On that beach, young children were making things that kind of looked like castles by pushing together tiny grains of silicon dioxide. Annoying parents stood by to tell the children what castles did, and did not, look like. The end product was often intricate with buttresses, ornamental shells, and sharp defined corners.
For a moment the children could step back and say “this is a castle,” and very few people would argue with them, but being on the edge of an ocean, beaches also sometimes have waves.
These waves often started somewhere far away, and are the result of many incremental forces. As they approach the shore they have a certain inevitability to them. Waves don’t really give a crap what a castle is supposed to look like, and they don’t really give a crap about the children that made those castles.
In fact, waves aren’t really capable of giving a crap at all. When they’re done, the waves leave behind a clump that’s soft and rounded that doesn’t really look like a castle anymore. It looks like something, but we don’t really have a word for it.
On Ocean Beach some people get tired of building sand castles and choose to interact with the waves directly.
Some people just hang out and bob up and down. Other people float on things that are filled with air, but everyone knows it’s the surfers that really know what’s goin’ on.
Other people swim out, and they bob up and down. Sometimes, when people get to the top of a wave, they say “I made this wave, this wave is because of me, and because I’m wearing yellow swimming trunks,” and then lots of other people put on yellow swimming trunks and the swim out, but by the time they get there that guys at the bottom and some guy in red trunks is yelling the same thing.
Other people sit on inflated rafts, so even when they’re at the bottom their little heads peek out over the top of the waves, but, eventually, a lot of those guys tip over or they run out of people that are willing to blow.
It’s the surfers that are the most fun to watch.
They know they didn’t start the waves, but they do study them. While they’re surfing, they don’t congratulate each other for pushing the water closer to the shore. They understand that the wave has a certain inevitability to it, that it doesn’t give a crap about them… it just moves.
So, they play on it and explore its natural contours and do tricks. And, by doing that, they give the wave meaning, human meaning.