The Surfing Homeboy: Using Zen Logic to Justify My Lack of Surf Travel

I live in paradise. Great weather; birds of paradise—both of the flora and fauna varieties; Eucalyptus trees with a sweet scent that evokes a subconscious memory from childhood; palm trees, though not indigenous to my hometown, they nonetheless make me feel like I’m living in another dimension; psychedelic bougainvillea; sea cliffs over 150-feet tall with sprinkling waterfalls (though they inspire awe, the waterfalls are unfortunately in part a result of topsoil runoff; not a good thing for the environment) and a spectrum of mystical colors—emerald green and faded crimson stand out most.

My true love of my hometown is my local break. For me spiritually, it’s a religious burrito; it’s my church, synagogue, mosque and dojo all wrapped up.

I also love the burritos (the kind you actually eat) at the local cafes and Mexican dives, as well as the variety of yoga studios, and of course my friends among many other reasons.

My local break doesn’t break from top to bottom and it rarely produces quality tubes. A long tube ride here is a pipe dream. I wear booties, gloves and a 4/3 mm wetsuit and sometimes even a hoodie in the winter. In the spring and most of the summer here, there are often lengthy periods of flat surf.

So why do I love it here so much? Why haven’t I, so far in my speck of time I’ve existed on this planet, taken any surf safaris? I know that I would become a much better surfer if I experienced different types of breaks and conditions. Surf travel makes you a more well-rounded person and surfer. So why am I a Surfing Homeboy?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess you could say. I enjoy surfing here so much, I’ve been stoked here dozens and dozens of times. I’ve probably surfed these breaks in my backyard way more than 1,000 sessions; probably closer to 2,000.

My stoke begins before I even get in the water. I love the walk to my break, walking past the local meditation gardens, which includes the section where it smells like sweet sage and winds and descends, passing overhanging plants that look like a pitching 10-foot hollow tube. You really can imagine, although, of course, in very slow motion, that you are in the belly of the tube. You’ve rejoined mama back in the womb.

I have set my intention every time I’m in this faux-barrel, convincing myself that actively visualizing I’m in a real barrel will make this dream come true.

Ten minutes after I’m spit out of the plant tube, I walk down a semi-spiral consisting of 100 steps leading down to a beautiful point break.

Despising crowds and not having to be an alpha-male to catch waves, I walk around the point into my own world. I love walking around the point during the spring tides for a quick tidepool check before my surf.

But I probably like walking around the point better at high tide. I feel confident, thinking I know the placement of every rock and pebble and crevice. It’s an adventure just getting to the surf.

Looking up in awe at the millions-of-years old bluffs; and looking down in both awe and paranoia at the bluff collapses (will my apartment fall into the sea?), I am in heaven, in gratitude for this creation.

(It’s so much easier to feel peaceful here than in downtown Detroit. A true Zen master is one who feels totally at peace in downtown Detroit. Someone like this is Sri Chinmoy, the weightlifting, meditation master and multi instrumentalist and worldwide symbol of peace, who lives in residential Queens. I’d like to apologize to Chinmoy for laughing uncontrollably during his concert. Sri: You randomly played dissonant and completely unstructured music. It was completely immature and rude of me to laugh out loud; though in a way, I think my outburst was spiritual in its own way.)

Of course to most, surfing in Hawaii conjures images of paradise before surfing choppy Ocean City, Md. does. But one can be stoked anywhere.

So why do I need to go to far-off places if I am so happy with my surfing experiences here?

Is it bad that I’m a surfing homeboy?

It’s all in how I look at it. It’s about what attitude I bring to the table of life on a daily basis.

You can be a Zen monk meditating in the same cave for decades; or you can be a traveling prophet.

You can be a content bowling, beer-drinking, blue-collar factory-worker who’s lived his whole life in the same Midwest town; or you can be a driven, purpose-filled, jet-setting philanthropist.

As long as you have a good attitude, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing or where you are. If you feel stuck, it probably has more to do with being imbalanced mentally then not feeling spiritually satisfied.

Great Lake surfers are some of the most stoked surfers on the planet. They don’t have to go to Micronesia to feel blissed out surfing.

But I know that someday soon I will be surfing far-off exotic surf destinations, hopefully none too crowded.

I want to go surf remote breaks. If surfing is my lifeline as art is for many artists, I want to get better at my craft, even if I’m not getting paid for it.

Electricians apprentice, students intern and massage therapists practice on different people, all to improve their skills. And surfers travel, not only to improve their surfing skills but also to enrich their life experience.

But if one doesn’t broaden their life experience, that’s not a bad thing, right? Once again, it depends on how you look at it.

If one chooses to never travel and surf the same breaks year after year, so be it. No need to judge if good or bad; it’s all about the individual experience and how he/she looks at it. Pure enjoyment wherever you surf is the goal; no use wishing you were in Fiji instead of surfing a fickle Great Lake icy swell in Sheboygan.

Wherever you are, think of it as paradise. Paradise is subjective and comes in many different flavors. If you convince yourself hard enough you’re in paradise, you will eventually fell like it.

Can paradise really be catching a 40-degree four-foot wave, dodging ice floes with a backdrop of a belching smokestack?

Why not? Why does paradise only have to be 80-degree water and perfect barrels over crystal-clear corral? Well, I’ll admit that I do wish I surfed perfect barrels, but paradise is what you make of it.

There are those who move to Hawaii thinking that all their problems will be gone, but then they discover that wherever you go, there you are. You bring your baggage with you. Some people in Hawaii and Costa Rica surf a lot and score world-class waves, but with their negative attitudes and unwillingness or inability to live the Aloha spirit, they may as well be living in hell. At times, I’m sure these people are trapped within their own minds in a mental hell.

I surfed in 60-degree water yesterday with gloves and booties and I was in paradise, even though most of the waves I caught were closeouts.

Thankfully, it was sunny, so every duck dive was like a soda commercial: clear, cool and refreshing.

One advantage of being a surfing homeboy is that it keeps me from being jaded about the surf conditions. It keeps me from being a surf snob.

If I surfed weeks and weeks-worth of adrenaline-pumping action in Padang Padang, I’m sure that when I eventually would come back to my break, I may not be as motivated to surf three-foot mushy days.

But, ultimately if surf travel will elevate my surfing and take my abilities to a higher level, I’m all for it. Just a few more stoke-filled sessions here and then off I go …


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