Surfing Montauk with Debra Rose: June 2024

Sounds of Silence

Debra Rose

Ask any surfer what they love the most about surfing and the answers are variations describing pure fun.  One universal aspect subconsciously shared by those that surf is the appreciation of an activity without our daily noise, surrounded by nature.

The sounds of waves breaking, seagulls overhead, rain on the water’s surface, wind changing direction, and other surfer’s chatter are the usual sounds of an average session in the water.  Rare is the activity that not only shields you from unpleasant, distracting sounds in the environment like traffic horns and whistles, our own devices of distraction like cell phones and technology are basically off limits.  You are required to be in tune with nature.

This sense of being present and aware of the environment is at surfing’s core, and most surfers understand that human beings are under natures control, not the other way around.  Respect for the ocean and protecting it, as without a viable sea there is no surfing, makes this more than just a ‘water sport.’

Out east, surfers are local or coming from urban areas seeking the peace and tranquility the ocean offers.  Cliffs, hoodoos, sand and jetties replace billboards, buildings, street signs and scaffolding.  Since the sea does not conform to our will, surfers must be ready for unpredictable forces of nature, and use their instincts to react to the environment around them.  This is the opposite feeling of going about one’s day and not paying attention to arriving at one’s destination, a virtual sleepwalk through a daily, automated routine.

The joy and freedom to be surrounded by the sounds of the sea runs counter the perplexing appeal for manmade wave pools popping up around the country and the globe, trying to mimic the ‘perfect wave.’  Described as a freight train or jet engine, wave pools crank up the volume and produce a wave usually over a hard surface, with music blasting in surround sound and a crowd cheering while surfers wait their turn.

Artificial lighting, creating a wave inland, sometimes in a dessert, enclosed by a concrete wall are all attempts to control nature and seamlessly eliminating the serene nature surfing offers in the first place.  Here computers create an algorithm to determine the type of wave one will surf, eliminating the organic search for the ‘perfect wave.’  Instead, it’s all about riding the same wave over and over, switching our brain back into autopilot.

While wave pools generating faux waves are having their moment, surfing will always be about spending time in the water, surrounded by nature, embracing the silence.