Spiritual Tube Riding

By: b d fenton
Bruce Lee once said "consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance
to mankind."

                                       A SPIRITUAL TUBE RIDE

A few years ago on the day we buried my Grandmother; I had an experience that at the time verged on the mystical. I was just sixteen and losing her was very difficult for me. I adored her. She was wonderfully stereotypical. She had been raised on a farm in rural Oklahoma and tempered by the depression. She was strong, capable and full of love. I remember her in faded cotton dresses, always clean and well pressed - and her aprons. She had one long apron for around the house and a couple of “nice” ones to wear in town when she went shopping or ran errands. About the only time she didn’t wear an apron was went she went to church. If you have ever seen the movie, “Grapes of Wrath” and you remember Grandma Joad then you have an idea of what my Grandmother was like.

On summer afternoons she used to set a long table outside under the trees. It would be piled high with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and homemade apple pie,

sitting on a red and white checked tablecloth, and flanked by big pitchers of ice cold Lipton tea. She could sew anything, she could grow anything and she could heal any wound. She was perfect and we all loved her. Losing Grandpa only the year before, and now Grandma, left all of us devastated. I couldn’t believe they were both gone.

After the funeral I headed to the beach. It had been a rough day and I needed to be alone. All I wanted was paddle out and forget for awhile. Surfing helps do that sometimes.

Because concentration is imperative to avoid wiping out at any moment, other less immediate problems tend to fade away temporarily. It is sort of like leaving your troubles on the sand for a little while. They don’t go away. They are still there when you paddle in, but for a short time a brief respite can be found out in the water.

On this particular day the conditions were more than a little unusual. The surf was up – well overhead all up and down the coast, but visibility was poor. It was late afternoon and the light was otherworldly. The sun was low in a very overcast sky blanketing everything in a dense, warm fog. There was no wind. It was hot and the water was like glass. The moisture in the atmosphere cast everything in a hazy yellow light. I couldn’t see the waves from the shore, but I could hear them and I knew it was big.

When I paddled out into the lineup I found myself in a strange ethereal world. I couldn’t see the shore through the fog nor could I see very far out to sea. The waves would emerge suddenly out of the mist - huge, silent, amber walls rushing towards the shore and crashing out of sight.

There were only a handful of surfers out and we all clustered together straining to peer out to sea to catch the first glimpse of the next set. Because you couldn’t see them until they were already upon you - you had to be ready to instantly spin your board around, paddle hard and take a late drop into the wave. And the waves were awesome – set after set of perfect tubes. They were hard to see coming and hard to catch, but a last second takeoff, a scary drop and a bottom turn would project you right up into a glassy cylinder big enough to stand up in. There was no almost - you either made the drop and the first turn - or you didn’t. If you made it and were a little lucky you could speed down the tunnel created by the collapsing wave and get spit out and over at the other end. If you didn’t make it you could get a good pounding followed by a long swim, but making it was well worth the risk. These tubes were so good that the cost of the ticket was easily worth the price.

There wasn’t much talk in the water. Maybe it was the strange conditions, but conversation was limited and conducted in hushed, almost reverent tones. There wasn’t any contention or fighting for waves. Cooperation seemed natural. It was like one of those temporary “brotherhoods” that coalesce spontaneously in intense situations, bound by a shared experience without so much as knowing each other’s names.

We were paddling around on a sheet of warm glass, enveloped in a hazy yellow fog that damped down sound and limited visibility to twenty or thirty yards in either direction. We couldn’t see the shore and we couldn’t see waves coming in. Even after pulling out of a wave we couldn’t see the beach through the fog. For a couple of hours our world consisted exclusively in the wave riding zone and everything else ceased to exist. There was no shore and no far horizon - only the corridor of perfect waves.

While in this weird world between worlds, I dropped in on one, hit the bottom hard and pulled up under the lip. As it threw out over me and came crashing down something strange happened. I was deep in the tube, hurtling across the wave just trying to stay on and make it out when suddenly everything slowed down until it was as if I were in a slow motion film. The wave overhead, the spray, me – everything slowed - I could actually see the spray separating into droplets. Weirder still, it was quiet. Almost totally silent. The only sound I was aware of was the sound of my inside rail slicing the face of the wave. I was back inside the barrel and I could not hear the sound of the wave breaking all around me. Even though my adrenaline must have been pumping and my heart racing, I felt calm and serene, even a little detached for however many moments or fractions of a second it lasted. Then suddenly I was blasted back into realtime as I came careening out of the tube.

The transition was seamless. It didn’t really hit me until I had paddled back out past the impact zone. Oddly, I wasn’t surprised. I was still in kind of a tranquil state. Normally, I am pretty loud and enthusiastic when surfing, but not this day. I was uncharacteristically subdued. I rode with a peaceful intensity - surfing better than I knew how. I caught wave after wave - including a second silent-slow-motion tube ride. It was as if I were in tune with the Ocean. At least on that day, at that strange foggy spot I experienced some kind of altered consciousness that put me in sync with those waves. Looking back after nearly four decades of surfing, I have never had a stranger, or a more rewarding session.

I have heard of others experiencing the silent-slow-motion phenomenon – like Pro football players, race car drivers, martial artists, and even a jazz pianist. Distance runners talk about a “high” reachable during long runs. It is a phenomenon that seems to occur only during periods of total concentration where distractions are automatically ignored or blocked out. Maya Gabeira, “Best Girls Performance” recipient at the 2008 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave contest, recently recalled experiencing a terrible wipeout while “going over the falls” at Teahupoo. She described being sucked up the face of the most powerful wave on earth and being pitched out with the lip in slow motion and seeing everything around her with perfect clarity. While upside down in the air she said she could see the expressions on the faces of the spectators in the boats, the photographers and other surfers in the water - and she remembered thinking it was going to be bad.

Herein lies the mystery – how this state occurs unconsciously and instantaneously in certain situations. It is an altered form of consciousness that cannot be contrived. In fact, trying to achieve it by concentrating would paradoxically prevent it from happening. Even though many of those who have experienced it become ‘Nirvana’ junkies and seek it constantly, it only occurs naturally when participants become so absorbed that they lose awareness of everything around them except the activity they are engaged in – effectively “becoming one” with the experience and temporarily transcending normal consciousness. They are no longer aware of themselves as a separate entity participating in an activity – they lose their normal consciousness and become immersed, in and a part of, the event.

There are reports of adrenaline “rushes” and “highs’ and subsequent feelings of euphoria and feelings of just plain “feeling good”. Some speak of it as a “connection” with the event. They often describe being invigorated or rejuvenated afterwards. It was like that for Maya. Instead of being afraid after her horrendous wipeout her friends said she was excited to try it again - and she did – and her second attempt was the ride of a lifetime.

It was like that for me, rejuvenating, but it also left me with a feeling of peace. When I finally paddled in my day was where I had left it a few hours earlier, but I was different. Maybe the break had just charged my emotional batteries, or the physical exertion displaced stress. Perhaps the thrill of riding great waves simply lifted my spirits.

All I know is, I came out of the water better than when I went in. I went seeking solace and got so much more. I felt happier, even a little stronger, and I felt grateful – to God or Mother Ocean, or whatever it was that touched me that day. I would have to call it a spiritual experience. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t come out of the water quoting scripture or pledging my life to Mother Theresa, but for a little while, the ocean took me to a place where the was no death, no war, no famine, no anger – no anything - just surf - and it let me stay until I felt better. Way better – but I don’t think that it was just the hiatus from terra firma that was totally responsible for the feeling of well-being I experienced climbing back up the rocks to my car.

Do you want to know what I really think? I think there is magic in the water!

Top Searches on
Extreme Sports
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Extreme Sports
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles