• Why Sustainability is Like Surfing

    Environment, Environmental Design

    It occurred to me recently, living a sustainable life is very similar to big wave surfing. And, living a restorative life is like surfing... Maverick's. 

Maverick's is perhaps one of the most challenging point breaks on earth. It's about a half-mile offshore, first of all, so you have to paddle for twenty minutes just to get to it. It's cold, dense seawater, not light and warm like its Pacific cousin, Waimea. There are sharks - including Great Whites, who frequent the nearby Farallon islands. Where it crashes, there is a maze of underwater caves and crevasses ready to snag your leash line. You have to be at the very top of your game to surf Maverick’s, because if you don't, when you wipeout, there is a very good chance you will be dead in the water.

The thing about greatness is, you must be at the top of your game every time you step up to the plate. There is a reason why so few companies are sustainable, and even fewer are restorative. It takes an incredible commitment to paddle for twenty minutes in a freezing cold ocean, just for the chance to get one ride that might last 30 seconds, that might, in fact, end your surfing career (not to mention your life) if you make one small mistake during those thirty seconds. Yet people do it. People do it every day Maverick's is surfable. Why?

The ride. It's all about the ride. Knowing that for a moment, you were riding a force of nature. That you were held in the hand of something so much greater than you, more eternal than you, that would be around much, much longer than you, and that you let it carry you to a safe place. That's why people try, I think. For the chance to experience true greatness, and carry that memory with them wherever they go.

I learned how to surf this summer in Bali, and my teacher, Bude (BOO-dee), said to me, "You are trying to control the wave; that is why you keep falling. But you cannot control the wave, so stop trying. Instead, control yourself, so you can balance on the board. When you can control your balance on the board, you can ride the wave. But remember, you will never be able to control the ocean; you can only control yourself."

I think of this lesson whenever I find myself frustrated by setbacks or disappointments: the path to greatness lies, not in trying to control the world around you, but in staying balanced and enjoying the ride.

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