Thursday, May 21, 2009

More than a sport

A few days ago I was watching a documentary called Riding Giants. It is a fascinating look into the world of big wave surfers as seen by the director, Stacy Peralta (an old skater from the era of my youth). I never surfed as there is too much water involved in surfing and I never saw any way to get around that, but it was a powerful film to watch.

One thing that stood out, a strong impression among many, was the clear and profound influence that surfing had across the lives of the men who spoke on camera in the film. They did not just surf, they were surfers. At some point in their lives, they picked up a surfboard, waxed it up and paddled out to try this wave riding thing. I bet they fell off a lot, struggled to learn the basics, swallowed some sea water and got scared more than a few times. But something about the water, the oceans power, the challenge of reading the wave, moving across it, with it, not fighting it...something grabbed them down deep and never let them go and they never let go of it either. Surfing became more than a sport, a thing to do, it was a way to be.

I can only think of a few sports that transcend that way. Surfing. Skiing. Cycling. Running perhaps. Golf? Nah. Tennis? Hardly. Those are bound up little contrived physical activities. They have tight, neat, little contrived rules that are controlled by tight, neat, little controlling people. Stay within the lines. Keep score.

Surfing, skiing, mtn biking...they let us touch the earth in a unique way. The powder is deep, the day is bright, you draw the lines, you make the rules on the slope. The surf is up, breaking pretty big for early in the morning. The water allows you to come along for the ride. You are not in control of knows it and you know it. Wheels roll across the earth and leave their own lines; skinny lines on paved roads, dusty lines on gravel roads, faint lines on sandstone mesas where there are no roads.

As I was riding alongside KT the other night, I was thinking about all this, sifting through it. We were chatting, pedaling, just like we have done in some way or another for so many years that it seems like we never began to do it, it just always was, like we were born to it from the womb. The dirt road we were on offered us some boundaries, but we were free to draw our own lines within the lines.

Looking backwards and forwards at my life I see a line left by a knobby tire. It is clear and distinct at times and faint in others, but never disappears completely. It begins so far back that I cannot see it's origin and it rolls over the horizon to a place I have yet to go.

And, God willing, I am eager to get there.

KT, out drawing some lines of his own, Utah desert.

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