28 Jun 2017


WORDS x Shaun Hurrell
PHOTOS x Eskapee

To the untrained eye surfing and mountain biking might seem like a world apart but in reality they share many things in common. In some ways a surfer knows more about finding flow, finding momentum, and working with nature and not against it and there is a correlation between finding flow on a wave and on the trails.

The Surf

Water surged through my hair, white bubbles rushing through channels behind my ears as I pierced my board through a wave. With heavy arms, I paddled vigorously through whitewater chopped up by a strong Atlantic crosswind. Emerging, cold, behind the breaking waves, I opened my eyes and witnessed clouds rolling over volcanic cliff tops, in a dramatic slow-motion parody of the waves that were crashing onto the beach. A kind of view that puts you in your place, sometimes it’s the appreciation of your insignificance, or connection, in a landscape that can help you discover “it”.

I watched the waves peel, their glassy faces regularly reflecting a sunset orange. Some say that a wave is a fleeting embodiment of energy: water molecules move up and down in much the same place, but the wave moves forwards even though it is not a physical object.

I find my hands scooping into the gleaming water’s surface but, now, with full intent and awareness going into every stroke. I look behind and a golden wave is approaching with a lip of white just tickling over its top edge. I am in the perfect position and as the upsurge caresses my ankles, I press down on the board, which responds with a buoyant bounce. In one fluid motion I peel off the board and rise to my feet. I am turning, pumping, the wave is peeling—and I am smiling without realising, without concept of time.

The Trail

Nature moves in cycles, in seasons and currents, in annual migrations and the weathering of mountains. From the contours of a landscape to vibrating molecules, from the shape of a coastline to the patterns in a leaf, there is a rhythm. Find it in your mind, too, and it is something you can ride—and in that moment, there is no better connection to all things.

It’s out there to tap into. The first time I mountain biked down a narrow wooded track at night, my movements felt square, erratic, wrists jolting at every un-anticipated bump. As my light beams bounced from branch to trail, every shadowed furrow looked like a cavern I could get lost in. Angular roots beckoned me to the hard, frosty hard ground like wrinkled fingers; holly spikes deterring me from getting up. Then, suddenly, I gasp.

I see a white form directly above me. It’s the fluffy underbelly of a Barn Owl, which is swooping through the trees with effortless grace. With a deep exhalation that mists and passes past my face, I realise I am riding through moonlit forest, bustling with life and wonder. Now my shoulders loosen, my feet engage with pedals, and I’m on that wave. My arms pump the bars over every root, every undulation becoming a playful melody, every squidge of soil a heartbeat. As the owl banks its wings to arc silently around a tree, I feel my weight harmonise with the bike, as much an extension of my body as I am part of the environment.