Maritime Meditations: Let Go and Get in The Flow

"Meditation is a kind of medicine; its use is only for the time being. Once you have learned the quality, then you need not do any particular meditation, then the meditation has to spread all over your life." -OSHO

“Meditation is a kind of medicine; its use is only for the time being. Once you have learned the quality, then you need not do any particular meditation, then the meditation has to spread all over your life.” -OSHO

“First try to understand what a wave is, and then you can feel how this consciousness of waves can help you to enter into meditation.” -OSHO

Osho was a peculiar character, as I’ve come to understand, and although I never personally met the eccentric, far out, and possibly certifiable guru, I do find many of his teachings quite interesting and thought provoking. When Osho passed in 1990, it wasn’t before he left behind a bizarre legacy that is a story not unlike the kooky and frightening tales of many “cult” leaders that came before and after him. Yet unlike many of the leaders who went down in flames or had their followers drinking the proverbial Kool Aid, Osho is a supreme paradox of sorts that I feel offered many profound and unique propositions to the human race.

I first became interested in his teachings when he was referenced as the most dangerous man since Jesus Christ and the “Sex Guru” of India.  Those two titles alone had me quickly intrigued. His statements were unlike anything I had read from other so-called gurus or spiritual teachers. Osho was a crazy wisdom master whose wacky and wizardly words challenged my deepest-held beliefs and fears. Every time I read his books, I entered into a state of mental and egotistical deconstruction, as many of my ideologies were washed away like castles made of sand that were annihilated by fierce shore break.

One of Osho’s beliefs or teachings that resonated with me was that meditation is not simply a practice, but a state of awareness to be maintained in every moment. He felt true meditation was a total awareness that awakened the individual from the sleep of mechanical responses conditioned by beliefs and expectations. So meditation according to Osho is the deepest attention to every moment without expectation or pretense, coupled with a flair for spontaneous action. I feel he is pointing to the following of one’s heart or adhering to what comes natural to the individual, not what is expected by the masses who are shackled to the status quo. This idea of meditation even further holds water in a variety of ways when it comes to surfing.

There are many surfers that act with such precision and skill that their approach could almost be defined as mechanical. They are great surfers, some may be amongst the best in the world, yet their penchant for perfection may take away from the lack of expectation and pretense in their surfing. Spontaneous and uninhibited may not be adjectives that come to mind when thinking of these surfers, although they are without a doubt highly skilled at the art of surfing. I do imagine surfers that ride waves with such exactitude and meticulous movement certainly enter into what would be described as a meditative state: totally focused on and in the moment at hand; albeit the free form flow that Osho seems to elude to in his description of meditation.

Also existing are surfers possessing the precision and methodical approach of the surfer I spoke of in the above paragraph, yet they couple it with an inclination toward uninhibited expression in their wave riding. This style leads to moments of pure and untouchable brilliance, impetuous maneuvers done under the most critical situations that simply blow people’s minds. These highly talented yet equally flamboyant and unhindered surfers are the best of the best. Again, I’m sure these surfers enter into a meditative or flow state so deep that they can surrender their need for perfection to the chance outcome of performing exceptional and unorthodox feats. This level of meditation seems to be more in line with Osho’s description of having a supreme level of attention to the moment, while remaining open to all possibilities with a more natural and less mechanical response to situations that arise.

I don’t think the meditative aspect of surfing is only bestowed upon the masters of the craft. Simply sitting in the lineup on a board without even catching a wave can bring one into such a state of being. As one fully relishes all that surrounds them: the movement of the ocean, the wind, the clouds overhead, the school of dolphins breaking the surface as they cruise by swiftly; it’s the attention to that very moment and the myriad of astonishing things encircling them that is the beauty of the surfing practice. The seemingly ordinary act of sitting on a surfboard is a meditative act in and of itself. Doubt me? Next time you’re sitting waiting for waves, pay wholehearted attention to what simply is, I believe the results may be profound.

Personally I find my own surfing walking the edge between practiced routine technique and free form extemporaneous expression, with a dash of totally “blowing it” or impromptu kookiness. I notice when I’m thinking too much about surfing, instead of simply surfing, there is much more of a chance for folly and an overall less than spectacular performance. This also tends to be coupled with frustration and a negative mindset. “Stinking thinking” as they say, the destroyer of many a session.

I have noticed over the years my best surfing has taken place when I connect with the ocean, locking in with the natural rhythm and patterns around me. When I’m able to get my head out of the way, it seems as if waves simply come to me, my surfing becomes more intuitive and less of a forced routine. These states normally last about two hours, although I have had shorter and much longer windows. When fatigue sets in, my focus shifts from my connection to the rhythmic essence of the ocean, and onto what part of my body is no longer able to function properly. Also if I lose my mental equilibrium, that can be more devastating to my surfing than physical fatigue. In either case, I lose my state of meditation, and it’s hard for me to reestablish it.

I have not yet been able to master the ability of being in a constant state of meditation in the ocean nor on land. Yet I feel I have had moments or extended periods of time where I have been in that space in which I have fully awakened to the moment, flowing freely, while expectation and pretension have fallen away. These moments are beautiful and the lessons profound. Besides the fact that surfing is so much fun that it brings me back to the simplest moments of my childhood, the deeper aspects of wave riding I feel are what have kept me dedicated through thick and thin for 30 years. Surfing is a journey that I feel very fortunate to have been able to travel. I hope I’m blessed enough to have more years ahead of me on the path than behind me.

No matter where you are at with your own surfing journey, there is always more to be learned or unlearned. Get deep and keep surfing.

Photos: Christor Lukasiewicz

Surfer: Shawn Zappo



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Growing up in New Jersey, Shawn discovered and quickly immersed himself in the sub-culture of surfing and skateboarding in the mid 80’s. With a diverse and eclectic background, Shawn has walked the path of a competitive surfer, Hare Krsna monk, action sports industry player in NYC, DIY theology and religions major, and a touring punk rock musician. Now a father and self-proclaimed seeker of the “soul” of surfing, Shawn enjoys sessions with friends at uncrowded peaks along his home state’s shoreline and writing about his surf related experiences.

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