Surfing Like a Jedi: The Tao of Yoda Among the Waves

Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes.” -Yoda

One of my earliest childhood memories is that of seeing the original “Star Wars” at a local drive-in theater with my parents. There are very few files of remembrance that I can access from that era of my life, yet this is one that I can easily call to mind. Specifically, I recall the ending battle scene, the swooping and screeching sounds of X-wings and Tie-Fighters darting through George Lucas’ vision of outer space. I was only about four years old as I lay on my back in the backseat of my parent’s VW bug, mesmerized by the moving images before me. My eyes were fixated on the large screen that seemed to float on its own in the night sky.

As a child, I followed the Star Wars saga with an almost religious fervor. I was, at very least, a devout believer. As I grew, I felt much like Luke Skywalker, staring at the twin suns of his home planet of Tatooine. In my case, I was gazing out my suburban classroom window, daydreaming, as I fantasized of a life beyond the mundane, the typical, the ordinary. These feelings were totally unexplainable by me at the time, so I found solace in a realm that took me to a place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

But what do these confessions of my childhood nerdery have to with surfing?

Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Author Shawn Zappo. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

I began surfing for the same reasons most of us have, because it’s fun. I continue to surf to this day because riding waves is the purest form of having fun I have come to know. That said, there are also much deeper components to the surfing experience that are intrinsic to the act itself. These “deeper” components are what keep me coming back for more every year, helping to create an ever-strengthening relationship between the oceanic realm and myself.

I consider surfing a wonderful way to commune and align with our natural surroundings. I feel much of our suffering and illness in the west is due to our disconnect from that place from which we originated: nature. So, in my opinion, surfing has a great power to heal us of the dis-ease of modern civilization by getting out in the water and simply being. Through surfing, we also develop a sincere empathy towards the other beings we share the planet with, as well as, the planet itself. The inherent connection we have to all that surrounds us is revealed to us while sitting on our boards in silence, observing the seemingly infinite ocean before us, waiting for the next batch of set waves to roll in.

Author Shawn Zappo. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Author Shawn Zappo. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

In my life I have had many teachers, guides and mentors: people that came into my life and helped to direct me to the next stage of my own unique personal evolution. When speaking about the subject of teachers, swamis, mystics and the like, I always half-jokingly say, Yoda was my first guru. As silly as it is to think a fictional talking green puppet from a science fiction film as a guru, it is a truly heartfelt and sincere statement. The wisdom of Yoda is something I took to heart as a child and luckily his words stuck with me throughout my life. The above quote, I can easily carry with me into the ocean, and I don’t need to be in a futuristic fantasy world to find the value and truth in the message being conveyed.

Good science fiction films deal with the fantastic, while simultaneously being relevant to modern life. It’s a futuristic mythology that holds metaphorical meaning for the lives we currently lead. It is here that I find the connection between the concept of “The Force” in my everyday life and in my surfing.

Always in motion is the future. -Yoda. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

“Always in motion is the future.” -Yoda. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

The Force as I understand it is that power that is larger than myself, that I cannot pinpoint in a static definition and at the same time I am part of it. It surrounds, permeates, and binds my body together. Yet I am not the body, for the body is crude matter and I am a luminous being, an entity of light. I am a spirit, a soul, or eternal energy. It is something we may not be able to see with the naked eye, but we can feel it. While riding a wave, sliding deeper and deeper into the moment, we can feel this all-pervading force: the cresting lip, the foam sweeping up the face; the seagull majestically swooping past; the fish swimming below us as we cruise on our surfboard; the innumerable pieces of sand on the beach; the jetty rock formations filled with life; the clouds spiraling above our heads and the wind that blows upon our face. Everywhere we look, we can see the symptoms of this “force” at work.

In the seemingly ordinary world, we are surrounded by the extraordinary. What were once only the words of an old, big hairy-eared puppet wizard from a space odyssey that enthralled me as a child; I can now hear echo throughout the natural world.

Next time you’re paddling into a wave: “…feel the force flow.”

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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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