“It is not down on any map; true places never are.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Having recently finished journalist Chris Dixon's impressive book "Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes Bank and The Biggest Wave on Earth" it occurred to me that out there exists, as I tap away at the keyboard, a wolf pack of surfers scouring weather maps and levels of ocean floor in search of giant waves. Slithering whales emerging from the sea and juggernauting their waves and fury onto reefs and sand. Outdated salty-wrinkled surfers counting ripples at their local shore break waiting for their set to come in, displaced over the decades by geography, the Internet and low-cost airlines. The advent of tow-in surfing (surfers towed onto larger waves by jet skis) and a maverick element of cutting-edge big wave riders has transformed the peaceful Endless Summer existence into the X-Games.
I loved this book. Its characters and spiritual aspects seep into the soul. The colourful personas that emerge from the chapters are all, not unlike Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, in search of the White Whale - the biggest wave on earth. It haunts them and feeds their very existence. As it gives their lives meaning, with the snap of a wave-lip, it snaps surfers in two. And yet, these men strapped to bindings on their surfboards, launch themselves over mountains of water in order to chase The Ride.
It struck something within me. For those few who succeed and slay their White Whales, returning to their log cabins with withered skin and fragile bones, what form of future methadone would ever replace the real thing?
Paolo Coelho said it better than anyone else in his cult-creating book, The Alchemist. "When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person realise his dream".
The thing that always stood out for me in that sentence is not the conspiracy or how the universe would wangle together the realisation of a dream. I mean how would the universe even know your dream if you kept shtum? The thing that stood out was the SOMETHING that was the subject of the desire. What is that "something"? What is its tangibility? Is it the secret of life, the calling, the addiction? Is it the "One Thing".
Curly from City Slickers said it best:
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
Curly: [smiles] That's what *you* have to find out.
In early 2000, having recently survived Y2K, I was overwhelmed with the sensation that the trajectory of my legal career had strayed from its path. The reasons behind this cataclysmic shift were many and had a lot to do with the potentially destructive elements of the profession and the characters which walked its seedy corridors. It was with this sense of emotion that I found myself searching with my eldest brother, Alberto, for flights to Bilbao and cheap bus fares to Pamplona. The search for my White Whale had begun and, I decided, this would take the form of the running of the bulls. I would run it. Once. And then all would be revealed. When a person really desires something and all that.
Having barely and gratefully survived La Corrida, it became clear to me why Ernest Hemingway would dedicate large portions of his waking hours writing about the bulls, the blood and the spectacle. Everyone finds a book in them after running with los toros.
What the Corrida did for me was The One Thing - it showed me the place where the whales live. As the mist cleared from my foggy mind, I sensed that chasing white whales with friends along to share the experience and some vino rojo for courage, and your life opens up to a series of adrenaline-fueled and mind-altering adventures. The perfect antidote to counteract an alternate life spent fighting the couch and TV remote.
Bring me that horison,