Surfing at Sunrise, Kneeling at the Altar

posted by Drew Zieff July 6, 2017 1 Comment

The following was written after surfing one morning in Bali. I’ve been here for a few days, and I may stay forever. If you didn’t already know,  I’m currently on an indefinite surf trip through Southeast Asia, and here feels like home. At least for now. Apologies for not updating this blog more frequently—a writer’s soul (not to mention workload) rises and falls like ocean tides. I wouldn’t have it any other way. More to come. Thanks for reading.

Call to prayer.

Answering the siren call/call to prayer.

Sun burns my shoulders. Is that the sting of the sinner’s whip?

Coral cuts my knees. Is that the pain of prayer?

Every once in a while, a wave picks me up and carries me: not so much to a physical place, though it does drift me down the beach, but rather, to a sentimental temple, an invisible construction of the conscious, built from a blueprint of deep blue, architected by poseidon’s pen (which drips arrowhead ink and hammers bamboo tattoos of indigo into the soul).

That temple, it’s nothing concrete, mind you. The translucent scaffolding and undulating escarpments are sweeping swells, destined to crumble—as am I, as are we—a grace so temporary that it hangs like heroin, an unintelligible itch shouting through veins, a need as primordial as thirst, a satisfaction so intense that satiation isn’t remotely possible.

At least in the long term.

Exiting the cathedral.

Exiting the cathedral.

Back on the beach, though, for a flash, when I look over my shoulder and my arms are made of asteroid rock, muscles burning heavy as hellfire, body battered from kneeling at that altar time after time—for I am still a humble student, an eager pilgrim, accepting punishment after punishment, relishing the rarer rewards—the clouds part and there’s a particularly holy moment.

A sweet morsel left behind by the gods after an all-night feast. Small as a grain of sand. Savored in the morning light. There’s more than ocean salt on my tongue. It’s the sweet taste of infinity, the flavor of miraculous truth, of darkness and light whipped together by a celestial chocolatier.

It makes me chuckle that surfers aren’t perceived as intelligent. Spend your life in classrooms, come out with a polished degree. Spend your life in the ocean, come out with a salt-scrubbed soul.

I reckon that even the most pitted of surfers, even the most barreled of bros, even the most shaka’d of chakras, has an inkling of what I’ve so ineptly described. That wild-eyed wavechaser—the one who wears the surfer stereotype like pair of reflective sunglasses—might be smarter than you think. Who knows? That high school dropout may possess a graduate school professor’s understanding of oceanography and a buddhist monk’s intimacy with the infinite.

It’s a noble pursuit of nothing, after all. These waves rise and fall. And so do we. 

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1 Comment

Frances Johnson October 2, 2017 at 10:50 am



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