by Eric Soares
Scope it out
Wait for the opportune moment
Commit with abandon
Ride the grooveline
Ambient to change
Sense the crash
There is no fulfillment
The venture fails
The flower bears no fruit
The love fades away
The wave passes you by
Eric’s poem exemplifies his ideas about commitment, especially related to sea kayaking. Note the repeated line “Be there”. What’s it mean? Being there is being in the present moment and abandoning oneself to the stream of events with deep respect for the real in whatever new form it may present itself (thank you, Thomas Merton). And no mind-chatter. Instead of the inner whiner shrieking “That big wave is going to kill me!!!” you simply note the event: “Hmmm, a big wave.” And charge.
Speaking of being there, one of the things I appreciated about Eric is how he seemed to have eyes in the back of his head. Once we were hanging out at Maverick’s on a mild day when Eric said, “Paddle right.” There was no particular urgency in his voice, but it was a command and I obeyed. I paddled to where he told me and just as I got there I began to go up. Up and up and up. To my astonishment I found myself on top of a wave as big as a house. The wave passed under me and I went down and down and down as I watched the back of the monster roll away and break ponderously onto the reef. Had I been in the wrong place I would have been toast. We carried on without remark, but I will always remember how I had no idea that killer wave was coming and Eric did. Because he was there.
So commitment is paying attention and maintaining constant vigilance even on a mild day. Commitment is more than being present, though. Reading this poem is kind of like surfing or rock gardening in extreme conditions. First, you “be there”, you “scope it out”. You note the trend of the sea change. You “wait for the opportune moment” and then you “commit” to the stunt or the move. And you “commit with abandon”. In jujitsu, it’s called sutemi. Basically, sutemi means sacrifice. The true nature of commitment lies in one’s ability to abandon attachment to self and to outcome.
“Ride the grooveline/Go ballistic/Stay tuned”. There is a grooveline, and if you commit with abandon you’ll find it, whether it’s the line down the face of a wave or the sweet spot behind a rock in huge breaking surf. Once tuned into the grooveline, “go ballistic”. Again, what does it mean? It means paddle, broach, spin, backpaddle, flip, roll, recover, paddle. In ten seconds or less. I had a chance to see Jeff Laxier go ballistic on Nick’s Nightmare last September. It was great! Changing tactics moment by moment like a warrior fighting multiple opponents, without time to think you simply respond, plastic in an uninhibited response to each new movement.
“Ambient” is an interesting word, meaning “encompassing on all sides”. The air is ambient. So is the ocean especially in extreme conditions. The mind, reaching out through the senses, must be all encompassing as well. In extreme conditions things change fast. Consequently when going ballistic you need to stay tuned, ambient to change. Then you can switch tactics in a smooth flow of adjustments.
“Sense the crash.” Kayaking in extreme conditions implies the looming specter of a crash. It’s in there somewhere but you want it to miss you. Tuned in and ambient to change, you sense the crash before or as it manifests and save yourself.
“Without commitment there is no fulfillment.” This line speaks for itself. “The wave passes you by.” The failed venture, the fruitless flower, the faded love, the passing wave, all these are tragic. With each missed wave, an irretrievable opportunity for fulfillment passes.
Eric’s commitment to sea kayaking helped pioneer a new frontier. His commitment to work led to his career as a beloved university professor. His commitment to deep and lasting relationships led to the formation of the Tsunami Rangers.
Eric gave a lot of himself to the people and situations he encountered. That had a price. Not everyone shared his level of commitment and he was sometimes disappointed. But more often than not his enthusiasm was so great it drew others along and memorable things happened. Commitment is no guarantee that an undertaking will succeed, but it gives you a better than fighting chance and if you tank you tank with glory. This is true in kayaking as well as in life and in my opinion WAY better than suffering the emptiness of a life without commitment. In the spirit of the Wave Warrior I encourage everyone to commit to whatever you wish to manifest. Happy New Year!
Share your thoughts on commitment by clicking below.