We've seen it happen dozens of times. With under a minute left and requiring a nine-point-plus ride for victory, Kelly Slater somehow manages to find not only a surfable wave, but one that is deemed by the judges to be among the best waves of the event. What amazes me, however, is not the alarming brilliance of the ride, but rather his ability to get a wave at all. If you are a regular reader of the monthly farce that is Surf Tip, you will know that Kelly's ability to find an epic last wave is in stark contrast to the natural order of things.
"Sometimes you just will your way into certain things and believe it's going to happen and it does," Kelly admitted after one-such last-ditch ride at the Billabong Pro in J-Bay last year.
Slater's argument is given clout by 1.) His status and, 2.) The unnatural regularity with which he pulls off these feats. But for me, this response left more unanswered questions. And the more I probed the subject, the more I found myself asking: Is there something that this Slater fella knows that I don't? If I were to venture a guess, I would say that he might. Especially when it comes to the realm of surfing. But basically, if I were to take Kelly's statement at face value, there could be only one conclusion: Where there's a will there's a wave. A statement so succinct that it screamed for further investigation.
MIND SHAPING MATTER
When it comes to believing in the mind's ability to affect water, Kelly is not alone. Findings in the field of quantum mechanics suggest that thoughts can actually change the molecular structure of water. A Japanese scientist, Dr. Masaru Emoto (1), found a method to demonstrate the way people can affect water by labeling bottles of untreated water with different emotive phrases, and leaving them on display in a subway station. He then froze the water and used a microscope to photograph the water crystals. Water particles that had phrases such as "thank you" on the bottle were photographed as beautiful snowflake-like structures, while particles in bottles labeled with the phrase "You make me sick, I will kill you" were, for lack of a better word, ugly. The findings suggest that the words elicited a mental and emotional response in the people reading them and played a role in altering the water's physical make-up. The results lean heavily on a paradigm based in quantum mechanics, a scientific field that, among other things, suggests that humans create the world they live in, and we have the ability to affect the physical world on a sub-atomic level with our minds. In California, opportunists sell bottles of water at inflated prices with phrases such as "I am lucky" stuck to the bottles. They claim that your good intentions toward the bottle will make the water inside better for you. Think of it as organic, happy water. If Dr. Emoto's work is anything to go by, then the concept of emotionally enhanced water might not be as ludicrous as it sounds. But that aside, the question remains: Can the power of your mind, and your emotional state, summon waves at will, ala Kelly Slater? If so, and Kelly can indeed manipulate the ocean with his mind, then this would put him in some esteemed company (2). In my attempt to leave no stone unturned, I decided to test the theory for myself.
THE POWER OF ONE
As I stood, looking out over the 187 quintillion (3) gallons of water that make up the Pacific Ocean, I got the distinct impression that I had bitten off more than I could chew. After all, the moon, a celestial body with a total mass around 14.72 sextillion (4) times bigger than my head, can only shift tides a few feet on a good day. How could I have any impact whatsoever? I took solace in the fact that the moon is hundreds of thousands of miles away, but my real motivation rested on the fact that the concept of "will" has no tangible mass or volume. In a different paradigm, under a different set of rules, anything is possible, right?
At first, I just concentrated really hard on catching a wave, which turned out to be counterintuitive. "Will" is very different notion to "concentration," so I tried to will a wave toward me with all my being. "Willing" is more than just an esoteric exercise, it's outright exhausting. So after an hour I exited the water chronically fatigued, despite not having caught a single nine-point-plus ride.
THE POWER OF MORE THAN ONE
The success of Dr. Emoto's studies have extended beyond pretty pictures of water crystals. Now, it is not uncommon for hundreds of people to "wish well" on water at various locations around the world. The results--according to the well-wishers-- have been good. This gave me hope. Could it be possible that the thousands of Slater fans watching on the beach and online could be giving Kelly some unfair assistance by willing waves to him? Since the biggest crowd I could get to watch me surf consisted exclusively of my wife and dog (and even then, I would imagine neither of them would show too much interest) there would be no way for me to fully test this theory. Regardless, I took them down to the beach with strict instructions to "will waves to me."
After 45 minutes without any discernable difference from my regular wave-count, I got out. My wife showed me her collection of smooth stones, and told me how my dog had relieved himself on a senior citizen.
To my mind, it is ludicrous to suggest that the swell charts will suddenly register purple blobs off New Pier just because I strongly believed they would. My mother has called me "strong-willed" before but I doubt even she would have that sort of faith in me, at least not to the point of displacing millions of gallons of saltwater. Perhaps my lack of self-belief caused the experiment's failure, perhaps not. Kelly is a World Champion and the greatest surfer of all time, so it's obvious that his self-belief and willpower operate on entirely different levels than mine. Maybe he does have the ability to summon waves at will. Then again, it could be that he's just really lucky.
(1) The Hidden Messages in Water, Masaru Emoto and David A. Thayne
(2) Aquaman, Neptune, and Moses.
(3) 187,189,915,062,857,142,857 gallons, or thereabouts.
(4) Just add 21 zeros.
5 Things Not to Think About While Moving Oceans
In order to bend anything to your will, you need to have a severely inflated sense of self-worth. Here are five things not to think about while attempting to will your way to waves.
1. The tiny nano-speck that is your life on a timeline of the universe.
2. The shiny orb that is Kelly Slater's skull.
3. The size of your contribution you just made to the ocean by peeing in your wetsuit.
4. Dirk Diggler.
5. Google's bank balance.