Why do folks dance with death as such?
I’ve not seen Heavy Water. I didn’t even read Longtom’s review so as to not dilute the potency of my first viewing, whenever that may be in the states.
But I’m getting older. Four days ago, I shredded the ligaments in my foot at the skatepark. For these reasons and others, mortality has been on my mind.
I’m no hero in the water, but I have been known to supplement a lack of skill with an extra dose of bravery (stupidity). Our own limits are relative, but I’ve found mine the only way one can, and thus I’ve had a few closeups with the Maker.
Apart from the love for my son, a more-complicated-but-pretty-good-after-all-we’ve-been-through love for my lady and that for a handful of others, death is the only thing I’d regard as certain. I know… groundbreaking prose.
Not taking into account the natural byproduct of years of drug addiction and alcohol abuse, involving much eye-covering, mono-vision-producing vehicular operation and too-many-but-evidently-just-the-right-amount-of “Gee, hope this next line doesn’t stop my heart” moments, I’ve smelled death’s breath thrice…
The backseat of a car doing unintended 70mph donuts on a highway in Georgia. We teetered atop a slope that led down into a dense forest of stubborn trees. Mid-spin, while getting in an impact-ready position, this sense of not being alone came over me and with it a feeling that, while the odds were good I’d be maimed, I’d still be… you know… fine. Maybe it was God. Maybe it was denial. Maybe it was another piece of my consciousness that was speaking to me from a parallel universe.
Puerto Escondido. May. 2010. Took off on the first wave of a double-overhead+ set, got one of the waves of my life then kicked out to realize it was just the opening act. Having yielded to local custom, I was without leash. Detonation. Then another. Another. I was trapped in some whirlpool rip. Another. My fingertips tingled from lack of oxygen. Another. I thought of my mom. Another. I wondered why I just thought of my mom. Another. I was spared.
Salina Cruz. Point break. April. 2014. Took off on the first wave (why?) of a large, long-period set, did some awkward wiggly shit with my body that was supposed to be surfing until I deservedly fell. Detonation. Another. I was being river-swept 30 feet from the beach. Another. Another. My leash got tangled with some guy spouting French panic-speak who came out of nowhere. Another, now entangled with French panic guy. I recall being leashless in Puerto years before. Another, without my board. Another. Wet terra firma. Dry terra firma. I sit and think about how my wife’s father drowned and that under no circumstances should she have to go through that twice.
So why? Why do folks dance with death as such? I don’t inquire with even the faintest undertone of heroics. Eddie Aikau. Firemen. Good teachers. Hospice workers. Chas’ tolerance for scorn. These are examples of heroism.
But surfing? Not heroic.
I inquire with the curiosity of one trying to understand the mind of cat, or why anyone would own a cat.
To a degree, I understand my own drive. I’m a dormant-volcano-of-a-drug-addict with self-destructive tendencies. For me, chaos can provide a sense of balance. Pretty cut and dry.
But what’s your excuse? How close have you come? Have you ever actually died before?
(Apparently, this guy did.)
Do you carry a death wish in the lockbox of your mind? Are you all just addicts of varying degrees of functionality? Were you dropped as babies?
Do you sniff out extreme sensory experiences like that bear with my food that one time in Yosemite? Do you so yearn for the salinity content of the womb that you’re subconsciously trying to find a way back in? Must you feel the whiskers of death to hear the purr of life? Do you want me to stop making shitty cat analogies?
After recently taking the piss out of others with balls bigger than mine, all in the name of flexing my miserable wit and a quick escape from self-loathing, I’d like to pivot and devote this entire paragraph to paying tribute to the bravery, courage and incomprehensible drive of each and every (gender-inclusive) aquatic astronaut out there who voluntarily stares into the great wide open. Who is contractually-obligated to paddle out. Who does it for nothing. Who does it when nobody’s watching. Who interprets and redefines the limits of possibility. Who strokes into uncertain destiny at the behest of your compulsion and the whim of Mother Ocean. This entire paragraph goes out every single one of you… except Keala Kennelly.
Kidding. She was out at Puerto that day in May 2010, was super cordial in the lineup and took off on waves I wouldn’t look at even if I had an over-sized scrotum full of every Big Wave Tour surfer’s testicles.
No thanks. I like living.
Much respect, you fucking loons.