This I Believe

John Henry - Santa Monica, California
Entered on February 19, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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Magnificent Obsession

It is dark when I arrive at the beach. Pulling into the parking lot, I hear the deep voice of a foghorn. I emerge from the warmth of the car and am engulfed by the bitter cold of dawn. My wetsuit is on, still damp from yesterday. I gently lift my board and begin the long walk to the water. The sand feels like snow beneath my bare feet. I hear waves crashing in the distance, but see nothing through heavy fog. And then all at once it appears. The waves are good. I wade into the water, slide onto my board, begin to paddle. All cares and anxieties drift away with the current of the tide. It is just me and the ocean.

I believe in surfing.

The modern world is a scary place. There is always something to do, somewhere to be; life moves at an astounding pace. I am under constant pressure to do well in school, to succeed socially, to develop life skills that will serve me well in the future. I am also faced daily with distressing news of the world at large. My personal stressors seem inconsequential in the face of the world’s greater troubles, but together they take their toll. It is important to relieve, if not diminish, the tension that builds within.

Each individual has different ways of coping with his or her trials. Some turn to drugs or alcohol, others to yoga, or prayer. Still others, sadly, discharge their frustrations through violence. I find my balance on a surfboard. An extraordinary feeling of tranquility bathes me the second I set foot in the water. The sight of the endless horizon, the sound of crashing waves, the feeling of wet sand beneath my toes; these all blend together and wash over me, cleansing all worries and concerns. When I’m held by the water, time melts away. I am swallowed by the stillness of the sea. I connect with my true self and enjoy the incomparable feeling of harmony with the world.

I have discovered nothing in life that gives me the pleasure I derive from surfing. During some of the most anguished times of my teenage years, surfing has provided relief from drama and confusion, creating a haven of serenity where I can feel peace.

Some might argue that surfing is an unproductive “slacker” activity which contributes nothing of meaning to society. But in view of the chaos and conflict in today’s world, there is perhaps no greater responsibility for each of us than finding inner peace. Surfing enables me to do just this.

The sun begins to rise as I spot my first wave. I paddle hard as it lurches me forward from behind. I smoothly transition onto my feet, and then I am riding the wave. Qualms and uncertainties evaporate into the salty air, and nothing else in the moment matters. My soul is soothed. My prayer for this day has begun.