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Behind the Break


It wasn't until I was on a paddle-board at sea, standing-up and looking down at a series of waves, that I could truly see how their power gathers and disperses. While I’ve previously felt the curl’s whiplash on my surfboard and viscerally knew if I was in the right position to catch a ride, it took being both immersed and watching the pattern come and go from above to grok the groove that is wavelength’s expression.

Paddling with only your arms lying on your belly, trying to get up to speed, the wave will inevitably overtake you. Knowing exactly when by feel alone is a hard earned skill. From the line-up, you get an incomplete picture. It’s coming, it’s coming, then it’s past. An iconic example of ‘seize the moment’ if ever there was one. Fundamentally speaking, to surf a wave, you must put yourself in its unrelenting path. A sitting duck.

Under the crest you can size up height, get the kick, but you don’t see the amount of leg behind it. And it goes without saying, being tossed down the trough like a rag doll doesn’t clarify anything except what not to do next time. You cannot outrun this raw force. You can tuck under, or you can attempt to get up to speed, and if all goes well maybe pop into position to grab a lift and get carried off.

That there is a wave to ride is an amazement in itself; a combination of tide timing, ocean floor shape, swell direction, wind speed and angle, frequency and amplitude. A wave has travelled thousands of miles, ripples from a storm’s impact, singular yet part of a set which climaxes at the shoreline. It’s a spectacular array of forces coming into fleeting alignment.

Above all, if and when all comes together, your weight well-distributed to drop under the lip and onto the face, seeing green before you, focus intact, you slide down the shoulder and feel the incomparable propulsion of ocean water. An instant of harmony with the most potent engine on our planet. Humbling and empowering at the same time.

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Over the Falls

It feels to me like I blundered with this post, kind of a rookie mistake…I had too much awe for my subject, and got caught up in the thrill of contact. It’s hard not to, after spending so many hours watching waves, playing in them, studying how they form and inform. I meant this to be an appreciation, but even moreso, I wanted to present an analogy about perspective.

Waves of violence, waves of sound, waves of sequels, waves of freedom, honor, grain…Rogue waves, Shock Waves. We take their energy at face value, they occupy our language and understanding. I meant to stress that each occurrence is unique, but nothing would exist if not part of a pattern. And sometimes it takes getting a different point of view than usual to notice.

 
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waves

I got that the first time through. It got me thinking about coastal waves but also sound waves - one of my favorite waves.

Square waves and saw waves have sharp edges to them, but sine waves roll like ocean waves. A single wave is a tone, with pitch determined by frequency, and we can hear some of them but not all.

Start adding the waves together and you can get harmonies or dissonance. Smash some waves together and you get Led Zeppelin, mush them together another way and you have Mozart, a floor creak, tire squeal or a whisper.

We can now take a sound wave, flip it, reverse it, compress it, expand it, position it in space, add effects, and duplicate it endlessly. Most smartphones have a bigger "studio" capability than the Beatles used.

With coastal waves, one of the earliest lessons I recall was that there was a cycle to them, building up, building up, building up... and breaking, with the 7th usually being the big one. Also, to catch a wave one really needs to be slightly ahead of the wave to make the most of its energy. Following can be a flop.

 
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Behind Underneath

Your perspective came across beautifully. The addendum comment only added to it.

The only thing I would want is a longer film of it all. The whoosh of the wave from behind underneath combined with the visual of it makes you take a breath. Poseidon is behind it.

 

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