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06 October, 2011

How surfing is like dating

I was sitting on lava rocks, in Kona, at a beach named "Magic Sands," watching the surfers on the water in front of me. I was on my cell phone having a conversation about relationships. And suddenly, the combination of the conversation and the visuals in front of me, brought about the following metaphor:

Surfing is a lot like (online) dating.

I add the term "online" in parentheses because I think it is probably a nearly obligatory modifier.

So, how does it work?

Simple. Let me explain. You sign up for an online dating site, and you've essentially grabbed your surfboard and decided to enter the water. Easy enough, right? And then, you watch and wait. For something with potential to come along. Sometimes there's nothing. Sometimes there's plenty. Finally, a wave comes along that looks like a good one, so you decide you're gonna have a go at it. Of course, one of the most critical things, no matter how good the wave is, is that you need to time it right, and use the proper technique for picking up the wave. Sound familiar? Much the same as online dating, where you need to read that wave, and start off with the right kind of communication, or else you never even get a date.

So, getting a date is sort of like standing up on your board and starting to ride the wave.

What happens next, of course, is completely unpredictable. Sometimes the wave disintegrates immediately, and you fall right off your board. Sometimes the wave gets too big too fast, and swallows you. That's like when you discover on the first date, or shortly thereafter, that it's not what you had hoped, and you either abort, or get tossed. Or sometimes people come on too strong, and it's necessary to run away.

Occasionally, you get off to a good start, and you're on that wave, reading the changes in it, and feeling like everything's completely under control. That would be "steady dating." Even then, sudden twists and turns, or missteps, or interference from other currents in the water throw you off sooner than you might have expected. The failed relationship.

Rarely, almost never, you ride that perfect wave, handling every nuance of it, and eventually find yourself still standing, well clear of the surge, and coasting gently to shore. Ah, commitment.

Much like surfing, you usually take on plenty of waves of highly-varying quality and duration before finding that one that takes you home. The metaphor breaks down for me a little bit when I think about the fact that there are various ways to leave the game of surfing. You could get injured. You could have so many bad waves that you finally decide to leave the water on a less-than-optimal note. Conversely, one could be so obsessed with the novelty and rush of every unique wave that comes along, that you never want to leave the water.

Do we have the capacity to know when we're on the most awesome wave we're ever going to see? Or is it only in hindsight that we look back and think about an amazing wave, perhaps idealizing it to have been bigger, and more perfect than perhaps it actually was?

I do not know.

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