Legend has it that surfing began in the Hawaiian Islands hundreds of years ago. In the late 1800’s, it was introduced to the U.S. mainland by way of southern California. Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic star in swimming from Hawaii, helped popularize the sport by traveling internationally and demonstrating his surfing style. He is credited with surfing the longest wave ever in 1917, at a break called Outside Castles in Waikiki. The 1000 meter long wave that he surfed is a record that has yet to be broken.
Surfing became known in the Santa Cruz area, at the northern edge of Monterey Bay, began in the early 1930’s, 30 years before the epic surfing movie “Endless Summer” was released. Even today, Santa Cruz is known throughout the world as a mecca for peeling point breaks, and is certainly one of the best surf spots in California.
I love surfing Santa Cruz waters. To me, it is really the pinnacle of pristine California coastal beaches, a place where you can still hear the driving surf guitar of Dick Dale and feel the relaxed atmosphere of surf living. Pelicans, sea otters and often dolphins join you as you play in the water. Just magic.
I surfed Pleasure Point this weekend with an old friend on two windless days. Warm, waist- to head-high surf launched from a southern swell beginning in New Zealand and entering Monterey bay in perfectly peeling corduroy sets. Poetry.
In my other life as a surgeon, a craft like many others, I have learned to appreciate and enjoy the smallest details in life. For details matter in surgery, let this be clear. But they are not the ends, only the means, to a much larger whole that they constitute. Witness the healing and restoration of patients after complex microsurgery.
Surfing is also rich with details. The size, pitch and break of the swell, the aura of the murmuring ocean and breaking tide. The contour, rail, and rocker of the hand shaped board, and the trim of the body on board as it silently cuts through water. Like surgery, surfing reaches an almost spiritual realm not only through the sensations conveyed by innumerable associated details, but also through the sublime and intoxicating feeling that, at least for a moment, one is in control of life.