Simple Pleasures: The Joy Of Riding Small Waves

Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures

All things of the universe are miracles, each as profound as any. – Walt Whitman

After a winter full of waves, barrels, and frigid cold, I always welcome the summer months with open arms. Yet as the seasons change, the overall conditions of the surfing experience follows suit. Oftentimes we’ll be greeted with early morning fog cover as the waters have not yet warmed and the air temperatures are considerably higher than that of the ocean. The crowds begin to thicken, as surfers who don’t brave the long and harsh winters make their way back into the line up. Flat spells can also be an agonizing part of the natural cycle of change, but with a little knowledge of how breaks differ and a desire to seek out the purity of the ride, small wave sessions are a perfect way to keep us satisfied until the next proper swell hits.

Personally, there’s something about the simplicity of small waves that I find quite miraculous. Truly anytime we are walking, breathing, hearing, seeing, and thinking; it’s a miracle of existence. So adding all those experiences of the senses, coupled with being in the ocean while riding waves, makes it all that more profound.

When surfing small waves, especially waves that may be particularly gutless and weak, less is more is my personal rule of thumb. I’m trying to maximize the wave, getting the most I can out of it, and in doing so I need to do very little more than paddle into the wave, bottom turn, and set my line. With much less taking place, the feeling of holding trim, and gliding across the face till the wave completely dissipates, is a beautiful thing.

During these sessions I find myself appreciating things that I normally may overlook, as I’m not overly focused on the next batch of set waves on the horizon as I would be on a more solid day of surf. On this particular day that these photos were taken, I remember just sitting as I watched the sun’s light dance upon the glassy waters like numerous flashing diamonds. After so many months of cold, I took the time to fully appreciate what a blessing it was to have the warmth and rays of the sun shinning upon my face. There was even a moment when I caught my reflection, and in looking at the reflection, I could see I’ve aged since starting surfing so many years ago. Now I know my aging is obvious, I’ve been surfing nearly three quarters of my life, but there was a moment of recognition and realization there. Recognition that I’m happy to still be surfing, recognition that I still have that child like spirit burning inside me, the fire that has been perpetually stoked by my dedication to the path of surfing. I also realized each day is a blessing, each session a gift, because although I still may feel like that young grommet inside, my body is aging, and one day this body will die.

Embracing the life we have, truly living it to the best of our ability, staying true to our joy and heart, these are some of the greatest personal responsibilities we have to ourselves. In simplicity, we often find the greatest revealings of truth.

Keep surfing, even when it’s knee high.

All Photos: Fiona Mullen 



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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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