Under The Influence

Like waves, I am simply a product of my environment.

Each wave is subtly shaped by a multitude of factors before it takes its final form at the coastline. A slight change in bathymetry will mold the same swell into various shapes and sizes as it reaches its terminus. It’s incredible how the same swell, starting from one source of energy thousands of miles away, can produce such vastly different waves up and down a short stretch of coastline.

I am no different.

My genetic makeup is akin to a waves’ initial swell and my environment the outside factors that shape it. I like to think my identity and motivations come from a pure inner source, but in my clearest moments of thought I know they don’t. I’m simply a product of my environment.

Even my surfing, which should be a pure expression at it’s core, is shaped on a daily basis.

The Pro Influence: Watching the World Surf League, I find myself longing to surf like the pros. It’s strange how imperceptibly my concept of what surfing is can shift away from the pure experience and toward competition. I catch myself jockeying in the lineup, my mind unconsciously drifting towards ‘surf status’, ‘priority’, and getting the waves I ‘deserve’. Embarrassed as I catch myself, I have to reset and remember I’m not surfing to make the tour.

I’ve noticed a good hold-down will humble me back into being myself.

Social Media’s Sway: Then there’s the Instagram rabbit hole. Lately, it’s been mid-length twin fins catching my eye. I find myself drawn to these boards and the different lines they can draw on a wave. Today, even though I’m on my regular thruster, I try a few long drawn out cutbacks instead of the default check-snaps. I like the way this feels. I probably look like an idiot.

Size Perception: And then there’s the effect of a dry spell. When it’s ankle high for more than a week, and suddenly a chest to head-high swell rolls in, it feels enormous. I feel like I’m charging Waimea Bay on a gun as I charge into my first few waves, but it doesn’t take long to become accustomed. After a few days of fun-sized surf a waist high day makes me question whether I should even paddle out.

Being aware of how the environment shapes me doesn’t do much to change its influence on who I am. My current philosophy in this regard is the same as my surfing philosophy: take what the wave gives you and try your best to stay in the pocket.

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