Something about simplicity

Something about simplicity

Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.


A few months ago I lived out a dream I had held for a long time.

I’m not 100% sure when I first started hearing about an infamous surf break called Mavericks, but it has been on my mind for as long as I can remember. Mavericks is one of the biggest and deadliest breaks in the world. Big winter storms in Northern California hit the coast at just the right angle to kick up swells more than 25 feet, sometimes as big as 60 feet.

As I flew into Berkeley, California on a Monday, the swells were being reported at 35-45 feet. Monsters. Tuesday to Friday every morning I woke up and checked the surf report. Solid 20-30 foot waves every day.

One problem: no car.

I could try taking four buses and then walk, but that would take four hours. Not going to happen. Saturday and Sunday were tied up with the whole purpose of the trip so my chance was blown. On Monday. I’d fly out and miss seeing one of the greatest waves in the world in full splendour.

On Sunday night I checked into a hotel beside San Francisco airport and gave up on any hope I had of seeing Mavericks. Every other time I had been in this part of the world the swell was meagre. I had even visited the town of Half Moon Bay twice at times when Mavericks wasn’t breaking. This was too much.

Just when all hope seemed lost, though, I received a message from my old mate Joe P. Joe is a trainer from the Bay Area that I met at a course a few years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Joe would pick me up from my hotel, take me out to see Mavericks and have me back in time to catch my flight home. This day had just got good.

Joe and I drove out to the western side of the peninsula and cruised down California Highway 1 from Pacifica. The drive alone is epic. Huge cliffs crash into the ocean. Giant redwoods border the highway reminiscent of Ents from Middle Earth. A few miles south we stopped to watch the ocean from the top of a cliff. The freezing water churned and bellowed against razor sharp rocks. The depth of blue in this part of the Pacific is like nothing I had seen in the Indian Ocean. I found it confounding that water could be the same, yet so different.

Heading south, Joe told me stories about friends who have been “bumped”. It is the phenomenon where surfers receive a bump against their leg from a curious Great White Shark, who is trying to determine whether said surfer is edible or not. At our next stop, I realised why the sharks would be confused.

Walking down to the shore, I saw all sorts of trees and debris washed down from the hills and out into the surf. All the driftwood seemed to be roughly the size of a human or a surfboard. The humans were also very similar in size to the two dozen seals we saw nesting on the beach. It must be hard work being a shark. So much to figure out.

We were close now. We made our way through the sleepy little town of Half Moon Bay and out the only road to the beach. Life was good and only getting better. The walk from the carpark was peaceful and gave no indication of what was around the point. As we walked along the path, we noticed that we were walking quicker now in expectation of what we might see. As we got to the end of the path and onto the beach, our senses lit up. There it was. Mavericks.

We rounded the point and almost sprinted to the best position to see the lineup. Waves were breaking at 35 feet. These looked more like a tumbling block of flats than the waves at Scarborough that I was used to. Each time one broke, I felt it as much as I heard it.

It was simple. Water breaking over a rock at the bottom of the ocean. That is all.

God was giving me the most beautiful lesson in simplicity. I find it easy to complicate life and get carried away with my intelligence (real or imagined). But at this moment I was able to let go and see the beauty in simplicity.

We hung out on the beach for a long time just watching waves break. As if from nowhere, a surfer appeared to move into wave zone. Not an ordinary surfer, though, a stand-up paddleboarder! The equation for this man was simple. Catch the wave or don’t. Each had huge consequences. Joe and I watched this man ride a monster 35-foot wave for over a minute. It was breathtaking to witness.

My lesson wasn’t finished, though. On the way back to the car we stopped for a minute to watch a caterpillar cross the footpath. Joe is the only person I know that does this. Our complicated schedules and self-importance drifted away as we watched this peculiar little animal shuffle along.

Watch waves. Stare at the horizon. Enter the kingdom like a child. Simple.

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