So what is soul-surfing? well, there’s some pretty inspiring definitions out there already, all made by people far more eloquent than me…
“…to pursue surfing not just as an athletic endeavor or as a sunny day diversion, but to try to glean whatever lessons you can from the practice. It means being aware of your surroundings, and respectful of the people and places that you interact with. It means being patient, mindful, kind, compassionate, understanding, active, thoughtful, faithful, hopeful, gracious, disciplined and…good.”
Taken from a 1963 surf track called ‘Is God a Goofyfoot Surfer’ (source: wikipedia)
“the highest level, the pinnacle of surfing spirituality equivalent to Nirvana, Satori, and total enlightenment, but is rarely attained. The Soul Surfer expresses himself through his unity with the breaking wave. He borrows the wave’s spirit for a short while and uses his body and equipment to translate the essence of the wave’s spirit into Art”.
[source: Thomas Mitchell The Seven Levels of Surfers]
“Soul Surfer (m/f) surfer with a flexible personality who is not only looking for the perfect wave or best wind, but who also cares about his environment, who is interested in other cultures and who puts effort into realizing the same opportunities throughout the world.”
[source: The soul surfers foundation]
When i re-launched this site I asked some of my flickr friends to give me some feedback on the new look & content. I got many encouraging replies but i got one letter back in particular that i thought would make for a interesting blog on why i made the site and what its all about for me. Now i’m really more of a picture taker than a writer, but this letter inspired me to write a few words about soul and what it means to me in relation to surfing (its not just because i was brought up listening to soul music and count Otis Redding, O.C.Smith, Al Green and Marvin Gaye amongst my favourite artists)
Here’s the letter…
Well I have to say that I am going to give you honest feedback straight from my 1st impression from going through your site this morning. So get ready…
You must understand that I love almost anything related to surf in any way. With that said I feel this site is exceptional! One of the best surfing websites I have ever seen. Just the kind of stuff I like, so much soul in this. So fitting is the name “soulsurfing”! I mean this is what surfing to me is all about. So down to earth and non-commercialized. You just can’t find this type of content and format presented in this way very often anymore. I REALLY like it!
I immediately bookmarked it on my computer so I can go back often. I feel this is really a work straight from your heart. It has “soul” for sure. It portrays your area in an artistic and respectable way. There are so many surf related sites and advertisements that are so ridiculous these days. What the surf media has dreamed up as what it thinks will sell just doesn’t appeal to me. The mainstream idea of what surfing is totally misses the target with me. Your site and vision hits the bulls-eye! So refreshing to see someone else who looks at surfing the way I see it too. I would be honored to call this my website. It’s entertaining, artistic, genuine and very soulful.
I would love to put together my own vision of surfing as you have done here. Perhaps this will inspire me to actually do something. I just hate to see the direction surfing has been headed for a long time. The commercialism is just sickening. Your site portrays all that is enjoyable to me regarding surfing from a local and regional perspective. Let’s face it, we aren’t just kids anymore and this might not appeal to those much younger than us. The attention span of todays young people is very short. There is depth here and I can only hope that people will take notice. Soul to me is in. And it comes from the mind and the heart. I say BRAVO to your presentation! I absolutely loved it.
I plan to go over it in more depth when I have time. Perhaps I can come up with some ideas to run by you. I just love how you portray your area. You know I live in Orange County California. The commercialized hype center of surfing in the USA. All that is hip and cool in the world of surfing comes from here. Or so I am told over and over with the most repulsive attitudes. Soul is lost here. I’m not sure the kids even know the definition of the word or how to properly use it either. Not only kids but the surf media as well. One surf mag here still has soul. It’s the “Surfers Journal”. I don’t know if you have ever seen it but this is a great publication. Your site has that feel too. And I have also always been a fan of your photography. Just keep it from your heart and the soul will be there. And like I said I would be proud to call this site my own. And if I ever come to the UK I’m going to come see you! That’s a long shot but you never know. At least I know where to find you!
My very best Jason,
I had just written a brief surf report / blog for this site on the morning i got this letter, and it occurred to me after reading it that hugh had really understood what i was trying to do, and his letter and the brief report below kind of sums up what soul-surfing is about for me…. and now i’m blogging it in case i ever lose sight of that in the future.
Thursday 29th October (am) – Went on dawn patrol with my good surfing buddy pacey, and we went to a little spot where we could see it was quiet, because we’d both experienced the frustration of sitting in the big crowds in the only break that was working on the day when the swell hit (see october swell report & pics)
The surf had dropped off from the big(ish) swell of recent days, it was only about waist to chest high, 3ft at 11 seconds, so no real power either, but with no wind they were lovely and glassy and by our winter standards the temperature was nice too, i was wearing my 4/3 suit and no gloves etc.
My friend had recently dinged his favourite board (in those crowds mentioned earlier!) so i lent him my 7’6 minimal and i took my 9’1 longboard. Whilst the waves weren’t big, they were consistent, and for this one day at least the banks were working, the waves peeled instead of ‘backing off’ or ‘closing out’ with fast little sections on the inside for a final bit of excitement to the ride. We shared a peak and traded waves and sometimes a little A-frame would let us both surf the same wave, surfing in different directions
We only saw two other people in the whole time whilst we were there, including a foreign guy (which is unusual on our island so worth a mention) who had a good vibe and just smiled when he saw a good wave being taken. There were plenty of waves for everyone, and smiles all round. I think we all had the soul-surfing experience!
So thats it, no crazy stories, no insane barrels or hype, but no aggro, a lot of fun and maybe a little bit of soul too… And thats what i hope the site can be, a place where you can just simply enjoy looking at a few waves and reading the odd report, and maybe sharing a few pics and stories in return.