I had one of the best days of my life today, on a wave crashing on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. It was a touch of heaven. Maybe you felt something like this too.
Waves are nature’s roller coaster ride. The rush as the ocean effortlessly sweeps me up and drops me down is one of the most terrifyingly awesome experiences I’ve ever had.
But it’s more than just the adrenaline rush that keeps calling me back to the sea.
Waves also draw out the deepest sense of who I am. The meeting of water and land is a force of nature that makes me confront myself in a way that nothing else can, and sometimes rewards me with the purest sense of being alive.
The ocean has a different personality each day. Some days, the ocean is actively trying to kill me. It chews me up then spits me out. Other days, the ocean is bored with me. It leaves me rocking gently up and down.
Today, I experienced a side I get to see only on rare occasions.
It started out just like any other beach day, by paddling out against crashing waves furiously trying to keep me out. I eventually broke through to the calm side, far out where I could wait for the big swells.
When it came, I immediately knew this one was going to be a monster. I paddled as hard as I could until I was picked up by the looming giant. The houses lining the shore became smaller and smaller, as the wave rose higher and higher, until I could see above the rooftops.
This is the point where I experience fear in its most visceral form, where riding a wave becomes an act of faith. To get past it, I need to accept my insignificance as a speck in the midst of the full force of the sea, but at the same time, jam every ounce of belief I have in myself. I have to go all in.
As the wave began to crash, I felt the familiar rush of the drop. But today, the sea rewarded me with the most supreme kind of pleasure. It swept me down the barrel so smoothly, as if nature itself was cradling me, gently carrying me across the surface.
As I glide across the wave, nothing exists but me, the barrel, and the wind fluttering through my hair. It’s the purest form of freedom and focus.
My mind takes a few minutes to come back down to reality as the wave carries me back to the shore.
It was a touch of heaven.
Once you feel it, you can never go back.
It’s not just riding waves. I can immediately tell anyone that experienced it – extreme surfers, base jumpers, athletes, painters, designers, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, chess players, psychonauts – it doesn’t matter.
These are people that completely devoted themselves to furthering their evolution as a person. They’ve felt that touch of heaven, and they have no choice but to keep reaching for it, no matter what.
Laird Hamilton, considered to be one of the greatest big wave surfers of all time, said it best. When asked why he risked his life riding on extreme waves he replied,
“I don’t want to not live, because of my fear of what could happen.”
What unifies all these experiences is that they are all beautifully, completely subjective. You can’t break them down, explain them, or put a price tag on them, and you can only experience them yourself.
I’ve been riding waves all my life. It shaped a lot of who I am, but I’ll always be most grateful for having the chance to experience revelation first-hand.
Knowing that these moments are possible at the edge of human experience, made me look out for more of them in all corners of my life. It gave me the motivation to go all in, every time.
This outlook led me to some of the most meaningful, life-changing experiences I’ve ever had, such as my trips to the Navajo Nation (which I will write more about).
I know my days in the ocean are coming to an end. There are things I want to do that will take me far, far away from the beach where I grew up.
No matter where I go, or what I do, that wave will always be there with me, gently carrying me so perfectly, to the touch of heaven.