Solitary Sessions: Finding Quietude In A Turbulent World

Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.” -Jeanne Moreau

At an early age I was already somewhat aware of the drudgery so-called “modern” life could lend itself to and as a teenager I thought I wanted to fully retreat from contemporary society; living a life akin to a Hindu ascetic. Yet when I made the attempt numerous times to withdraw, it never worked for me, as it felt disingenuous and unnatural. I was pulled unwillingly in all directions by the objects that mesmerized my senses, and while sitting around chanting mantras or studying wasn’t totally boredom inducing for me, it was apparent I needed a little more action in my life. Soon enough it was inescapably obvious that my fantastical dreams of being a meditative and serene monk proved themselves to be nothing more than romanticized visions of juvenescence. Although much of what western civilization was offering up sickened me, there was a good amount of it that still seemed fairly appetizing. So left with the realization that I wasn’t as unattached to convention as I thought I was, I sought to find a balance between propriety and the unconventional.

As I began to forward deeper and deeper into adulthood with what felt like a never-ending barrage of to do lists, avalanching piles of bills to be paid, torturous mundane work monotony, and the general dramas of everyday life, I began to think maybe I had made the wrong choice. Unpretentiously stated, there’s a lot of shit to be done if we are to be responsible human beings in our culture. Many of these facts of life and responsibilities actually bring us immediate or indirect happiness when we tend to them, while a good amount of it simply remains a pain in the ass. Oftentimes it’s easy to overlook that which is good in our life and focus on the things we are displeased with. When I get stuck concentrating on the perceived negatives in my life, I’m not centered internally, and it can feel as if I’m being swiftly swept away by the current ripping across the ocean of life. When this uncentered state of being happens we may become anxious, disheartened, melancholy, and downright grumpy motherfuckers; or at least that’s been my personal experience.

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." -John Burroughs

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” -John Burroughs

I’ve been surfing the greater part of my life, nearly 30 years now. Before I had even become fully aware of the power entering the ocean to ride waves possessed, I knew surfing was a healthy and positive activity for me. Throughout the various periods and phases of my life the ostensibly simple act of catching waves has proven itself, if nothing more, stabilizing; while, over time, baring itself to be quite a profound pursuit. The art of surfing takes a great amount of balance, poise, and agility; qualities that are also of great benefit in dealing with the seeming commonality of ordinary life.

Although surfing provides the participant with space to experience a remarkable state of freedom and enjoyment, a session can also become an unexpected thorn in the side. Crowds, shitty waves, lackluster performance, shoulder hoppers, paddle battles, and just a general lack of gratitude for the fact that we are even blessed to have a chance to engage in the act can quickly poison the wonder of what we are doing in the ocean in the first place. I personally suffer from this during many sessions, getting bent out of shape about circumstances I have no control over. Reflecting on times when I get in that negative headspace out in the lineup, it always reveals itself to be very pointless and counterproductive to what I’m trying to do out there.

“There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves” -Frank Herbert

“There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves” -Frank Herbert

As I continue my journey with surfing, I find some of my best sessions are on the days when I can find some solitude. When the waves are pumping, it can be fairly difficult to find a spot to surf where there isn’t a frenzy of surfers chomping on the peak. That’s just the nature of surfing at this point and an accepted downside to the growing popularity of wave riding. Yet there comes those exceptional days where we find space. It may not be the best conditions, as normally I find these times to be had as a swell has passed and there are some clean leftovers. Yet when I walk up and see clean waist-high peelers without another soul in sight, I know I’ve struck some saltwater gold.

The modern civilized world can feel constraining, congested, and just downright overcrowded. So when we are lucky enough to find those times of peaceful seclusion, especially while surfing, we needs to pay special attention to how fortunate we are to capture such moments.

Search out your space, discover your solitude, and leave the turbulence of daily life behind.

“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion." -Albert Camus

“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” -Albert Camus

"It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts." -K.T. Jong

“It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.” -K.T. Jong

"By all means use sometimes to be alone. Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear." -George Herbert

“By all means use sometimes to be alone. Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear.” -George Herbert

"It is the marriage of the soul with nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination" - Henry David Thoreau

“It is the marriage of the soul with nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination” – Henry David Thoreau

"Work, love and play are the great balance wheels of man's being." -Orison Swett Marden

“Work, love and play are the great balance wheels of man’s being.” -Orison Swett Marden

All photos: christor.photoshelter.com

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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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