Monday, January 19, 2009

A Surfer's Farewell

Have you ever witnessed a memorial paddle out for a
surfer who has died? Have you ever been a participant?
These ceremonies may seem strange to the uninitiated,
somewhat mysterious.

Surfer's gather on the beach huddle together exchanging
nods or brief hellos,  take the flowers or lei's
that someone thoughtfully brought, and after a few moments
all paddle out into the ocean.  Once they have arrived at
a spot out past the lineup, past the breakers, they form a
circle facing inward.  Someone who knew the departed surfer
well usually begins by saying a few words about their friend, others
take their turn.  Words are often touching memories and at times
humorous comments.  Tears mix with smiles.  The paddlers draw in
the circle holding hands as someone  usually begins a chant.  The
flowers are tossed into the center of the circle as a final goodbye
than the assembled surfers head to shore hopefully catching a wave
for their comrade.  There are hoots and hollers and all too soon
the ceremony is over.

Yesterday I took part in such a paddle out.  Alan Wolf was a surfer
I knew only casually.  He always shared his joy and aloha spirit with
everyone in the lineup.  His warmth and connection with the seasonal
community of Rincon was obvious.  That sense of community really
touched me as I looked around the circle.  Faces I've seen for years,
some who I knew as friends or by name, others with whom I'd
exchanged a friendly nod.  

This is, in part, what being a surfer is about.  Being part of 
a community,sharing a love of  a place and a of a lifestyle that
binds us together.  This is what can and should be an example
to us all.  We are all part of a much larger community, all share 
a planet.  We are all in this together for a short while.  To
paraphrase or quote Gandhi - be the change you want to
see in the world.

1 comment:

David said...

Unfortunately, I've paddled out too many time in the past few years in memorial to lost friends.

It is truly a unique and special experience, especially for those family members who don't quite understand the surf culture but are extremely moved and welcomed by the experience.

It's a fitting tribute to those we've lost.