my fingers and palms as I drive myself forward. It’s a departure from reality into a feeling of complete mysticism, almost too difficult to describe. In 1972, surfer Peter Townend decided to enter the World Surfing Games instead of pursuing an architecture scholarship. In an interview with Surfline he said, “I went off to the school of life, the school of Samsonite, as I like to call it.” Surfers are wanderers, whether literally traveling or not, always searching for that indescribable desire to enjoy life.
Shaun Tomson, South African born, graced the surfing world with his eloquence and epic skills, solidifying his ranking as one of the best in the world in the 70’s. In 2013, he fused his passion for surfing and his comprehension of business in his book Surfer’s Code: 12 Simple Lessons for Riding Through Life. He is able to articulate that surfing truly is a way of life, a means of attaining happiness despite all the other shit that brings us down. He shares life lessons born from the minds of surfers. And, these are the lessons, triggered by the serenity and repose of the ocean, that teach us to slow down and revel in what we’re given.
And then there’s the punk ass side of surfing. The go-home, locals-only, don’t-get-in-my-way side; the translation from surfing water to surfing asphalt. The rise of the radical Z-Boys in Dogtown. This is where surfing deviates from its peaceful roots, the sport’s creation of nirvana, to its more territorial and competitive aspect, the creation of hell for those who weren’t locals. I just recently rewatched Dogtown and Z-Boys, and to be honest, I’ve never wanted to rebel more in my life. Jay Adams, Tony Alva, and of course Peggy Oki, the raddest chick around, ignited a flame within me to be a little dangerous, take life by the horns. These guys (and girls) were mavericks, surfing between gnarly wood pilings jutting from the water in Dogtown and essentially creating the mania of sidewalk surfing. The Z-Boys looked to Larry Bertlemann for inspiration in skateboarding, admiring his style and suave as he put his hand on the wave while surfing pipe. All these kids were badasses, but as Wentzle Ruml says in the film, “It was cool to be in the magazines and stuff but, you know, the bottom line was all we wanted to do was skate.” Although the Z-Boys had a rough and unruly exterior, they found the same euphoria in surfing and skateboarding as those of a peaceful wanderlust do. The way we fulfill our desires are always different, but it’s the desire that is always the same.