I Surf, Because…
Because it is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I stood up on my very first wave at eight years old, but didn’t fall in love with the art until much later. I didn’t even live near the beach until I was eight years old. I was living up north in North Carolina, and Georgia because my father was a marine. So, I never really got the chance to start surfing at a young age, like most kids who get very good at surfing by the time they are my age. I didn’t have someone teaching me all the ins and outs of the sport. When I was 12, which was 4 years later, I remember riding to the beach with a friend, and deciding to give surfing another shot. I grabbed my board, paddled out, and caught a wave. I remember it clear as day; standing up on the wave, then falling ‘very slowly’ down the face of the wave, while looking left and right. I then realized, man I could go down the line! This would be the start of a passion, a competition, and an art form, all for myself.
Because I fell in love with the challenge of surfing. I absolutely loved that I couldn’t get up on my board right away, and go. It took me 3 months just to learn how to get up, turn, and get down the line! Man, I too am so very thankful for my father who would drive me down to 16th street in Cocoa beach every day after school. Just so I could try and try again to learn how to surf. And man, I would stay out in the water for hours on end! One time I caught the eye of an old surfer named Dana, Dana Brown. He lived in a van with his dad, and surfed well. He taught me how to pump down, stand up, and go down the line with style. I had a horrible style at the time, but Dana said I was ready to start competing. So, I signed myself up for a contest, and entered in a co-ed division for anyone 12 and under. I got 4th in the heat, losing to 3 girls. Nothing against girls, but the competitive nature got me more fired up than ever to surf! I was so mad at myself that I had lost, but didn’t give up. I kept surfing, and Dana would help me. But I stagnated. I was not getting better, there was no way I could do a proper turn for my life. So, what did I do? I entered another contest, and got 4th place again! I entered about 20 contests, at the least, before I started advancing past the first round. The best I’ve done so far is place 4th overall, but I am one hundred percent certain I will not stop until I feel I have succeeded, which may be winning a state, or winning a world. It’s the competitiveness between myself and everyone else that drives me to become better. Every wave I catch must be better than the last. And although I may not always be surfing in a heat, when I’m in the water, everyone else is still my competition, which includes myself.
Because the purity of the ocean, the rhythm, and the ‘raw’ power all entice me to come back for more. I have a small trick I do every time I go surfing, and it’s to drink a little bit of the ocean water right at the beginning of the session. I learned this from watching Dave Rastovich’s “I surf because’’ video while I was beginning to surf. The reasoning behind this is, your entire body is surrounded by this abyss, something humans know so little about, and is so much larger than your own thoughts. Something of which a human couldn’t possibly comprehend, the ocean in its entirety. So, if I have just a little bit of the water inside of me, then the rest on the outside my body I may be able to connect with, understand, and control the power of the ocean. More so than the next person who has no water inside of his or her body. The idea is a little farfetched, but I really dig it. Correspondingly, you can never completely master the ocean. Especially when you are thinking “it’s just water, it can’t hurt me”. Because in the next 30 minutes you will conveniently get thrown over the falls, and get pinned between the rocks, and your surfboard. With unrelenting swells pounding your head, not allowing you to move. This happened to me a couple years into my surfing, and it taught me how you truly are in the most powerful, and unforgiving place in the world. You must respect the Ocean, as you shall be humbled.
And because the best feeling in the world is riding that wave! It is the experience of flying, moving through water, in a graceful pattern. Able to move freely, and do whatever you please. The feeling is cruising down the line going top to bottom for what seems like ages, but is only a few seconds, gaining so much speed it seems like you’re flying. Or pushing as hard as you can, putting both your hands back, and ripping the punchy inside section to shreds. I can do whatever I want, and nobody can tell me where, when, or how to do it. That brings me back to the art of riding a wave over and over. That freedom is what is so addicting. I am very sure that riding a wave pool with the exact same repeat of a section, however many times you ride it, will become boring. Simply because you don’t have the same freedom that mother nature provides. I have loved surfing for as long as I have done it. And I will love surfing until the day I die. I love how difficult it is, the sense of being part of something much greater than myself, and the freedom of standing upon hundreds of tons of water. It is amazing that somehow there is always a better wave than the one you just caught. Also, wet suit tan lines! I love the sexy tan lines you get in the winter. Babes LOVE the neck tan line, for the record.
I surf because it is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life! Because the ocean is so much bigger than just myself, and I surf because I am completely free when as soon as my feet touch the ocean!
Written by Nathaniel Mauldin
Edited by David Pritzker
Photography by David Pritzker
Surfer Nathaniel Mauldin
Photos taken 4/29/17 in Satellite Beach, Florida