My friend Dave, AKA party boy, is one of the most dedicated surfers I know.  He asked me why I did not write “surfing” down as one of my hobbies in a short autobiographical statement.  Thought about it and came up with this poem essay.  Okay here we go!

Surfing is not a hobby
A hobby is something you do on the side
You have work, career, vocation
Then you have a hobby
A hobby to pass the time
Make new friends
Learn something new
In a hobby you can become an amateur, an expert
Rock collecting, video gaming, gardening, woodworking
Hobbies are fun when you are young and forming an identity
Hobbies are a pleasure when you are old and retired
Surfing is not a hobby
Surfing is the main frame, not the sideline

Surfing is not a sport
Well, it is for some people
Heard it will be in the Olympics one day soon
Surfers participate in contests on a circuit
Collect prize money and trophies
Kisses and bouquets from bikini ladies
Judges and scores, penalties and infractions
Whistles and time limits
Money on the line
To bring in the fans the followers the viewers
Championship finals with
Consistent standards and perfect waves to match opponents
One against another
Winners and loooooooosers
A sport like golf or tennis or cycling or gymnastics
The sport of surfing
I don’t know the sport of surfing
Its players
Its drama and rivalries
Its excitement
Sorry I am out of it
Like somebody who has not heard of the Superbowl
Or somebody who doesn’t know what MLB stands for
Its like you start a conversation about Wayne Gretzky or Martina Navratilova and I am like who?
Sorry I don’t follow the sport of surfing
But I honor
Maui of Polynesia
Tafa’i of Tahiti
Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku from Hawaii
And our Lady of Black’s Beach

Surfing is not a lifestyle
I don’t even know what this means
It is something sold in magazines and advertisements?
Is it the hair and clothes?
Blond and baggy
Casual and comfortable and beyond cool?
Or is it the transport?
What happened to the wood panel doors and VW vans?
Is it now the Jeep and the Subaru?
Is the lifestyle the gnarly all out parties?
The look of care free surf all day
Surfing rules
Surfing is more important than anything else
What is the surfing lifestyle?!
Somebody who knows please explain it to me
Surfers I know have a diversity of lifestyles
Off the top of my head there’s
Hare Krishna surfer
Mad shitter surfer
Venture capitalist surfer
Pyramid dweller surfer
Pharmacist dealer surfer
Sailor surfer
Navy seals surfer
Cable car driver surfer
And that is just the men
Then there is
Black surfer
Guitarist surfer
Brain surgeon surfer
Activist Latina surfer
Got surfers tumbling out of pickup trucks
They got so many lifestyles
In and of itself
Surfing is not a lifestyle

Surfing is not religion
Some say that nature is holy ground
The temple of trees
The mosques of mountain peaks
The church of winding rivers
The synagogue of serpentine wildflowers
The shrine of the alkaline lake
The cathedral of desert sands
The pagoda of lava tubes
The monastery of the sea
This may be true
But most religions have creeds and beliefs
Rituals and codes of behavior
Creation stories and fancy costumes
Crusades and martyrs
Holy wars and peace bringers
Surfing does not have these elements
Surfing don’t care if you are evil and cruel
Surfing don’t care if you are a repentant killer
Surfing don’t care if you are full of compassion
Surfing don’t care if you do good deeds for the needy
Surfing is not religion
Nope, surfing is not like going to church
For sure it is not like a day of chanting at the temple
Sorry no go

Surfing is basically an unproductive activity
That is to say, there are few material gains at the end of a session
You go to work, you bring home some cash and bacon
You go to the workshop, you emerge with a turned bowl or a welded frame
You go fishing, you come home with a catfish and crabs
You go hunting, you come home with a few legs and antlers
You go to war, you come back with medals, and free college tuition
You go surfing, you come back with nothing
You come back with a wet suit, a wet pair of booties, a drippy nose
Nobody saw you go
Nobody saw you come back, they are all still sleeping
Totally unproductive, but not a waste of time…
Surfing is…
I love surfing
Surfing is great
Surfing brings great smiles
Surfing is like sunshine

Surfing is a paddle out
Through territory that is turbulent and chaotic
The ocean she is a good boxer
Don’t know how much power
A wave hits you with
Even the little ones hit you
Hard enough
The big ones square on your head
The big ones rumbled shut
The big ones whitewater thundering skyward with a bounce
Hard enough
You got to face them straight on
Not to the side
Not half assed
Not thinking of anything else
Straight on and push through
No matter how many come at you
Be persistent, be consistent
Push on through
Go under the wave
Go over the wave
Go through the wedge face of the wave tugging and pulling
Push on through
She is strong
She falls over with the circular motion of a three thousand mile long storm
She hauls with her a spinning density of about a thousand kilos per cubic meter
Push on through
Once in a while you never make it out to the outside where the waves are breaking
The shore pound was too heavy
Spacing interval between waves was too close
One after another after another
Two three big set waves land right on top of you
The curl the sucking action the big slam all right on top of you
You are all jarred stars are circling
Mind disoriented breathing is difficult gasp for air in the foam
Then you turn around and retreat to the beach
Try again paddle out at another section
Try again paddle out at a gurgling rip
And if nothing, go home that’s it for the day
Surfing is a paddle out
If you are lucky and she is kind
And you push on through
Then you are outside hahahahaha
Outside where the lines are stacking up
Peaceful and still
Bottle nosers are cruising in twos and threes with babies
Dorsal fins torn and etched with lines
The ocean heaves and sighs
Up and down
Up and down

Surfing is timing the wave
Some spots the surf zone is rock steady
A reefy point that breaks at the same place with precision and accuracy
Beach breaks where I surf at are shifty
The peaks are here then there here then over there
So hunt them down
They are not coming to you
Spot and stalk on the lookout
If you hang out around the raised bumps on the inside closer to shore
You might get hammered when the monster set waves march in
Be alert, watch the indicators, watch for dark lines
Scan where the straight line of the sea meets the edge of the sky
Be ready to go go go go go go
You have one flash one opening one cloudburst of rain gap
To get into position
One moment to go
Hesitate – its over
If you are not committed – missed it
If you don’t give it your all – the ride leaves without you
Surfing is timing the wave
Line up properly on the cusp
Not too inside, not too outside
Don’t aim for the wave that closes all at once
No peel just a heavy metal steel warehouse door banging shut
If you judged wrong the depths will stare up at you
The darkened rim, the watery bowels
Too late to pull back
Over the falls you go
A pebble in the sea
A grain of sand on the shore
Turning and tumbling smooth and round
Maytag frigidaire whirlpool
Game over
Go back to paddle out
Surfing is timing the wave

Surfing is the ride
You are standing amidst a liquid light tube shining
Center stage of iridescent blue green beams
Shimmering reflecting rainbow solar rays
The mother the sea she is the audience
She is clapping and laughing hurrah hurrah hurrah
Surfing is the ride
Surfing is being swept up in a moving energy vortex
Water is coming up and around
Water is hurdling down whipping in a curve
You are holding tight onto a magnetic spot of flow
Staying where the attraction is strong
All relaxed and happy
With no great effort
Surfing is the ride
Surfing is at the crux of two worlds
Balancing in a sluggish churning medium
In dynamic changing motion
Surfing is the meeting of gas and liquid
States of matter
Thick bars turning to sliding sluices to fat drips to crystalline spray to
Air wisping in eddies through
A juicy circle a moist tube a fluid ring
Bending and sloping into a spitting ellipse
Surfing is the ride
It is a feeling of contentment
A feeling that the world is perfect
An emotion that is filled to the high tide line
With infinity and awe
Surfing is the ride
This feeling this state this presence of mind
Carries over
Drips and sprays
Slams and gushes and explodes
Pumps sloshes and pounds
Into all other realms
Of day to day life
Surfing is the right sized wrench with good positive fit
Turning and turning in circles in barrels
Surfing is the razor sharp shiny metal bevel of a broad head arrow
Little bits of shaved metal from the file misting out the back of a wave
Surfing is the set of three pyrometric cones bent over in the the white heat of the kiln
One outside incoming, one middles about to break, and one bent to left on the inside
Surfing is a fern frond curling into the sun
Spiraling in a round drizzle atop your head
Surfing is the family gathered all around in harmony
Old folks and young’uns, cousins and siblings
All are present
Whales, stripers, halibuts, terns, cormorants, grebes, otters, seals, porpoises
Everybody is different
Everybody is here, cheerfully doing their own thing
Surfing is a ride
Life is a ride
Life is a short ride

Surfing is the moments and hours after you exit the water
Nobody knows where you have been
Nobody even cares
But you know
And you are glowin glowing
Like you got caught in a nuclear radiation meltdown
You are filled with the stoke the fuel the fire the water
The joy
Of this earth of this blue planet spinning on its axis
There it is
Surfing is life
Life is surfing
You are the car that slips through the yellow light
You are the last bite of bibimbap Korean barbecue beef at the bottom of the bowl
The seeds you planted two weeks ago germinated and are showing their first leaves
Its three in the morning and the mockingbird is still singing in the moonlight
A little kid gives you a big hug
Your wife asks, even though she already knows the answer:
“Where have you been!?!?!?!”
At Sloat
“How was it?”
About 2-3
“Any dolphins? Barrels?”
There were three dolphins out, but no barrels, kinda sloppy
“That’s it?”
Thats it…
She knows where you’ve been
You have been
In the embrace of a fertile mother
Caressed by a saline companion
In a brawl with a liquid beast
Getting pummeled by hydraulic hammers
In a glistening tunnel of salty wet love
Catching the splendid light dancing across the rolling canal
In silver sheets, in pulled threads, in flashing mirrors
Surfing is life
Life is surfing
Surfing is the moments and hours
In between visits to the sea


Big thank you to the BMC Book Club for writing and literary help!