Originally uploaded by swannman.
Surfing the Gulf Coast requires paddling through “washing machine.” There’s no other way to describe the onslaught of white water, chop and currents you have to paddle through to just get to the line up. Every break around the world has its own version of this exhausting gauntlet. Like Weezer sings in ”Surf Wax America”, The sea is foaming like a bottle of beer, The wave is coming but I ain’t got no fear… the sea is rolling like a thousand pound keg, I’m going surfing, I’m going surfing. Sometimes its so crazy that you pick only the best wave to ride, because you want to make it worth paddling back through the machine after its over. And sometimes you get dragged under into the heart of the wash riding that same wave.

I experienced this most profoundly kayak surfing in Hawaii. I’d never surfed in a kayak in such big waves. So I spent quite a bit of time getting thrown out of my boat and worked like a rag doll in the wash. A few times, I was not just thrown over the wave, but taken down into the belly of it as it broke and crumbled towards the reef. It can be one of the most confusing, disorienting, and panicky moments that seems to go on forever. As every limb is pushed and pulled by water from every direction, you lose all sense of “up.” For a few moments the scrubble of foam and white negates any sense of light and dark so that you can’t tell where the surface is. All this while losing breath can create panic. In its most lucid, it is a moment in time where there are so many things happening around and to you at once that you lose all sense of space and time. When you finally do break through to open air you feel exhausted.

It’s the only way I’ve been able to name how life has felt lately, to make sense of the day-to-day right now. It’s been increasing, as if the wash is bigger and deeper than I first thought. And life has come to a place where I have lost all sense of “up.” There are days where I crawl into bed at night feeling like the rag doll worked every which way. There are moments where I convince myself I am drowning and so panic to take control of things I never controlled to begin with. Most of the time I am just trying to make my way to the surface and breathe again.

And, yet, I can forget, too, that I got to this place because (to maintain the surfing analogy) I picked a wave that was worth the consequence of getting pounded in the wash. I wasn’t just dropped into the chaos. It is part of the ride of a greater, more life giving experience. The life I’ve chosen at this point in time was a wave worth riding… even if it means getting dragged into the heart of it and worked for a little bit.

"All along the under tow is strengthening it’s hold, I never thought it’d come to this, now I can never go home" - Rivers Cuomo