Like Ayn Rand said, "The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me."
As a surfer, I am a selfish, selfish person. I will greedily scratch for any and all waves that peak in my vicinity. I will roll my eyes if you are in better position to take one. I will look at shore and think, “There are no waves for YOU” when I see you paddling out. I will give you the silent treatment when you get there. I will get mad at you if you get mad at me for dropping in on you. I will shake my head in silent disapproval if you drop in on me. I will only respond, “Good” if you ask me how I’m doing. I probably won’t listen if you answer back. I will audibly groan if I see a crowd in the lineup. I will avoid any plans that conflict with my plans to surf.
I know I am not the only one to feel this way. I know this from experience. This weekend, the breaks in Southern California came to life for the first time in what felt like months. I surfed at multiple spots. Each time, I was greeted by hoards of likeminded, surf thirsty, wave mongers. I was dropped in on. I was given the silent treatment. I was jockeyed for position. I was talked shit to. I was disregarded.
What is it about surfing that produces such angst and self-centeredness? A sport that is otherwise reveled for its Zen-inducing influence? Individualism. That’s what. Surfing is a sport that supports the one. There is no team, no roster, and no room for anyone else. Just one person. One board. One need. When waves are a desired but limited resource, it becomes survival of the fittest. Competition ensues. And the needs of the one are promoted over the needs of the many. We care less about our neighbor and care only about our fix. Addicts. Selfish addicts.
Today when I realized this, I felt dirty. I needed to resolve it. I sat in the lineup and let each wave pass me by. I watched everyone else smile. It occurred to me that we are all competing for the same thing. Not waves but happiness. The pleasure that only comes from riding water. The replication of that feeling; that indescribable feeling. So today, I gave everyone else my happiness and received nothing in return. I don’t know how long that will last.
As a solution-oriented person, I’ve been searching for a more permanent answer. One that will offer more reward. It finally became so clear to me: I wish everyone else would quit surfing, so I can be happy.