Cook, in the famous journals of his explorations of the Pacific Islands, said that “as soon as a powerful, out of the ordinary wave arrives, the locals take the opportunity to indulge in their fun: equipped with a long narrow plank with rounded ends, they move away from the shore. They dive under the first wave they encounter, let themselves be tossed around, re-emerge and continue out. As soon as they reach the calm waters beyond the waves, they stretch out on their planks and prepare to return. Since the waves arrive in series, and it happens that the third one is usually the biggest and the highest, they take care to position themselves at its apex so that it leads them back at sustained speed towards the shore”. This was in the mid-18th century.
However, as we can read in the excellent book “Petite Philosophie du Surf” by Frédérick Schiffter*, what we would call sport, the inhabitants of Hawaii call he’e nalu, a term that describes the action of becoming one with the wave, sliding on it. Cook uses this term but does not know that for these “savages”, becoming one with an element means entering into spiritual communication with it, exchanging one’s own soul with its. Cook does not realise he is witnessing a transubstantiation, a trance, a “consciousness enchanted by everything”.
*a perfect book for the holidays.
Style & Surf
“Petite philosophie du surf” makes an important distinction “by technique, the surfer means the sophistic sense of the word, which designates a person’s perfect skill in an action: a technical ability. But when efficient know-how meets a unique way of doing something, this creates what the Romans called ars, art”.
“While know-how, technique, is taught and can be learned, the way of doing something escapes any possibility of being taught. The first consists of a series of useful gestures necessary for the purpose of the action, while the second is written in the flesh itself of the person, and depends on a form of movement that is unique to each person”. Their style.
Each of us surf, on the wave of the sea and on the unstoppable wave of life, according to what we have learned (technique) and also in our own way (style). Surfers are a very good example: when they reach great levels of skill, surfing becomes a dance.
And that is the beauty of watching people surf, no matter whether with a sail or a kite or just a board. As we do so, in addition to enjoying the fresh wind and the blue of the Mediterranean, we risk understanding something greater than ourselves.
In Sardinia the waves, metaphors or not, can be found on the days of Mistral wind on the west coast, from Santa Teresa to Vignola and down to Isola Rossa, an hour’s drive from Costa Smeralda. Those who want to travel further can go to Capo Mannu, near Oristano, where an underwater step generates good surfing waves.