Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Myth and Surfing

I love myth. It's what our culture is built upon. So much of what we experience in life has parallels in mythology, one could say that those ancient stories have a direct impact on our very perception of "living." If you haven't read Joseph Campbell's "Power of Myth" or seen the PBS special that it was based on, I highly recommend it.

Campbell broke down myths that occur in culture into what he called "The Hero Cycle": a course of events that occur as a rite of initiation in every myth, pinpointing the need for mentors, villains, elixirs and jesters along the way.

I can't think of anywhere this cycle is illustrated better that surfing in Oregon. As a surfer here, you're always embarking on new quests and adventures, facing real and perceived obstacles and villains. Sharks, rips, sneaker sets, snakes, rocks, angry locals, freezing water. You hear about all of these potentially fateful entanglements prior to making the decision to go on your adventure, and they provide a barrier to entry that filters out the weak of heart. Without these, surfing wouldn't be the quest we all love.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that as much as I hate localism, it has it's place in the story of Oregon surfing. It can't be easy to be a regulator, always looking over your shoulder, harbouring a constant paranoia, walking with heaviness in your heart.

Last night I surfed until the moon and stars were the only light in the sky. I had a lot of time to think, to rinse away anger, to find the holy grail that isn't an actual object, but a simple, basic joy in that sacred place we call the soul.

Then, after paddling in, changing in the dark, marveling at the warm breeze that came through the pines, I enjoyed an elixir (or two) with a close friend and remembered what this is all about. I think Campbell would have smiled.

Horse Feathers - Falling Through the Roof


Gaz said...

Myth is an eggshell at the breakfast table of dissection.

Gazelle said...

Well said. I think Campbell would have done more than smile - he would have gotten flat out excited about surf quests, especially in the PNW under the moon and stars.

Ando said...

Great pic Chum. What's that spot called again? ;)

Keeping with the myth theme, I suppose one could liken localism and the role of the regulator to that of King Sisyphus, i.e. the one who is cursed to push the rock of growing surf enthusiasm up a hill.

Or, you could say that the better analogy to Sisyphus is the one striving to maintain the pure joy of the surf experience despite an arbitrary cultural code where the wrong hat, zip code, board, style, or bumper sticker can get you threatened, beaten or, even worse, just bummed out.

No matter what rock one chooses to push, the key seems to be making sure your blessing doesn’t become your curse.

Glad to hear you got blessed last night.

writer said...

"...striving to maintain the pure joy of the surf experience despite an arbitrary cultural code where the wrong hat, zip code, board, style, or bumper sticker can get you threatened, beaten or, even worse, just bummed out."

I doubt any of those things will get any one in trouble on the coast where I live but nice strawman type argument. I have never vibed any one for any of those things but I do laugh at the surftech riders (yes, even the locals who ride them catch shit)

As one who practices Blatant Localism, the rules are simple and the same every where in the world:
Respect or get vibed.

Of course, disrespect can be arbitrary with some locals.
What is perceived as disrespect in Seaside might be cool at PC.

sissy? Are you fishing or something?

ras said...

I loved the Joseph Campbell lectures on PBS.

Did you read West of Jesus? It's about the myths associated with surfing, and he quotes Campbell.
I think it would cast some light on some of the recent happenings.

Stoked you scored some fun waves Man what I wouldn't do for cheap ass case of PBR. Canadian sin tax is putting a hurtin on my drinkin. Right some nasty I tell ya.

Anonymous said...

Well put. All parts of the quest. I think dealing with the abusive element that sometimes comes your way and being able to brush it aside makes you a stronger, more complete surfer. It’s part of the path, regardless of how ridiculous or misdirected some of it may seem at the time. Driving home a few days ago after my best waves of the fall, I didn’t think twice about the assholes who tried to keep me from them. I did my best to play be the rules: showed up solo, took the scraps in the water, and showed respect. Still, I got verbal abuse in the parking lot, was blocked from waves in the line-up, splashed in face and called a kook as I dropped in….but fuck all that shit because in the end the waves made up for it. The waves were what I thought about on the drive home and they’re what will bring me back. Really, that's what brings all of us back.

OS said...

Well captured amigo.

Erle Norton said...

What a great description of what it's like to be out -- the chance to think, rinse away the anger. I felt that many times this summer when I stayed until just after sunset, a magical time on the water.

Chum said...

Ando? As in Andy Davis?

That would be rad. The comment is still rad anyway, don't get me wrong...

Chum said...

Especially since whoever it is got the Sissyfish/Sisyphus play that inspired the name of this blog. Back to rolling rocks!

warm jet said...

Love that book.
A great spiritual surfing companion.
I was hoping that Steven Kotler's
"West Of Jesus" was going to make the Campbell/surf connect but.....nope.
He tries and fails.
Made me sad.

muebles galapagar said...

To my mind everybody have to glance at it.