Jack peers out of his old camper van in the midst of an empty field overlooking a turbulent ocean. It seems disordered inside the mobile home with surfboards stacked under a roughly self-constructed bed. Sand is strewn across the floor while a wetsuit lies in a corner soaking in a basin. Jack comes out bearing a smile across a face besieged by hair, matted dreadlocks dripping with seawater and his eyes swollen red. As he lights a big joint, he tells his story.
I feel free out here.
The ocean keeps me alive and the natural highs I get more than make up for the luxuries I am missing out on. We live in a world where our future is only guaranteed by the 9-5 job I used to have; days, weeks, months, years in the same routine with the only hope of one day retiring to live in peace. But peace is too far away. I prefer to pursue it now. After the exhilaration of adrenalin comes real peace, the peace of completion, of survival, of bettering myself and overcoming the natural dangers that I come across.
I prefer to have some of that peace now and do away with those routines. Now my life depends more on the weather and the waves than on how much money I have in the bank. There is always some manual work to do around the area and on the whole of Portugal offers so much more than my big city reality in London. I am far more independent than I was before. When I paddle out through the big shorebreak, I am always seeking that ultimate high which can come in a freak big wave set or in some manoeuvre that I haven’t pulled off before.
To be in the tube with water surging on all sides is one of the biggest pleasures surfing the ocean can deliver. And like everything, size matters. The bigger the wave, the bigger the thrill, and if I ‘wipeout’, cascading into the huge foamball below, I just let go. I am tossed and turned before coming back to the surface when it calms down. It is when I am least in control that there is the most peace anyway. Control is just a reaction out of fear, but when we let go and allow the forces to carry us where they want, we overcome that fear and find ourselves once again.
Sometimes in the middle of the winter, when I have some extra money saved up, I go south to Morocco, where it is still warm living in a van. Arriving there, I meet fresh challenges: new culture, people, food, and less beer. But the great waves, sun and strong hashish make me feel strong again and give me the strength to continue. Despite the challenges I see old friends along the way and make new ones. There are other European searchers who seek to escape the winter and surf their perfect wave. It becomes a second home. We support locals with our cash, and they provide us with the opportunity for peace.
Paddling back out in my home break in Portugal, I realise how lucky I am. It is indeed the simple things in life that give us the most pleasure. I have learned to understand that when you are patient and wait for things, they will come. I just need to have the right tools to achieve the right sensations. To describe any moment as wrong or unfair is doing it a disservice. We always just have a set of circumstances to work with and we can attempt to change each situation using those tools through the choices we make. I don’t believe in any esoteric process to mechanize the experience. It is just cause and effect. It is wonderful to allow all the factors to fit together like a huge jigsaw. Take yesterday evening for example: the evening sun shone like gold through the ribbons of swell – lines of my hands scooped into the water. Taking long paddles towards the horizon is a parallel for life, as I work hard to fight against the pain of hours in the water.
I am at peace sitting in place and watching for the big sets. Catching the wave and sitting in its bosom is the culmination of the whole process. When I feel that warmth it’s like a home from home.
Yes, that’s it [smiles].