After two days at Jalama, KP and I journeyed up the coast to sail at Arroyo Laguna with our wind-priest Brian Caserio.
Rocks are scary in the waves. In fast moving water, a human body is helpless. Even the fastest swimmer is no match for a current. If you fight the sea, the sea will win. Full stop. There is a story from Maui of an Olympic swimmer who swam against a current in Hana; they found her dead body later that day.
The sea does not care or even notice if a crashing wave catches your head and crunches it on a barnacled rock. The man between waves and rocks is a common image of ultimate helplessness. Think of Ulysses who would have died– smashed against rocks– had the goddess Athena not saved her favorite Greek.
But we windsurfers don’t flee waves; we ride them. We try to harness the object of our fear and respect (I think of the desert people riding the monstrous Sand Worms in the classic Sci Fi novel Dune).
At Hookipa, the waves break near rocks, and the rocks become something to worry about if you wipeout. At other spots, the waves break on rocks, making the rocks always an issue. These waves need to be ridden too. The trick? Just not caring about the rocks.
In Pozo (Gran Canaria), the best section of the wave breaks on rocks. A few people ride the wave there. Alex Mussolini is particularly good at this. The other Pozo stars are OK too. Five or so years ago, I was watching Mussolini with John Skye on the beach, and John remarked “There’s not even water there!” Mussolini’s response when I asked him later that day for his trick to riding that tricky part of the wave: “Just don’t care”.
There’s a truth in that. Just don’t care and it works out. The result is ecstasy. I’ve taken this Just-Don’t-Care philosophy with me to every wave I’ve since sailed.
Sailing Castles three hours up the coast from Jalama on this particular swell, the waves crashed on, over, and through a bed of rocks. It was scary. The locals asked “You know there are rocks there?” or “How can you sail there with all the rocks?” Just don’t care.
The process: I push the thought of rocks, the thought of danger out of my mind, and I ride the wave as if it were breaking on cushions rather than rocks. After a few waves with no injuries, I begin to feel invincible. This comes with a surge of euphoria.
Many surfers, kayakers, climbers (especially climbers) talk about this euphoria that comes after successfully doing something scary. They relate it to enlightenment and something about being in the moment– a euphoria that comes from being one with nature.
Maybe that’s true. Maybe in pushing the rocks out of mind, they disappear and I reach a little enlightenment, but I worry this is not the case at all.
Rather this ecstasy is something akin to what a meth-head feels after taking a big hit. It’s a euphoric surge of adrenaline to the brain: happy chemicals following successful navigation of risk.
It’s often said that the most dangerous moment is when you’re acting scared. There is some truth to this. But also to the opposite. There is an incredible danger once fear disappears into euphoria. No matter how much I feel like it on the water, I’m not actually invincible. I just don’t care.