Words By Dan Hamlin Illustration By Gary Parker

[T]here is something indescribable about water. I’ve often wondered at the role it has played in my life. I grew up about 20 minutes inland in a small farming town called Orcutt, and as a result I didn’t start surfing until I was in my late teens. As a kid, my folks would take our family on trips to the mountains where I would spend most of my time around the water; be it lakes, rivers, or ponds. As long as I can remember, water has always fascinated me. Even today I can spend hours by a river just listening to the sound of it, watching its flow. When I started surfing my focus turned to the sea. I quit organised sports and spent the majority of my free time in search of waves. Camping trips to the mountains were replaced by surf trips up and down the coast. My love for nature found a fresh outlet in surfing. The first time I caught a wave and rode down the line it was a stormy and miserable day. Just when I was about to go in out of frustration, I caught the wave that cemented my love for the sea and for surfing. As most first rides go it was nothing too extraordinary, but in that instant I felt an overwhelming excitement and sense of accomplishment. I knew from then on I was a surfer. Sometimes I find it strange that I ended up loving the ocean so much. It almost took my life when I was about 4 or 5. Whether I was too young to remember or because my mind instinctively blocked the incident, I can’t quite recollect what happened. But as the story goes by those who were there, my family and I were enjoying a sunny day at the beach when a surge of water caught me and began to sweep me out to sea. 

Thankfully my dad saw what happened and was able to rescue me before I drowned. Perhaps the incident helped to foster the fascination with water that has been with me as long as I can recall. Perhaps the incident instilled in me the respect and awe I still feel toward the ocean. Perhaps I’m making too much of the incident altogether. What I know for certain though is the importance water plays in all of our lives. It’s essential to our existence. When I immerse myself in the great ocean of our world’s shores there is something in me that is renewed. I feel at ease and yet alert simultaneously. The affect the sea has on me is tough to sum up with words. I don’t want to romanticise it too much; after all, it is simply but one aspect of creation in a world full of all kinds of beautiful and powerfully moving nature. But if I may take some liberty here, I will make a conjecture as to why the sea speaks to my soul so profoundly at times. For me the reason can be found in a simple Scripture verse in the book of Genesis. Chapter 1 verse 2 says, “…the Spirit of God was over the surface of the waters.” Again, I don’t want to over romanticise anything here. I’m not saying water is God; I’m not saying the ocean is God; and I’m not saying nature is God. I guess all I’m saying is that perhaps in nature, in the sea, I feel or experience some sort of characteristic of the Divine and that is why it speaks so wonderfully to me. That is why I can sit along a riverbank or at the ocean’s edge to simply watch and listen, and be content. I’m sure many will disagree with me, and that’s fine; I’m not trying to persuade anyone. I’m just grateful that I get to enjoy something as special as surfing and hopefully the sea will continue to speak to me for many years to come.

To read more of Dan’s work, head to his blog where he chronicles his surf and travel adventures.