Imagine this: I arrive at a a popular surf spot and everyone makes welcome eye contact with me and they greet me or introduce themselves. As I paddle out everyone who recognizes me is happy to see me and those who don’t are curious and excited to meet me. Welcoming me into a place in the lineup I’m stoked to be given a turn.  Those around me engage with me in authentic conversation and they are genuinely pleased that I am there.  They believe I have something to offer and they are stoked to help me practice my abilities for the benefit of the group.  When it’s my turn to catch a wave they all hoot me into the wave and cheer and celebrate my ride.

A welcoming Fijian faceI have heard stories from parts of the south pacific that this is real and the local villagers greet and welcome outsiders in this way. I saw in Fiji a similar culture of welcoming and being together in a good way. My wife and I both noticed how joyful the children are, we didn’t see any crying or tantrums and no need for any discipline or timeouts.

My sense is that in this culture it feels very safe and children know absolutely that they are loved and their needs are met.

Fellow Californians have told me they don’t go in the ocean because of the nasty reputation that surfers here have. Unfortunately this reputation is often accurate and well deserved, and I feel sad to see good people chased out of the water. I find it insane that if localism is successful then the only people left in the water are those who are behaving like jerks.  Why would anyone want to be surrounded only by people acting like obnoxious immature bullies? This is something I’m working to change and for several reasons.

Ocean ambassadorsWhat I saw in Fiji left a lasting impression on me and even though we went there as a volunteer work group I feel like I received more than I gave. I’m concerned that with our cameras, smartphones, tablets, laptops, sunglasses, and disposable income we might have influenced the villagers to give up their rich culture in exchange for empty materialism. It makes more sense to me for the villagers to be coming to America and teaching us how live together and be more connected to each other and nature.

Welcomed to the village with a Fijian feastA lot of Fijians are built like elite athletes or Greek gods and I attribute part of this to their active outdoor lifestyle and diet of eating wild seafood and local organic/wild plants. Their waters and land still seem healthy and with less toxins then here in California. This way of living is what I’m doing my best to practice and share with people. I believe that by connecting openhearted people with the ocean they will then have an interest in cleaning it up and protecting it. The way I see it if more conscious people go in the ocean daily or weekly we will have more people picking up trash at the beach and less people putting harmful toxins into the ocean.  The fish will be healthier and we and all of the food chain will be healthier.

One of my teachers said that we came to this world needing and expecting a community with forty pairs of eyes seeing, acknowledging, and appreciating us for who we are.

By not having this we are suffering a big loss. Conscious or not the wound is there and in need of healing.  The practice of welcoming, acknowledging and appreciating was shown to me as a healing practice and now I am doing my best to bring this to the surf zone. Having a great ride by myself is fun and then it’s so much better when there is someone to see and acknowledge and appreciate that ride.

A welcome site for any surferThe other day I was surfing a great swell, I paddled pretty far out and about a minute later one of the bigger waves came to me. I stroked into this beautiful wave and went flying down the line and as I kicked out there was guy watching with a big smile on his face. I felt acknowledged and appreciated, and it seems to me that this uplifts everyone in the water and I believe the plants, sea animals, and the ocean feel and appreciate this positive energy as well.

Sometimes I catch myself hoping someone will fall off a great wave so I can ride the rest of it, and I’ve fallen into the trap of wanting people to leave in hopes that I can get more waves. This is often the dominant mindset and it’s easy to get caught up in it. Especially when there aren’t many elders showing us how to welcome each other and to see that value and wealth are in people.  Sadly in the surf it’s often the older guys that are the most obnoxious and saying the most hurtful words.

There will always be more waves.

The second day of that great swell I was SUP surfing when I saw a friend get a great ride, and after we sat to talk. A few minutes later an older white haired man paddled up to my friend and told him off, saying he took that last wave from him. My hunch is that these older guys are seeing their body aging, and without a spiritual practice nor a community to be of value to, waves are the only thing they have to look forward to. I suspect losing that is terrifying and I feel compassion for them.

Two of my mentors are in their sixth decade, they both have chosen a life of service and following their passion and they both have a deep spiritual practice and a community that values their gifts. They are two of the most joyful people I know and they have a warm greeting and good words for everyone they see. It’s inconceivable to me that they would ever paddle up to a stranger and tell them to f-off.  I suspect they would instead be curious and welcome this person as a blessing. I believe a culture that has lost it’s wisdom is unsustainable and I’m hopeful a more conscious and deeply connected generation is rediscovering the wisdom of the ancestors and will lead the way to cooperating, acknowledging and appreciating all of the universe’s creations.