How come the art of riding waves is so addictive? Is it the speed of shooting down a 6-foot beautiful face? Or is it the search, the adventure, the journey to find that perfect wave that you and your closest friends have been searching for?
Maybe, it is the constant drive and push to become better at something virtually impossible to perfect. Everyone has their very own reason on why they love riding waves. Mine is because it is an art form, an open canvas that can be sliced and diced any way you please. No wave can be ridden the same. Therefore, everyone is completely different in their movements, making the sport one hundred percent individual. Surfing is most likely the most addictive sport on planet earth right now.
Is this addiction to wave riding healthy to the body? Is the wave riding addiction beneficial to human social interaction?
People who have never had a great experience on a piece of foam wrapped in fiberglass riding atop of moving water will never understand how this action encloses people’s lives and make it a permanent lifestyle built into their brains the very millisecond they first walked on water. The answer is so simple, yet so powerful. Freedom. I have mentioned this is previous blogs, but the fact that nobody can tell you what to do on a wave is the addicting part. And the fact that that beautiful section that you see before you, YOU have the decision whether to smash it to pieces, try and tuck under it, or simply admire the beauty and power of the ocean.
This would be in comparison to someone playing for a soccer team and instead of shooting the game winning goal, he stops and listens to the fans screaming, the stadium lights, and how pretty the ball is glistening in the stadium. It’s not really a good comparison at all, because in soccer you are playing and addicted to the responsibility of making sure your team wins. In surfing your responsibility is to be free, the very basis on which the (almost) greatest country was born. As our forefathers were willing to die for their rights to be free our surfing generation is willing to sacrifice most everything before their life and stand by the freedom of surfing.
Surfing is perfectly healthy for your body, even though myself and plenty other get injured so often in trying to go the biggest your body can go physically speaking. But it is not so much the surfing itself that makes surfing so healthy. It is the culture surrounding it. The healthy eating factor, so you can feel good in the next surf session. The training, so you can make it out of that turn you have been trying for weeks, and you just can’t seem to get your core strong enough to do so. And spending hours upon hours in the water doesn’t do your body any harm at all, besides UV rays of course. The beauty is everyone is different! Some people take training and eating serious for surfing, but you don’t have to. You can be on a solid diet of Pringles, and protein shakes, and surf well too. You may not feel well, but you may be able to shred.
Probably one of the most controversial topics in my book is how surfing is beneficial to some who are absolutely immersed in the sport, but have girlfriends who doesn’t surf, and friends who also don’t surf, but share the same stoke you do. This is where surfing addicts can become dangerously like drug addicts. Surfing is a high. I heard once that one of surfing’s “links to happiness” has a lot to do with the sea spray, and the ions released from the water after a wave crashes on the shore. An ion is an atom or a molecule that has an imbalance of charge, with either too many electrons (negative charge) or protons (positive charge). Too many protons and the ion become positively charged. And with too many electrons, you get a negative ion. Sunlight, radiation or moving air or water can all change the electric charge of an atom or molecule and this is exactly what happens when waves break. This disruption of ions gives us surfers a little boost of vitamins, a gift from the ocean straight into our lungs.
So how true this is? I don’t know, but it is damn cool to think about if it were to be true. This “high” that we get breaks families apart because fathers would rather be surfing than go to their daughter’s dance recital. I know that most have their priorities straight, but to the very few who don’t, it is a true addiction they suffer from, that is difficult to understand.
In another study, I cannot remember the exact quote, it stated that when surfing that our brains are so overwhelmed, a surplus of dopamine is released. Dopamine is a very addictive “feel good” chemical in our brain. It is the same thing released when someone does drugs such as weed or cocaine, just the amounts of the dopamine is different depending on activities. I personally know a man who was able to get off alcohol and cigarettes, by going to the ocean every time he had an urge to do a vice. Slowly after a couple months of this, he became addicted to surfing instead of things that can really harm his body and social life.
It is very clear that any bad qualities of surfing are obviously outweighed by any good qualities. Everything that has come from my addiction to surfing has been good. I’m gaining new friends in the process, friends that will most likely last a lifetime. And becoming healthier, giving myself physical and mental goals to be better in the sport through diet, and physical training. I am not near old enough for surfing to affect relationships and families in a negative way. My priorities will always be my family.
This boils down to one question… Is your surfing addiction admirable and serviceable, or inadequate and inimical?
November 15th, 2017
Written by Nathanial Mauldin (Find him on INSTAGRAM)
Edited by David Pritzker
Photography by Kan Quong