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  • Elena Jean

Surfing, magic and martyrdom

Flashback to 2 years ago… I’m in the surf, in the middle of January, using a gargantuan, borrowed board and wearing a scuba diving wetsuit. Honestly, kudos to my past self for that kind of dedication to the cause.

Surfing — god damn, what an amazing sport. Happy International Surfing Day (...yesterday)!

"Lone Surfer" available for print (in poster, photo paper, frame or canvas!) here

Growing up, the nerdy band and theatre kid that I was, I’d always thought surf culture was intoxicatingly cool. Landlocked in Ontario, the idea of sliding down waves, water glistening, surf rock jamming, hair whipping… that’s just an undeniably, intoxicatingly cool idea.

My first surf ever was with Surf Sister in Tofino, on a family trip when I was 13. More than a decade later, a few dips around the world, and things came full circle. I moved to Tofino, in part, to try out this “cool idea” of surfing.

It’s taken way more guts than I anticipated. Surfing (especially in Canada) is not for the faint of heart — no, at times, I swear, it’s like martyrdom. And when you emerge from the salt, face swollen from the cold, hair dreaded, like a puffy, hooded, gangly ninja… after falling on your face 50 times consecutively… well, it’s not exactly “cool”.

It’s been an uphill battle — paddling is painful (but I’ve since learned it’s like running), winter waves are scary (but just stay calm), and freezing wetsuits suck (and always will). Some days, especially in winter, it’s a three hour endeavour that sucks the life force right out of you. But then… other days, well it’s sliding down waves, water glistening, surf rock jamming, hair whipping, and its undeniably, intoxicatingly cool. Surfing makes you feel simultaneously vibrantly alive and deeply at peace.

I can’t know for sure what it is about the ocean that attracts the human mind and spirit. But, we were born from the salt water millennia ago. Our hands and feet show remnants of webbed fingers and toes, like flippers shared by some of our mammalian cousins.

A paradox: The ocean is the least understood place on earth, mysterious and dark, yet, it’s the place we’ve known longest. As a species, biological clues inform us of our marine ancestry, as our DNA dictates we be optimized for life in and close to the ocean. A modern fascination with free diving and big wave surfing has shown us just how capable we are in the water, with our compressible organs and breath-hold “switch” (that only turns on when our face hits the water).

God damn, all in all, surfing is an amazing, rewarding and challenging sport. And I’m so happy I’ve stuck it through so far. No doubt, more battles and more waves to come.

"Lone Surfers" available for print (in poster, photo paper, frame or canvas!) here

I'd like to shoutout to my local Surfrider chapter Surfrider Pacific Rim. I have so much love and respect for the work this organization does for Tofino and beyond. They’ve run some of the most successful environmental campaigns and programs I’ve seen. If you live somewhere like Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, or a coastal town or city, find out if there’s a chapter’s near you and get involved!

As always,


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