CATCHING A WAVE
I’ve always been attracted to the edge – I’m not comfortable in a comfort zone. That curiosity and desire to embrace the unknown, to go to the edge and lean into fear is a powerful and important value of surfing. It’s the kind of fear that embraces vulnerability, the art of letting go.
It’s about that moment when we take off on a wave. It all aligns when we hold the fullness of the experience of that moment, without putting judgment on it. We’re present and committed, not holding anything back, we have given it our all and let go. We have taken that leap off the edge beyond our comfort zone and for the moment we’re enjoying the exhilaration of that jump, of making the drop on that wave and committing to what comes next without even knowing what that might be and trusting in that process. But in order to go to our edge we have to keep trying and be really ok with so-called failure – getting caught inside and being pummeled by the surf. Not giving up because right around when you want to give up, there’s a break in the waves.
Surfing isn’t easy, it’s unpredictable, we have to leave our need to control behind and be open to the unexpected; it demands our total awareness and presence to the moment, along with a willingness to let go, flex and adapt, and exposes us to a force far greater than ourselves.
The world’s first global Surf + Social Good Summit, held in Bali, Indonesia on the 15-18 May, is an action-focused conference driven by three core principles, Connect :: Collaborate :: Act. The meet brought together a diverse mix of people from surf industry, social enterprise, academia, civil society, and non-profit all looking to find effective, cross-sectoral approaches to some of the major challenges of today, from climate change to sustainability. These are done by using the innovative qualities of surfing and combining them with technology. Eighty participants from over 20 countries took part in keynote talks, forum sessions, participant-led workshops, creative open space sessions, and inspiring conversations that not only built connections, but catalyzed collaborative projects around the world.
Is it ok to not know where we are going in this competitive, outcomes-oriented world – to think and act like a surfer? What happens when instead of focusing on the outcome we let ourselves be guided by our purpose? What happens when we create a space that allows us to fully be who we are without an agenda (or at least leaving it to the side), to be able to let go of our assumptions and be open to the unexpected? The process of simply being here now, whatever happens next, has been an incredible one, and one that captures the essence of what this is all about.
The opening night of the S+SG Summit was about sharing our life stories, the truth of the journey we’ve all been on to get there. The space was one of care, with nourishing, fresh, healthy food provided by our local hosts at The Cashew Tree. The setting was all open air, simple traditional Balinese style architecture and a relaxed, almost playful vibe above the world-famous Bingin surf break.
And yet, this incredible energy of positivity was balanced with deep critical thought, one that challenged assumptions and questioned our own narratives. What skateboarder, academic and peace-worker Sophie Friedel describes in her book, The Art of Living Sideways, as the “courage to engage.” There was a strong critique of approaches such as surf tourism as a form of neo-colonialization, and our own laisser-faire mentality in this respect. Otto Scharmer, of the Presencing Institute, describes it as a deep dive: connecting deeply to a context by putting yourself into the shoes of the other; going on a total immersion journey.
The next stage was deepening the process of engagement and sharing through creative dialogue and active problem solving. In these sessions, we explored the horizon to the journey toward, and the nature of the journey itself – a facilitated process of spontaneity. The process itself became the outcome – the magic that can happen when we commit to the drop even though we have no idea of the outcome, being fully aware in the moment – leaving the outcome to the unknown. This ability to take that risk comes from passion and connection. It’s about creating space first for people to simply come together and share an experience. By its very nature this is fluid and boundless like the ocean, dissolving boundaries and creating connection.
LOOKING AT THE HORIZON
I feel out of place and out of sorts if I’m too long somewhere where I don’t have a wide-open horizon with the ocean beginning to bend. As surfers we are always looking out to the horizon, beyond the known, sensing the next wave – and in some way this can allow us to stretch our minds and test new views and approaches. In the words of Maya Angelou, “The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.” The essence, then, is more about digging deep down and uncovering our own truth and breathing life into it – that’s what passion is. By letting it unfurl it gives us a sense of direction, purpose.
On the day after the summit, the physical, mental and emotional overwhelm was a common state of being. The participants’ impulsive desire to jump into action at the end of it all was a sign of how inspired they felt to act, and yet the timing was too soon. First, space is needed to let the storm of myriad possibilities begin to settle – to let go of the outcomes or the desire to control the outcome, recognizing that the process itself is the outcome.
A BIG WAVE IS RISING
I can see the wave coming, building momentum and I move to position myself to match its speed so I can meet it at just the right instant. Then it comes fully to life, towering over me. At its apex, at the height of its speed, I catch it and ride it. It is a moment of total commitment when all that build-up and mental and physical noise and buzz stop. Nothing exists but total awareness in the moment. But the act of wave riding can also be so fleeting. The wave and all its intensity can be gone just as suddenly as it came. When it breaks that is the wave’s final act!
I want to see surfing as a force for social good and the next big wave is to launch the “Fair Surf” platform. It’s a high-concept/big-picture project with various parts already in motion. By taking small steps quickly and engaging the community as much as possible, it has potential to gain traction fast.
It will gather momentum if we move from competition to collaboration. This is most important when trying to scale a global process, and the most challenging. It comes down to our commitment to each other. We need to work together, linking with other networks and communities already making change, fostering a “global-wave-community”.
As with surfing, with a greater sense of self-awareness we are able to open our senses to our environment and our capacity to better connect with each other across so-called boundaries.
It takes trust — trusting the process, especially when the outcome is unclear. With the transparency of our actions and what motivates them, we give ourselves permission to step out of the comfort zone. Initiating this process, like the act of big-wave riding, is a point of no return, there is no going back and no knowing for certain how the ride will end. Just like riding a wave, it is the ability to be detached from the outcome yet still single-mindedly focused on what needs to be done.
It is impossible to compete with a wave. Any surfer that tries to force her own line on a wave will never succeed. When the surfer lets go of the need to control or impose her will, it becomes about how she and the wave are in relationship with each other – the ability to express herself through what the wave presents in the moment and how we are able to see the wave in a new way, through the surfer’s interpretation.