I am fortunate to currently be working at a surf shop in Jacksonville Beach, FL. For the enjoyment of our shops customers, we run various surfing videos throughout the day.
I was watching one yesterday when I came to realize the one thing those great surfers in the videos had in common. They all seemed to have a superb sense of presence. Call it locked in, focused, in the zone or whatever but in the final analysis, besides being extremely gifted athletes who work diligently at their craft, the thing I believe that separates them from the rest of the crowd is their sense of presence.
And its not just great surfers who seem to have this quality but I believe it is so with all great athletes as well as great scientists, painters, actors, world leaders and many others.
It seems as though when they are doing what they do they are totally in the moment and fully focused and invested. All other distractions seem to be blocked and somehow don’t penetrate their consciousness. It’s like see the ball, be the ball, see the wave, be the wave. Because of these attributes, the surfers in the films seem to be in the best spot on the wave and time and again make the hairy drop in’s, make the right decision as to when to cut back or drive down the line and invariably get the best barrels of the day.
Somehow this doesn’t come easily for me. I’m not sure if its due to my having a attention deficit disorder or what but staying in total focus has always been a fleeting thing for me. When I write I can only do so for about an hour or two before I’m either drained or fidgety. The same goes when I’m painting or playing sports. I’ve always tended to be streaky in sports, at one moment totally focused and in the zone and the next minute lost in a cloud.
It’s when I am fully focused though, either when doing sports, art, writing or simply listening to a friend or enjoying a beautiful day or event that I seem to be the happiest.
The shot of me on the wave in the attached picture was one of the times recently where I was totally in the present and focused. There was a small swell in the water that morning with hardly any plus sets to be found. As I stared out to sea I saw this one nice set (well at least bigger than anything else that morning) wave rising on the outside and I didn’t want to miss it.
I paddled over to where it looked like it was going to peak and fortunately ended up in just the right spot. I was able to pop up quickly, snap the board into the curl just ahead of the collapsing lip and gain speed quickly. I pumped the board for more speed and later down the line managed to get covered up then make it back out onto the shoulder.
For that brief time I realized what it felt like to have presence. I was so focused that I didn’t notice the photographer on the beach shooting the sequence or worry about who was watching or if I was going to wipe out.
As I thought about the subject of presence further I realized that we would all do much better if we lived in each moment fully. I’m not just talking about sports but also about time spent with friends and family, in nature, at work and at play or whatever it is that we are doing. All too often we miss the best part of an experience because we are distracted by one thing or another or thinking about the next thing we are going to do.
With all the cool things the new technology brings with it, it can also be a huge distraction that can take us away from the present and rob us of a potentially treasured moment.
My hope then is that we all create a better sense of presence for ourselves. Although it may not guarantee we make it onto a sports video or make us a world champion, at the same time it might help us to be better and happier individuals.
Thanks for checking in this week and I hope your coming one is a great one.
Special thanks to my friend Eddie Pitts of the 911surfreport.com for the photo