My laces were really tight. Thats what brought my attention to it. In the December afternoon, the hollow sun behind me illuminating my shadow onto the concrete.
I looked down at first to my high tops, the pressure of the laces drew my eyes forward past my toes, then I saw it. My shadow sprawled far beyond my normal height and feeling. It overweight me in visual balance. I stood for quite awhile to realize the sight that I was feeling. I was low on my spirits at the time. The holidays bring out the best and make you purge through the worst. As the year comes to an end it sobers the goals and results of the 12 months prior into a 20/20 realization. I am not going to say that my shoes made me see that I was feeling in a slump because that would be a great overstatement, but maybe I was just looking for something actually to match my feelings of self and my shadow in the winter light was exactly that.
The triple crown season had finished and I was freed of any duties for the holidays, I had begun to reflect on my year past. Some called it a hangover of coming so close to achieving qualification the year prior but Id say different. In that year prior I felt I had the passion to compete and win but lacked the preparation to do it in marathon distance. This year I buckled down, upped the mental and physical training to be more prepared thinking it was the missing piece to a long arduous puzzle.
Half way through the year I could feel the heat in the kitchen. I had no results, so I kept turning the rubix cube of mental preparation to stay inspired however I could. When I fell off tour at teahupoo in 2000 something I had set a personal challenge to requalify. The weight of that personal vendetta slowly grew until it became hard to carry around. I had linked my personal identity so tightly to this challenge I had stopped seeing why I had started in the first place. Competing is natural to me, being the youngest of three brothers in the water I have had to fight for my rights…and my lefts. But what putting a jersey on had become more and more was losing. As the dust settled after a humongous learning year I finished in a low qualifying seed. Lowest I have had since starting the wqs, yet my surfing felt like it was better than it had ever been before. I ended in 60th. The nosebleeds.
My shadow might have been my own expectations, my own desires, or the presence of what I desired to be at the moment but I saw it and wanted to chase it down to understand it. Life is about balance. The ying has the yang. The Light creates the shadow. I wanted to be by myself and listen to my thoughts. I loaded my car and drove north. I followed a trail of friends and family to find myself deep in washington. Actually found myself driving 4 hours out of cell service in every direction. Holy shit Washington is beautiful. Nice to have 3200 miles under the wheels by myself while I contemplated the next steps of life.
Not sure if anyone has ever heard of a vision quest but my first time hearing about it was from photographer and good friend Dave Nelson. He told me his dad had “vision quested” in Big Sur. Camped by himself for days with no technology or contact points. Minimal food, water and a notebook to write thoughts as they spilt out. His dad apparently felt nothing for the first day, but as the next days crept in he began to purge emotions. Great times, horrible times, laughs, crying it was uncontrollable. Holy shit. Thats what I thought atleast. Sounded like something I wanted to do just to experience.
Fast forward to me driving on the straights of Juan de fuca on a miserable cold windy rainy day. The scenery was northwest high definition. I pulled in and sat quiet at a reservation cafe in Neah Bay having a warm chowder wondering when it was gonna hit me. I remember thinking, when do these emotions and Clarity start coming? I drove to the very tip of the northwest. The literal furthest point I could go. I was having chowder, is that why it wasn’t happening? I hadn’t spoke to anyone in days though.
I finished and figured I would keep exploring. I went as far as I could… Cape Flattery. I parked my car. Grabbed a beer and walked out to the lookout. I sat down cracked my beer and felt the rain stinging my face with the piercing wind coming out of the straights. It felt good actually. I was sopping wet, having a cold ass beer. I slowly drank, counted a couple of eagles in the surrounding coves as they glided by and began to laugh.
I started to laugh out loud. Holy shit was it happening? As I kept laughing I realized that I was actually laughing at myself though. I suddenly felt so insanely stupid. How could I have been waiting for some light bulb of clarity and knowledge to go off inside my head. Vision quest sounds cool, but I wasn’t ever going to see the vision this way. I looked at the pacific ocean as it beat the rocks under me. Was this experience suppose to guide my next years ahead? Either way I retreated to my car feeling a bit sheepish to the fact I was honestly searching for those answers over a deschutes beer on that rainy patch of dirt.
The next 22 hours of driving lead me to different realizations. It was actually that experience, that led me to the discovery. the knowledge I seeked was already inside of me. If there was a clear cut purpose to life then we would already know it probably. Somewhere outside of Portland I was driving and the slogan “the journey is the destination” started to play over and over in my head. Someone had probably told me that knowing what I was sitting with at that moment, and I had probably shrugged its significance off at that time. Ahhh Ignorance is bliss, but I couldn’t help but laugh thinking life is a scavenger hunt as well. Somewhere along the road these pearls of wisdom will be given but it might take years to understand there power and importance.
I had also slept in my car for the last two weeks in the freezing cold, suited up for some salty sessions and saw more trees than human beings so maybe that was actually why I was so compelled to feel that experience. Because I was feeling something different. I had changed my normal rhythm of life. The comfort zone definitely wasn’t there.
If you are wondering what it was I actually realized out on that look-out sipping my beer in the rain, I am not actually totally sure. But I think it was looking at life more in the process instead of running towards the end goal. No more qualify-no qualify. Try to create, not compare. Atleast in terms of surfing, which is the thing that I am most passionate about in my life.
Enter the Paradise Projects. I really hope you enjoy this experience. Photos, Arts, Journals, my thoughts and most of all surfing. Aren’t we all just searching for paradise of some sorts?