I like the ocean and all to do with it. I read a couple of books last vacation by Susan Casey on the topic of the ocean. The first was called The Devil's Teeth, about the Farallon Islands (their jagged heights make them look like giant foreboding devil's teeth), which I reviewed on my other blog. Secondly, I read a book by Casey called The Wave: In Pursuit of Rogues and Freaks. It is about big-wave surfing. It is supposedly about the science of freak huge waves, like the one that sank the New Gloucester MA fishing vessel Andrea Gail (The movie The Perfect Storm was about that catastrophe). Instead of the science behind freak waves, Casey spent a lot of time in the book on surfing instead. I'm fascinated by men who would chase a giant wave and ride down the face of it. (Obviously the author was, too). Until I'd read Casey's book I had no clue about surfing's big name sponsors and the world wide chasing of these waves, and the competitions to surf the biggest wave for award money and fame.
There was news this week of someone who has broken the record for riding the tallest wave. American Surfer Garrett McNamara did it, on a wave off Portugal. He surfed a 78-foot wave successfully and earned competition dollars to boot. That he lived to tell the tale is another bonus, lol.
The Casey book was ostensibly about the science behind big waves- how they occur, why they occur, how they interact with the sea floor, etc. It was kind of thin on the science but still, there were lots of photos, and who can't appreciate a great curl? The preciousness and the perfection of coming out of the tube? Or of seeing the sunlight through the tube?
Here is the video of McNamara riding the award winning huge wave:
Here is a random photo from inside a tube:
Here is an illustration of the science/maths and waves: (source)
And here is the point:
As I read about these surfers, they all say they love the challenge of the wave. To challenge life itself, to live through sliding down the height of a 6-storey building on a stick. To conquer nature.
Now, it is one thing to admire nature, for God is the architect of it. He is creative, that Creator of ours. We admire His handiwork.
"For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." (Psalm 19:1).
But these surfers, while admiring the handiwork of 'nature,' also challenge it. They want to master it. To be superior to it. This is quite another thing. The line is thin between athletic excellence so as to admire God's handiwork and another thing to see nature as the opponent to be mastered. Mountain climbers, bikers, surfers, skiiers, and other athletes may start out as wanting to hone their body for the betterment of a healthy life, or to be able to see a view God had made from another vantage point, like the top of a mountain or the bottom of the sea, but at some point their admiration may transfer from honoring God's handiwork to admiring themselves for mastering it. If they even believe God made it at all.
The wave is not the enemy. The wave is a challenge, yes, but satan is the enemy, and he seeks to instill pride in the accomplishment of mastery over God's creation. As with any non-Godly adrenaline rush, even the most humble or least skillful surfer (climber-biker-kayaker-etc) wants the adrenaline thrill to continue. The only way to do that is to seek higher heights, deeper depths, until one day, death wins. Athleticism for its sake is a glorious thing. Paul likened our faithful path to a race, to runners, to athletes competing for the prize. But as with any sin, seeking the continual glory without God behind it will always lead away from God.
As I finished the Casey book, The Wave, I was struck by the futility of it all. These surfers were always hooked into a phone or text or alarm that would alert them to the storm trough that may produce the next big wave. They were always leaving their families to go rushing off to Portugal or Bora Bora or California to ride the next big wave. It struck me as a completely unfulfilling life, because it was based on adrenaline, and not God.
After Mike Parsons broke the previous big wave record of 77 feet in 2008, now comes McNamara with his 78-foot wave. What next? Will McNamara seek a 79 or 80 foot wave? To what end? What does the mountain climber do after Everest? What will James Cameron do after seeing the earth's deepest point?
God is an adrenaline rush that never ends. It is infinite, because He is infinite. And His love is infinite.
"Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea." (Job 11:7-9).
Now HE is a pursuit worth training for!