I have said for the longest time that the two hardest things to do in any professional sport is to a) hit major league pitching & b) read a defense and go through progressions quickly as an NFL quarterback. All of that changed recently when I got into a heated discussion with a friend of mine over a different type of athlete: surfers.
In a recent article, surfing legend, Kelly Slater, was being touted as the greatest athlete in the world. I had taken umbrage to that notion because I had a hard time seeing surfing as competitive in the same sense I see figure skating, diving, or pretty much anything in the X games; they all are judged and given points on style more than anything. Granted, there are degrees of difficulties in each event but to me it’s not true competition in the purest sense of athletes going mano a mano.
The more I stopped to think about surfing the more my mind began to change as far as them being great athletes. The amount of dexterity and balance they must have to succeed is extraordinary. Their stamina to constantly swim back and forth is probably only rivaled by long distance runners. And even though surfers don’t really challenge each other (as I stated earlier) they battle against the greatest competitor anybody can face: Mother Nature.
Every sport has a risk of injury; some more than others. But no other sport commands my greatest respect, now, than surfing. It may sound cliché but there is no bolder truth that no wave is ever the same. Forget about other dangers that lie beneath the surface such as coral, rocks, and marine animals. It’s the constant changing of waves and their unpredictability that surfers must adapt to on the fly. What amazes are surfers like Slater who have such a deep understanding and respect for their craft and nature that they become poetic in their movements. As soon as a prose is spoken, a wipe out could make it all seem like gibberish. That’s the beauty and danger in surfing that a lot of us neglect to see.
Thanks to my friends who surf (Andrew, Brandon and especially Chad), I have a deeper appreciation and respect for them and the other athletes who take to the waves.