I have a secret ambition to be a beach bum – a Sea Doo rental shack with a hammock in back. Living with the rhythm of the waves and the sun and the seasons.
It’s completely unrealistic. I love the beach, but that would never be enough for me. I’d get restless and antsy for something new all too quickly, for something that mattered.
But there’s still something there that draws me. It’s the reason I have a collection of surfing movies – mostly documentaries. The waves and the sun and the laid back thing are all part of the appeal, but it’s more than that.
There’s something that connects with me about the predictable unpredictability of life.
We plan. We read the tides, the rhythms of the waves, the seasons, and our own capabilities. But in the end, we have to dive in and just ride the wave we catch, and this – now – is the only moment we have to catch it.
We’ll never control the wave, but we can learn the art of dancing with it. Learn to feel the water and how to meet it. Sometimes we will wipe out, overwhelmed by something impossible to plan for.
But sometimes…sometimes we get it just right, and the curl of the wave comes at just the right place, and it propels us to greatness, to something beyond what we could ever do on our own.
There are tides to learn, and seasons, and reefs just below the surface to beware of. But the ocean will always be the ocean, and it will always surprise us.
I’ve never actually been surfing. I’ve never had the chance, and odds are I’d be terrible at it. But there’s a reason I love those documentaries, that dream.
Planning is important – you’re not going to get far if you show up without a board or with a sprained ankle. You need to know the beach and what’s below the surface and how the waves brake. And never surf alone, without someone to know if something goes wrong.
But at some point you’ve got to stop planning and just ride the wave.
Life, as consistent and unpredictable as the ocean, will never fail to surprise. And all the planning in the world won’t teach you how to improvise with the waves.
I planned for a long time. I planned for waves that never came and for wipeouts I couldn’t control. And I learned something from all that planning and observing.
But that’s nothing compared to what I’ve learned since I dove in and started trying to catch some waves.