So read the first few lines of Genesis I, from the Old Testament as interpreted by the King James Bible, history’s first written description of surfing. Small wonder it’s always been about faith with us. Because what is surfing if not a faith? So far as belief systems go, it’s got it all.
We have our Genesis:
“I could not help concluding that this man felt the most supreme pleasure while he was driven on so fast and so smoothly by the sea…” from Volume 11, Chapter IX of Cook’s Voyages by Captain James Cook, 1777.
We have our Exodus:
“Acquaintances in the States have asked me why I bury myself in the Hawaiian Islands. The reason is because I like it…the coco palms waving in the clean trade winds, the colors of the water on the coral reef greet my eyes each day as I near the beach, and when the giant waves of Kalahuewehe surf are breaking white, far from shore, it means royal sport is waiting…” from Hawaiian Surfriders 1935 by Tom Blake
We even have our Proverbs:
“Remember, there are two schools of thought. In the first the wave is an incidental means of expressing one’s ability to others. In the second…a wave is simply a beautiful expression of nature and respected as reason enough to participate.” from What is Good? by Phil Edwards, SURFER, Volume five, Number one, 1965
With its spiritual essence focusing on devotion, sacrifice and reaffirmation, coupled with the essential element of humbling oneself before a higher power, surfing as a faith makes a lot of sense. What’s surprising is that more people don’t seriously regard it as such. And yet there is an obvious reason for this. Compared to almost every other major global faith, surfing lacks one key spiritual component: a list of commandments. The very basic dos and don’ts that, within each particular faith, constitute right living, right thinking, right devotion. Granted, when it comes to the Big 10, each faith system has its own particular quirks. In the old Hebrew version, for example, number 10, dealing with the coveting of thy neighbor’s manservant, ox or ass, may have been a bit more applicable in the year 1670 BC than it is today (except maybe in certain regions of Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi). Even the tone has changed considerably. The contemporary Catholic rendition of Number Three simply states, “Remember thou to keep the Sabbath Day,” whereas the Bible’s original translation from Exodus, 21:15 warns, “Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath Day, he shall surely be put to death.”
Ouch. Well, at least nobody ever said anything about surfing on Sunday. But that’s just the point. Surfing has never had its own set of 10 Commandments. Until now.
1. I Am The Sport, Thy Stoke. Thou Shalt Have No Strange Sports Before Me
Which means that all these newly-coined “extreme” sports you hear about are just that: extremely not like surfing. Because surfing isn’t just an extreme sport, it’s an extreme lifestyle. Think about it: if snowboarding were like surfing no snowboarder would live within 100 miles of the coast; no skater would ever get a driver’s license. So occasional trips to the mountains for some snowboarding, or regular afternoon visits (blown-out afternoons) to your local skate park, or, in fact, any occasional participation in other sports is a good thing, surfers shall keep surfing and the entire lifestyle that it represents foremost in their minds, even when they’re not actually riding waves. If this means aspiring to play golf like Kelly Slater instead of Tiger Woods, so be it.