I’ve surfed the wall a hundred times. Normally, I scan the horizon for sets on the outside or look through the windows of the houses lining 10th street. I do everything I can to position myself in the right spot in the lineup, sometimes constantly paddling back and forth trying to get the right-of-way. And it’s fun: I catch my waves, throw some turns, paddle back out, then do it again. It never gets old; I could do it all day.
But eventually sun goes down.
At night, the world is a different place. The wind goes to sleep over the ocean, the surface settles, the herds of tourists disappear, and the waves clean themselves up. The most striking feature is the quiet. During the day, the sound of the water is masked underneath the wails of crying children, meaningless banter between beachgoers, and seagulls competing over unattended french-fries. You wouldn’t recognize the consistent rhythm of clunking rocks as the waves wash them together before drawing them thin across one another.
There is something both terrifying and exhilarating about the darkness, though. We are so accustomed to blindly absorbing every unnecessary detail set in front of us that we can get lost when left with only outlines. We absorb so much extraneous information with our eyes that we sometimes lose touch with how the world around us communicates with our bodies in any other capacity.
These were my thoughts as I sat floating in the ocean at 3am.
The water lapped coolly through my fingertips as I dragged them across the surface, leaving a dim green trail of bioluminescence. I could hear the chirps of crickets and frogs as they searched for mates in the marsh across the road. I felt the oscillations of the water beneath me as smaller sets rolled through to their destination on the shore. Moonlight glinted across the ripples in the surface; just enough to let me know that the horizon was indeed separated from the stars.
I trailed my hand through the face of the wave as I charged down a frontside line. I could gauge the ocean’s power only by the speed with which my palm traveled across the water. I pumped my board up and down the face, simply allowing my leg muscles to move in a pattern which had become automatic. I felt a change beneath my feet – the wave was growing steeper, so I snapped my body up and around, throwing water out from under my board through the top of the wave as I sliced my board vertically. The tail fins released their catch on the liquid as they entered the air. I had done this maneuver before, but this time, I truly understood how it “felt”.
Despite all the sophistication of our eyes, the world gives our bodies more feedback in every moment than they could ever solely perceive.