Somewhere climbing and surfing intersect. The place where it happens in not obvious, but it exists.
Every surfer has experienced it. After every decent session you’re left with frozen moments that are locked into your consciousness – instantaneous images that crystallise in your mind with a vague yet powerful tangibility. These moments evoke the kind of immediate nostalgia as that of Polaroid prints.
You lean into your bottom turn and see the wall of the wave reeling up ahead of you. Click. You hold a stylish body position while attempting to cutback to the power source from out on the wave’s slackening shoulder. Click.
The sensorial cacophony that accompanies the union of man, ocean and earth is particularly evocative of these moments and results easily in the mystic leap between brain chemistry and muscle memory.
Out there on the crag, though, a hundred miles from the coast, climbers experience these moments too.
There is an ache and a fear and a pounding of your heart and an increased intensity of perception. When your body and your mind are stretched to extremes hard-won physical knowledge takes over. The climber’s world is distilled to the square centimetres that surround that finger hold. The universe becomes the angle and camber and extension of that crux move.
A wave is essentially ephemeral. It never truly exists in space and time but is simply a manifestation of natural given form in liquid by the interaction of the sea floor and the energy itself. A rock face is pure energy too – but formed in imperceptible increments over geological time. It is warped and cracked and affected by environmental conditions that stretch over aeons rather than the fleeting moments that form a breaking wave.
Is it too great a leap of the imagination to acknowledge that they are both outriders of the human race’s deep instinct to dance with the elements? Could it be that both surfers and climbers simply play in the beauty and the menace of the planet?
Illustration: Chris Gray