One of the privileges of my life is living on Lake Winnipeg, 6th largest freshwater lake in Canada and 11th largest in the world. Pretty big, you cannot see the other side and it is
called our inland sea. Now, every now and then when the winds are right, waves can whip up and you can body surf these. It really only amounts to a nudge forward, not true
surfing at all, yet intriguing. So it was delightful to get to Ventura and find myself on a surfing beach of some renown. Somehow I drove right into the parking lot for this beach at
the end of the afternoon and got out to look at the action. There was an impressive number of people out there in the waves. And these were real waves in the tens of feet. A
surfing beach is a geographical fluke. The ocean has swells rising high and low in constant motion. These can be forecast to predict qualifications for surf in order to predict a
good surfing day over a routine one. The swell interact with the bottom to create the wave action as I understood it. The beach itself has a narrow point where the distance
between shore and waves is made more convenient for the surfers to get out to the wave front. The trick appears to snag that wave at just the right time to stand up on the board
and then position it to ride the wave along its length. Those few who succeeded would disappear around the corner and go on toward the Ventura pier passing by the hotel in the
process. At the hotel, they would come around that corner and ride the wave to its end or the pier, whichever came first. They would then walk back and go around again.
As a photographer with a thing for wave action this was an immediate subject of interest. Also a challenge as the camera has a lens equal to 750 meters or 63 times normal. In
short a huge focal length, enough to get a decent shot of the moon for example. However, this is a tricky thing as at full focal length, the camera's brain has to read the scene to
bring it into focus. This means holding it steady on the subject which is easy if it is the moon as it just sits there but not so much for a surfer in motion as they are constantly
challenging the frame of the image. The trick became to find the subject, establish focus and then shoot the subject. Sounds easy but like curling and golf it all comes down to
micro seconds of action and reaction. I found myself drifting off into the Zen of it all realizing my efforts mirrored those of the surfer who also had seconds in which to move to a
standing position and manipulate the board to that sweet spot that allowed for a clear run.
|All rights reserved Garth Goodwin 1995-2018
Following the conference I went over the Santa Monica mountains to Malibu to find it had a surfing beach which just happened to pass by the estate of the original owners of all
that land and beach front, now known as Malibu. The property is now a State Park, Adamson House and its lawns, fences and a blazing sun made for an afternoon to totally get
into shooting surfing. Surfers appear to be very individual, alone with their boards, alone on the waves, quite independent. This turned out to be an illusion as they are bonded by
their passion, a need for parking, a shared need to keep things safe and of course, the right conditions. They have their own language for their sport and aspects of it. Time and
time again in conversation this prairie fellow would have to check unique terms to my understanding. It hit me how rare a sport this is with all the restrictions placed upon it by
Skill set has to be the most appreciated factor in surfing. One does not just get up on the board. Many simply do not get up at all. They go out there, they bob with the waves and
they contemplate. When they do get up, they often fall, It takes time and practice to get the hang of this. Those who do stand tend to go with the wave at first, riding it straight
down until it exhausts or passes over them. Clearly there were sweet spots where you would position yourself to actually ride the wave as it rolled forward. These appears to be in
the top third from the base of the wave. The true surfers not only nail that sweet spot, they stick it by steering along the wave and riding parallel to it. These surfers stick out as
they often appear from the beginning of the zone on the right and then zoom their way across the surfing zone to its end. As they do, they have to adjust for everyone in their way
bobbing up or down to avoid them. Finally, they reach the end of the wave where it exhausts and turns into foam.
The surfer at the center of the image above was one (of two that afternoon) with the level of skill to cross the surfing beach. Here he is toward the end of his run, compensating
for those in his way. Remarkably, he hit no one and rode on to the end. The images below show him earlier in his run, passing someone with a green swim hat who then
emerges behind him.
It's funny if you spend a few hours watching something new you naturally try to relate it to your own experience and or outlook. Seeing the hundred or so surfers doing their
thing that afternoon with their various levels of skill and comfort with the surf soon had my mind wandering off to metaphor land. The ocean became all the people out there or
life force itself. The waves could be those at risk or even the profession of child and youth care itself. The rare quality of surfing beaches seemed to play into that. The aspiring
surfers demonstrated the tentative approach needed to study and attempt this kind of work. It takes practice, gobs of practice. I was reminded of Lorraine Fox telling us of our
unique perception of the world as child and youth care folk. I even had my personal rosy coloured glasses handy for the day. The surfer represented the truism that the person
is the tool in this work and the board became one's past history, education, upbringing and all the rest. Thus equipped you swam out to the wave and attempted to ride it. So
much child and youth care workers do involves the unknown be it meeting a new person or dealing with a crisis. Those few who could ride the wave across the beach were truly
special for their mastery of all the variables involved. The ride was the celebration itself of empathy, relationship, resolution and reconciliation. It's just a metaphor after all, the
reader can make with it what they will. For this writer, my preference would be to stay with the rarity of the child and youth care professional as this conference reminded me
once again of how few can and do ride the wave and make a practice of it.