Winter’s Frigid Revelations | Contemplations on Cold Water Surfing
As my alarm sounds on my phone, I can feel the draft of the stiff offshore winds beating their way through my old windows. Looking outside, as I rub the residue of sleep from my eyes, there is nothing but darkness. I momentarily stare into the void of Cimmerian shade, it appears endless, and I start to wonder why I’ve forced myself awake from my sleep.
Beneath my mountain of blankets, all is serene and overly comfortable. I feel warm, although I can practically see my breath as I exhale. My loft space is hard to keep warm this time of year. Considering I’ve been cold most nights, with a heating bill of nearly $400 last month, it should put into perspective how cold it can get and how poorly insulated my living space is.
Getting out of bed is always a struggle, as my body clings to it’s hibernatory state of being. After about 20 minutes of procrastination, I lift off the mass of blanketed warmth, and dart to the closet to get my wetsuit gear. At this time of day, it’s too early for me to even think about eating or drinking anything. So I strip down bare and as I feel the cold pierce my skin, I rapidly slide into my wetsuit. It’s far too cold and I’m just a little old to change at the beach anymore. Those days are over for me in these winter conditions, gearing up at home is the intelligent option.
In full winterized surfing garb, I quietly make my way to my basement space that houses my boards. It’s surprisingly warm and it makes me wonder why I don’t sleep down there at night. I swiftly change mental gears, grab my board of choice, and rush to my car.
As I pull up to the oceanfront, the night’s blackened veil has yet to lift. I wait in my car, heat blasting, with hopes of building up excessive warmth in my suit. When light finally appears, I’m given a glimpse of some misshapen waves, still trying to clean up from the harsh south winds the previous day. My body is telling my mind it’s not worth it, but my mind quickly interjects; as I grab my board and run for the water’s edge.
Entering the water I paddle with ferocity, breathing deeply and with speed, as I attempt to acclimate to the brutal environment I just entered. Making my way outside, there isn’t another surfer in sight. Solitary, nearly freezing, beneath a cloud cloaked sky, I begin to witness the swell take on proper shape. The current is pulling hard in a northerly direction, sets get bigger, and I feel encapsulated; not unlike a snowman in a snow shaker.
My first wave stands up beautifully and with authority, I draw off the bottom, taking a highline along the slightly pitching lip, generating a fluid speed as I glide down the line. I don’t force anything, simply going with the flow, and appreciating the power of the blustery wind swept offerings. With each wave I become looser, as my body starts to take on the quality of it’s surroundings. The water is flowing freely, without obstruction. I look at the movement of the ocean as a lesson, a blueprint of sorts, as it instructs by it’s natural example.
The session continues in a similar fashion not unlike many of these early morning wintery unions with the ocean tend to. A good amount of deep breathing, keeping close to the ocean’s surface to avoid wind chill, endless paddling to keep position, as well as to keep the body temperature up. With each wave caught, an invigorating blast of stoke keeps the bodily fire burning. I dance alone with the oceanic offerings, my solitary communion within my temple of choice. I am a devotee with my beloved, each wave ridden is an act of prayer and worship.
With my bodily temperature continually lowering, as my finger tips and feet begin to feel like blocks of ice, I realize my time with the ocean and her waves has to come to an end for the morning. I catch one last wave, I’m blinded by spray coming off the lip, and I nearly collide with the rock formation down the beach. I quickly straighten out and belly surf my way to the shoreline. As I exit the water, I sprint to my car with anticipation of escaping the harsh natural elements.
After surfing, I like to have a small amount of time for quiet contemplation. Each surf session has a bit of wisdom to offer. A time of silent reflection is always a nice way to cap off a frozen unification with the sea.
My personal philosophical approach to surfing goes beyond a simple joyful activity. I approach wave riding as a spiritual practice that takes commitment, perseverance, patience, and a steadfast dedication from the practitioner. These qualities are manifested in a variety of conditions the ocean lays at our feet, but oftentimes the uncomfortably numbing wintery offerings can be the best test of a surfers dedication to his path.
I have a deep appreciation for the blessing of time spent in the ocean and for each revelation bestowed upon me through her chilling caress.