Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

See A Chance, Take It

Rincon, California, USA

June 16, 2012

"While you see a chance, take it." ... Steve Winwood, While You See A Chance
This essay, See A Chance, Take It, is the companion piece to Timeless Classic Rincon.

It is also the seventh in a group of seven on Surfing: It is also the eleventh in an open group with titles borrowed from Songs: It is also the prequel to Black Belt.

I am indebted to Mark Spirtos who inspired this conversation.

When I examine my speaking, I notice I'm either speaking what my life is for. Or I'm not. There's no gray area  in between the two. I can be speaking "on the court"  if you will - which is to say who I'm being is reflected in my speaking. When who I'm being is reflected in my speaking (actually when who I'm being is generated by  my speaking), only then am I living as my word. When who I'm being isn't reflected in my speaking, when who I'm being isn't generated by my speaking, then I'm not living as my word.

Be careful: living as my word is a distinction. It's not better than  not living as my word. Don't confuse being pragmatic  with being righteous.

One of the conversations I have when I'm not living as my word is a particular conversation about surfing. I talk about it. I say how much I enjoy it. But because it's not now  for me, it's really just reminiscing. My speaking doesn't action  surfing now. It simply talks about it. Again, there's nothing wrong wrong with that. What this is, is speaking "in the stands". It's talk as commentary. It's distinct from speaking on the court.

Out Of The Stands, Onto The Court

Recently while attending my daughter Alexandra's graduation from UC Santa Barbara, I had an opportunity in the midst of the four days of festivities, to drive south down the California coast road to Rincon, a surfing mecca I've visited on various occasions since Alexandra started attending UC Santa Barbara. I got to know about Rincon when I learned to surf in South Africa and became an avid reader of John Severson's iconic Surfer Magazine. Given Jeffrey's Bay and Cape St Francis, the home of what The Endless Summer's  Bruce Brown called the world's "perfect wave" (and whether it is or whether it isn't, isn't the point - the point is that now it's legend), South Africa does not too shabbily  when it comes to world class surf. And yet Rincon - or at least photographs  of Rincon - could transport me in an instant to a world of surfing bliss.

On this latest visit to Rincon, I parked my car in the parking lot, taking with me my swim trunks. I don't own a surfboard any more. What I envisioned was a walk on the beach and possibly a swim - it was a nice warm summer day. There were many surfers in the waves. I get a lot from simply watching them - mine is (or has become) the vicarious  school of surfing. I walked over to the water's edge, allowing the wavelets to lap over my bare feet. It was cold - very cold. In my mind I had already begun phasing out the idea of swimming. Instead, I walked along the beach, watching the perfect waves, watching the surfers, treading carefully over rocks and shells, totally at home in this milieu.

The beach walk went on for a mile or so until I'd left the point behind me. Then, turning around, I started the walk back. By this time, things had changed somewhat. Most of the surfers had left the water - it was getting late in the day. And much to my astonishment, the quality of the waves was steadily improving. They were far from the six to ten foot (and more) Rincon is capable of producing. They were three to four foot - yet they were perfect tubes, a surfer's dream. I stood there gazing at them, fantasizing  about surfing them. However, no surfboard plus cold water justified standing on the shore merely watching the waves, the perfect waves, those perfect tubes.

As I stood there, I noticed something under a pile of driftwood. It seemed to be a piece of blue plastic - garbage, perhaps. I walked over to it, intending to pull it out and take it down the beach to a trash can and discard it. Much to my surprise, I discovered it was a boogie-board, a blue Morey  boogie-board, the Rolls Royce  (I suppose you could call it) of boogie-boards.

"Now who could this belong to?" I wondered as I pulled it out from underneath the driftwood. There was no one near by. The windows of the houses in front of me were closed - no one was home. "Wow!" I mused. "If the water wasn't so cold, I could go boogie-boarding.". But I knew, however, the water was  too cold. Besides which, isn't there an integrity issue  with using someone else's boogie-board without their permission?

I walked over to the edge of the water again, thinking about the timeliness of finding a boogie-board on the beach, which I now assumed had been lost, floated away, later to be washed up on this beach and covered with driftwood. I was now up to me knees ... in ... warm  ... water  ... ??? Contrary to what I'd felt earlier, this water, these waves, these perfect tubes were warm. They were comfortably  warm. Once cold (just a while ago), they were now tropical‑warm. The ocean, it seemed, had gotten warmer since I started my walk. The ocean, too it seemed, had washed up a boogie-board right at the perfect spot on Rincon point. I looked again at the boogie-board. Then I looked at the waves, the perfect tubes, the now miraculously warm  perfect tubes. Then I looked back at the boogie-board. The universe  was saying something very clearly. The universe was saying to me "Laurence go surfing!  I've gotten things this far for you. This is as good as it's going to get for you today. Take this chance. NOW!".

The integrity issue arose again: could I use someone else's boogie-board without their permission? I dithered, not resolving it for myself entirely. Yet even in the face of the integrity issue, the universe was speaking - and I got  it. It was all up to me now. I realized I was going to seize the chance for all I was worth.

I removed the driftwood pile from the boogie-board, picked it up, dived into the now wonderfully warm water, and started paddling out to where the perfect tubes were breaking. By now all the other surfers had gone home. I had the entire place to myself - which is to say the universe had given me  the entire Rincon point and all its perfect waves to myself. The perfection of the moment and everything it represented moved me to tears.

One of the great things about paddling out to the line up  through the waves at Rincon, is tears don't stand out.

Uncrowded Tropical-Warm Perfect Three Foot Rincon Tubes Just Before Sunset

Laurence Platt boogie-boarding Rincon - Photography by Victoria Hamilton-Rivers - Rincon, California, USA - 5:59pm Saturday June 16, 2012
Uncrowded tropical-warm perfect three foot Rincon tube just before sunset

A perfect three foot tube is big enough to propel you forward with enough velocity to get you airborne. It's also small enough to ... well ... hug  you. Surfing, and especially boogie-boarding, is an act of love-making between you and the wave. And if you define "love-making" keyed off Werner Erhard's definition of love which is "Love is granting another the space to be the way they are and the way they aren't so they can change if they want to and they don't have to", you have the perfect metaphor for surfing. What other  way can you be with a wave other than  with the way it is? What other  way can a wave be with you other than  with the way you are?

I paddle out, then wait for a set  to come. When it comes, I watch where the best peak will form. It will form to the left of where the curl  will produce the best tubular section. Once I've gotten a bead on the spot I want, I paddle toward it slowly and warily, getting into the best position ... and then I stop and simply wait. As the wave comes upon me, I stroke powerfully. Given this is boogie-boarding, I kick as well. The wave lifts me up - an indescribable feeling. Raised up. Exalted. Played with. I throw my weight forward, digging in my right shoulder at the same time cranking  the turn, sending an arc of spray to my left as the curl thunders over my head.

With my head and upper torso inside the tube, the curl hammers against my left shoulder as the wave breaks behind me. There's plenty of water below me and plenty of shoulder  in front of me. It's exhilarating - there's no other word for it. Eventually the ride ends as the wave feathers out and merges once again with the ocean. I tread water for a while, watching a pelican flying overhead. Then I duck under the water, flipping my hair away from my eyes as I surface. In one smooth movement, I grab the boogie-board, pull my body up on to it, point myself back toward the line up, and paddle out again.

It goes on and on and on  like this. It doesn't end because of cold water. Rincon has turned on tropical-warm water for me. No, it ends when I'm satisfied. It's really clear to me what an amazing chance this was, a chance calling me to take it - and I took it. All the other surfers leave the water and go home, leaving these perfect tubes all to me? Unheard  of. Impossible. The cold water mysteriously warms up for me (Mysteriously? Really?). And most amazing of all, a boogie-board washes up with the waves and gets covered in driftwood in exactly the right place as if it's to wait there for me  ... 

It's either an integrity issue that I chose to use the boogie-board which didn't belong to me, or it's "See a chance, take it"  (as Steve Winwood may have said). I can speculate about what the right  choice was. I can speculate about what the Zen  choice was. I can even speculate about what the other choices I could  have made were. But all that aside, I can only say  authentically which choice I did  make.


My skin tingles, lightly burned both by the sun and by the salt water. Muscles I haven't used in ages, pull. My shin is scraped up where I missed seeing a rock in the shallows. The crimson red trickle of blood is a badge of honor. Rincon has given me everything. A small piece of my skin and a few drops of my blood isn't too much to give back.

The sun is setting. I return the boogie-board to its place under the driftwood. The tropical-warm perfect three foot Rincon tubes (with now not a soul riding them) are still wrapping themselves around and down the point which is rapidly darkening in the twilight.

The waves have been doing this forever. They've been doing this since I first saw Rincon in John Severson's Surfer Magazine. And they did this again today. Only today, they gave themselves to me - fully, totally, unreservedly, in every way imaginable.

You can't ever completely walk away from a love affair like this. I know I'll be back.

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