On Waves and Words: The Lifetime Journey of Surfing and Writing

Somewhere between waves and words our hair turns grey and decades go by. We spend hours, years and months between big waves, small ones and epic ones and forgettable ones. And every eventually reaches the shore. Every wave eventually closes out. This is the life of a writer. This is the life of a surfer.

  • The surfer is never done surfing.
  • There’s always one more wave to catch.
  • A writer is never truly done writing.
  • There’s always one more sentence to add, one more section to fix and when we’re truly ambitious, one more book to write.

If you surf for long enough, you’ll eventually talk to an old guy in the water who has surfed for 40 years. I love these guys. They tell you about the days when the water was less crowded and the waves were better. And the other thing that amazes me about them is how fearless they are. They can rip.

If you have a chance to talk to some of the oldest writers on the planet or the people who have spent decades honing their craft, they talk about writing the same way. They’ll tell you about the days when you could live off your royalty checks. They’ll tell you about the days when the internet wasn’t littered with bad writing, much like the water is with bad surfers to the old guys. They’ll tell you about how much things have changed. They can write.

I love these old timers, both surfers and writers. To them it’s a craft, one they make a commitment to the grave for. When they show up in my life, I wonder if their purpose is to teach me to be patient.

After nearly 6 years of surfing and writing, I still get impatient. I get annoyed between waves. It takes an insane amount of patience to develop your style as a surfer and really understand how to ride a wave. You have to realize at moments that you’re on nature’s schedule. And nature’s schedule is never perfect or convenient. It doesn’t go according to some predetermined plan. Epic surf days, piss poor ones, and average ones are all part of the journey.

The writer faces a similar journey. Epic writing days, piss poor ones and average ones are all par for the course. Much like the surfer has to be patient enough to develop his style, the writer has to be patient enough to develop a voice.

If you do either of these things for long enough, you’ll realize that waves come in sets. And when they do you better be ready. Otherwise you’ll be in the impact zone, in the whitewater, getting your ass handed to you. Unfortunately the only way you learn to avoid the impact zone is by getting caught in it. It’s a lesson in timing. Like falling in love, it’s just right or just not.

Surfing and writing are journeys, not destinations.

And if you decide to take the journey, you should be ready for the ride of your life. It’s not for everybody. But catch one good wave and you’ll be hooked.

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