Being immersed in this world of light and colour and sensations and creatures has taught me a lot about my place in the world. It's taught me that I'm part of something, that my behaviour has effects, and that being a human in the sea has consequences. It's taught me I am not in control of the world and the plants and animals that inhabit it, but instead that I'm a part of that web - that ecosystem.
With so much of my focus on surfing being about the culture and the relationships between people - good and bad - there have been times when immersing myself in the beauty and immensity of the world around me has saved my own relationship to surfing. When I'm disheartened or frustrated with surfing culture and lineups (including my own place in them) I can take note of the light sparkling through the water, a dolphin sharing a wave with me, golden lit sunset clouds, and the changing coastline over a season, to remind me what it's all about. Of course my relationships to people in the water are important too, but it's the degree to which I'm in love with world that really pulls me back.
I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Every day I hear people who have lived and surfed their whole lives in this town, who still paddle out and comment on how beautiful the day is, how clear the water, how close the dolphins, how sweet the waves, how lucky we are to be here and now. I see these same people picking up rubbish from the sand, worrying about the treatment of the beach by those visitors who don't make the same connections about our impact on places - dropping cigarette butts, using synthetic soaps with micro-beads that flow from the drain of the public shower onto the sand below, or who leave bottles, plastic bags and paper plates on the grass. Who don't love the place quite as much, or to the depths that they feel.
But this is not just true of surfing.
I've learned the same things from my regular walks and runs along various beaches, through bush tracks, across hillsides and through suburbs. On my walk/runs along the roads I'm always shocked to remember that people still throw waste from cars! On some roads, I'll take a bag so I can collect the large amount of trash I know will be there. I'm not the only one either. David Sedaris wrote a wonderful essay about the never-ending rubbish he's collected on his country walks, and Responsible Runners, has groups all over Australia (check Facebook for your area) who are very active in combining their love of running with their love of nature.
This short video, which I found over at The Atlantic, is about the love of nature we develop from the ways we experience it, the ways we move through it. Sport and physical activities have given me a wonderful way of thinking about the world and my place in it. From being immersed in water, riding through a forest, standing on top of a mountain, running along a road, to walking through a city, I have come to fall deeply and undeniably in love with the world I live in.
Admittedly, this little film is a bit earnest, but then again, so is this post. Being in love can be like that.