Better get your trench coat
From 16,000 feet deep in an under-water ravine to the crest of an 8-story thundering wave, the coast of Nazaré, Portugal has a magnetic pull. In the churning Atlantic water of Praia do Norte, hard-core surfers, and spectators alike, plunge into the wild world of big wave surfing. In fact, in November 2017, Brazilian surfer, Rodrigo Koxa, broke the world’s record by flawlessly riding this massive 80 foot wave, honoring a life-long passion.
Later that same month, 25 degrees north of this famous breaker, lying face down on a rocky beach along the Strandir coastline, I encountered my own booming breaker. Fingers numb in the gusting wind, I howled, “never turn your back on the ocean” - a saying my kids have heard me utter many times. Placing my second ice installation within feet of crashing waves, my travel mate, Chris, kept eye for any monster swell that could sweep us away.
In absolutely no way were we facing the danger of Nazaré, but chasing my creative dream pulls me back to the ocean time and time again. What power do these wild waves have over my journey, and how do I make sure I’m not turning my back on the surf in front of me?
The Big Kahuna
Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, is credited with coining the famous phrase that keeps us facing seaward. Both practical and philosophical, this saying teaches us two important life lessons about the power of the ocean:
1. There are significant physical dangers of being hit by a wave.
2. Mankind needs to show deep respect for the sea.
Humbly, I’d like to offer one additional lesson to be learned:
3. The wave coming could be the ride of your life!
v = f x λ
Waves as a metaphor for artistic creativity is perfectly suited. Many of us have had times brimming with unbridled imagination and surging productivity. For each crest, however, there is a trough, a quiet time…the lull. Without one, we can’t have the other, so I’ve gingerly embraced both, experiencing the drought before the flood.
Roll with it
Today, facing an expressive tsunami, however, I am feverishly grabbing at each medium that pokes out of the rushing water. Ice, resin, paper, fiber, adhesive, wax, paint and canvas are all bobbing about my studio. While I could be drowning, each one plays an integral part in this wild ride, one supporting the other in ways I can’t begin to understand. But, that is okay – I trust the process.
I have to - these are my life-saving floaties.
So, if today's story is about ‘The Big One’, let’s dive more deeply into some of the ways we choose to describe a tidal wave, creative or otherwise:
- Killer Wave: Yet another negative description, but how many times have you used it to describe something extraordinary? If you get out there, showing up every day, I guarantee you will be killing it.
- Rogue Wave: When creativity hits, I urge you to ‘go rogue’ in the full Urban Dictionary sense. Don’t follow the rules. Let your heart lead and do what feeds your soul.
- Freak Wave: So, Rogue, go listen to the lyrics of ‘Come from the Heart’ and dance like nobody is watching! As one of my favorite contemporary artists, Nicholas Wilton, would coach: create art in exactly the same way. Flying your freak flag is what makes your art uniquely yours.
- Extreme Wave: Not for the faint at heart, when creativity comes calling, push yourself as far as you can, all the way to the edges of your comfort zone. I promise, you won’t fall off. That’s where the good stuff hides.
I met a Cyclops in Ghost Trees
If the names for waves weren't scary enough, what about swells being creatively called Jaws, Dungeons and Mavericks? What do these mega-wave meccas have in common with Praia do Norte, or the crazy 'artist' who chooses to play in the 'surf'? At these beaches, to ride the Big One, tow-in surfing is not a luxury, but a technological necessity.
Yes, it means having a partner in crime, someone who understands the fierce power of the ocean and pull of passion, and is there to help propel you safely through the choppy waters.
Guess we should add one more life lesson to The Big Kahuna list above:
4. Never swim alone.
On the very same island as Jaws, Chris stood watch with the surf pounding against the lava field at La Perouse Bay while I swiftly placed the last of my Maui installations. Mouthing the words that have become my mantra, my partner in crime faced the waves by my side, keeping me safe while I dove in.
My sleep is often filled with dreams of crystal clear tidal surges that I manage to negotiate perfectly with a surfer’s ease. The trick I've learned is this:
Dive straight into the face of the wave before the crest crashes. Passion is on the other side.
Tell me, what do you dream about? Jump into the comments below - the water is perfect!