Surfing an interview with Greg Bennett

 How to Meditate, Interview – March 31, 2010

HTM: I have been doing interviews with a number of different people who use various methods to get in touch with the moment, or more in touch with the divine, etc. I remember speaking to you about surfing in this regard.

Greg: When I go to the beach I am in pursuit of getting in touch with a moment to moment joy. My quest is always about the squirreling liquid and my reactions to it. In order to make sure my excitement doesn't send me too far ahead of the present, I remind myself to stay very relaxed and enjoy paddling out, duck diving through the waves, the feeling of the water and wind in my face as much as catching and riding the waves.

If I hold my excitement back just enough to get in touch of the simple feelings of riding the waves, the true moment to moment excitement and adrenaline of throwing myself and my board into wonderful situations that I have done thousands of times before is still new and as rewarding as ever. I especially have to slow the moment down in order to remain calm after I hear that the waves are going to be big and perfect. If I don't I am likely to have too much adrenaline and excitement on the way to the beach and be slightly ahead of myself as I get started.

It is best to replace the initial excitement with simple reminders and practices of FEELING the drive to the surf spot, getting the board waxed, putting the wetsuit on, observing the conditions, loosening up the body, enjoying the paddle out & reacting naturally to the waves coming at me... If done correctly, when you are on the wave you are really there and the excitement is absolutely empowered in a primal moment to moment heart pounding passionately savage joy.

HTM: It sounds as if it easy in those moments prior to look forward to the actual ride, and this can undermine the quality of being present in that ride. So it sounds as if you are practicing mindfulness at every juncture. You also speak about the trap of wanting to repeat past experiences for how exciting and fulfilling they were. Does it feel like the adrenaline and anticipation will drive you into a thinking process? How do you stay out of your head? Also, you capitalize the word "feeling". Is this how you steer away from thoughts?

Greg: Yes, Getting in touch with the less exhilarating feelings sets me up better for the ones that I long for. Staying in the moment for the 'pre surf' helps me from getting ahead of myself later as the situations get more intense. It is very rewarding to be there for all the parts of surfing including the ones accomplished surfers live for.

I stay out of my head by remembering and/or practicing staying in the moment. I have learned this by taking many wipeouts or just having less enjoyable surf sessions when the only thing to blame is being in my head. If I wind up in my head during the peak of the surf I just try and get back in the moment using my meditation on feeling my surroundings. If I do it right I can use whatever emotion that was distracting me to my advantage.

Generally those emotions will shift to ones more productive for good surfing once identified. Using the feelings is a swifter way to balance out the surfing rather than trying to figure out where the thoughts are coming from. I am not opposed to this route, but origination of thoughts (distracting ones) sort themselves out after really getting into the physical world for a great surf.

HTM: Was the mindfulness something you were forced to learn in order to keep the experience as beautiful as you have known it could be? Also, what exactly do you do to "get in touch with the physical world" and "feel your surroundings" meditatively?

Greg: Yes the mindfulness came from getting clobbered by the waves and breaking my boards or me. The mindfulness also came from the desire to have a great time every surf session. The meditation is simple. Just keep reinvesting in what's happening around—my hands on the steering wheel—the sound of the cars whizzing by.

The colors and shapes around me—the texture of my wetsuit—the feeling of it on my body—the smell of the salt air. The smell of the surf wax—the friction of it rubbing onto the deck of my board. The sand on my feet… The water around my ankles… The water passing by my fingers with every paddle… And everything else leading up to turning and swimming into a wave—after that one I am usually right there. And I was likely there a few steps before.

HTM: That's a great list of images leading up to surfing. It takes me to the ocean. I am wondering what the obstacles are that you are working against to keep you mindful. Can you share with me the nature of the primary obstacle, if there is one? Also, do you feel as if this practice gets you in touch with a basic principle (staying present) that carries over into other activities in your life?

Greg: Yes. I use what I have learned in surfing in all aspects. I am usually good at staying present in what I deem as important or ones I really want to enjoy. Maybe my times of distraction are everyday stuff or times I am not excited about. As far as an obstacles goes, that answer doesn't come to mind with ease. I’ll have to think about that.

HTM: There are many forms of meditation including sitting, walking, knitting, painting-- you name it. Those of us who seek to know the self through these means, when in contact, feel as if the world or self is one-- that there is no separation between ourselves and all that is. Would you say that surfing leads you to this experience?

Greg: I think my primary obstacle is staying present when I am doing daily stuff—things that I don't deem as important. It is easy for me to habitually leave the moment during these times. Yes being in the moment for me is being fully involved with all that is around me.