Costa in 35mm

There is a span in a man's (or woman's) life where he can lead the life of a surf bum to its fullest without anyone taking notice.  In fact, when artfully done, its almost regarded as a commendable path by all those 'working stiffs' the surf bum will later realize were simply diligent, responsible planners who didn't want to end up in dead end careers at 35, or 36.  But, from college until that moment of clarity arrives mid 30's, a young man who only takes jobs that can be abandoned at a moments notice when the waves are up is often the envy of those stuffed into dimly lit cubicles.  Those desk jockeys with grown up things like 401ks and health insurance and dentist appointments.  The surf bum does not fear this later moment of clarity; he has no idea it's coming.  No, he lives for the moment and does so with abandon.

costa palm.jpg

It's a sweet existence in its time.  Freedom, travel, new, interesting people to meet.  Always new people.  Never the same crew at the water cooler and local pub.  No, the true surf bum has no roots; the minute they begin to take hold and he senses a whiff of routine about him it's time to pack up and hit the road.  I lived a somewhat tame variety of this lifestyle for a long time.  It led me into woodworking which has had its moments.  It also led me, quite frequently to Central America; mostly Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  A woodworking buddy of mine at one point had the brilliant idea to combine the dual pursuits (woodworking and surfing) and wrap them up in a trip down south.

 playa hermosa lodging pre airbnb

playa hermosa lodging pre airbnb

The concept was we'd find some sort of good natured organization south of the border that could hook us up with a charitable building project; we'd serve the less fortunate, then go surf our brains out.  He in fact did find such an organization and we made several trips to Managua, Nicaragua where we'd build a modest home in a grueling weeks time.  Then off to the idyllic beaches of San Juan del Sur or Santa Teresa.  They are some of the finest surfing memories of my life; even when the wave conditions were less than ideal.  Just the feeling of having spent a week toiling and sweating for a family with few prospects was satisfaction enough.  Then to find yourself in a hammock near the beach after a long morning surf, sipping a cafe con leche, half reading and half dozing.  It was pure bliss.

 hermosa right

hermosa right

On the last of these trips, which at the time I had no idea would be our final voyage together before my buddy would meet his future wife and quickly settle down, I brought a 35mm camera and snapped a bit of film.  Posted here are a few of the images from that last trip over a decade ago.

 hermosa disposable water cam

hermosa disposable water cam

costa meadow.jpg
 microwave playa hermosa

microwave playa hermosa

Origins of the Soul Surfer

by Don Cadora

Who is the Soul Surfer?

 Gerry Lopez, the patron saint of modern soul surfing | photo Jeff Divine

Gerry Lopez, the patron saint of modern soul surfing | photo Jeff Divine

First coined in the 1960s, the term “Soul Surfer” denotes a wave rider with the ability to merge with the wave.

Soul Surfers surf for the sheer joy of it. They revere the ocean, itself, as a living being. They opt for a simple life in order to maximize time in the water.

All who look upon the Soul Surfer’s impassioned style are healed. He or she may not be the most radical shredder, but all onlookers are moved by their somatic expressions.

The Soul Surfer concept can be applied to various other arts. Especially where the practitioner is recognized for having that “something special.” Even a marathon runner can be a Soul Runner if form and spirit are emphasized in the running.

But surfing is special. It has overtly spiritual roots.

 Owl Chapman | shortboard pioneer, soulful charger | photo Jeff Divine

Owl Chapman | shortboard pioneer, soulful charger | photo Jeff Divine

All surfers would be Soul Surfers had the original Hawaiian tradition been passed on intact. The modern day EXTREME sportsman flaunts a grotesque mutation of the founding spirit of surfing.  

Back in the day, the Kahuna’s of Hawaii used surfing as a religious tool. They paddled out to honor the gods like Lono, associated with fertility, agriculture, rainfall, music and peace.

The art of surfing was a way of expressing gratitude and demonstrating spiritual power—through extraordinary feats of wave riding.

The Kahunas were shamans, wizards, and experts of art and healing.

They chanted spells to christen new surfboards, beckon swells,  and invoke courage.

Ancient Hawaii was ruled by a code, Kapu—denoting sacred, holy, marked-off or forbidden. Kapu regulated eating, cultivation of food crops, weather prediction, surfboard building, and surf conditions prediction.

The Kapu code even included surf condition manipulation. If there were no waves, you made them. With a little divine assistance.

Surfing was called The Sport of Kings. Chiefs were usually the ones riding the biggest waves. In fact, certain reefs and surf breaks were “marked-off” for royalty only.

Other more meager breaks were left to the common folk.  If by chance you happened to be surfing near someone of royal blood, it would have been the gravest of offenses to drop in on them. For our non-surfer readers, “dropping in” means riding in front of someone else who has already caught the wave from “the inside”. A real no-no to this day! Don’t do it.

Common folk had surfboards that were about 12 feet long. Royal sticks could span up to 24 feet. Size mattered, as did performance in the ocean.

 The Duke (Kahanamoku), with surf stick | Waikiki 1930

The Duke (Kahanamoku), with surf stick | Waikiki 1930

Colonization brought a gradual end the Kapu system. By the 1800's Calvinist missionaries were insisting that the Hawaiians wear restrictive clothing, go to western schools, and get serious.

Surfing was seriously discouraged by these prude pilgrims. The missionaries later claimed that native Hawaiians simply “lost interest” in surfing after learning to live modest Christian lives. Don’t believe the protestant propaganda!

James D. Houston and Ben Finney writes in Surfing: A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport,

“For surfing, the abolition of the traditional religion signaled the end of surfing’s sacred aspects. With surf chants, board construction rites, sports gods and other sacred elements removed, the once ornate sport of surfing was stripped of much of its cultural plumage.”

 Tom Blake | helped bridge the gap between ancient and modern surfing, practically invented the surfer-drifter lifestyle and did so with panache

Tom Blake | helped bridge the gap between ancient and modern surfing, practically invented the surfer-drifter lifestyle and did so with panache

 Craig Anderson | zenith of the modern soul surfer | photo Tom Hawkins

Craig Anderson | zenith of the modern soul surfer | photo Tom Hawkins

But the Soul Surfer carries the almost-extinguished torch towards the horizon, reminding us what all surfers could be. Wave-riding wizards, killer kahunas, gnarly nobles, and shredding shamans.     

 

Resources:

From Polynesia With Love, The History of Surfing From Captain Cook to the Present - By Ben Marcus

http://www.surfingforlife.com/history.html