WE ALL MIND SURF, VISUALISING YOUR RIDES IS GOOD FOR YOU ... OR IS IT? CAN YOU DO IT TOO MUCH?
His cell overlooked the point, a jungle fringed headland jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. It was rumoured that the police sergeant responsible for his capture, a bitter and jealous old man had demanded this to be the case. Virgil’s fame had meant he had been able to do the thing he loved most for a living and for a very long time but it had its pitfalls too, and the old sergeant’s perverse request was palpable evidence of this.
‘Professional surfer put behind bars for drug smuggling is given cell overlooking surf break’ read the local papers the week he’d been caught. Non-surfers chuckled into their morning coffees as they read the article whereas all surfers were united in their unease as they read the headline.
The cruel irony wasn’t lost on Virgil and at first he naively believed that it might not be the worst outcome, he loved the ocean after all so surely it was better to be within view rather than away from it. Unfortunately as time passed this theory was dolefully disproved.
The window was at the far end of the cell opposite the door, just ten feet away. It was rectangular in shape just 12x14 inches, five inches deep with a reinforced plastic glass behind three rusty iron bars. Virgil had grasped the bars in the first few years but gradually his grip had loosened until now when he simply rested his palms on their rusted surface as he glared at the peeling right hander. He had promised himself that he wouldn’t do this but instead he checked the point every morning as soon as he woke.
The wave had broken consistently for eight months of the year, on average 244 days of every year for the last seven years. Virgil knew this because he had made calculations, rough at first but they quickly became more accurate the more obsessed he became. The prison officers were only too happy to oblige with providing him with pencils and notepads because they took amusement from the man consumed by scribbled numbers and arrows, it was their theatre.
Virgil’s sentence had been steep due to the scale of the narcotics smuggling operation, he was by no means the head of the operation but had been at the helm of the yacht when the police had intercepted him on that tempestuous night. Virgil had resorted to smuggling because he had cash flow problems and felt unable to work a nine to five after twenty years of being paid by sponsors to surf.
The point was rumoured to have been unridden for a generation by any surfer on the island due to its vicinity to the prison compound, and this further tortured Virgil. He’d spent his lifetime searching for empty perfection and now he’d found it.
If it was flat he’d have a day of rest - from his mind. He’d exercise or read and he’d eat well, he’d even converse with other prisoners during his breaks. These were his good days.
When there was average surf he’d stay by the window for a couple of hours taking his calculations, the presumed size, wind direction, tide, etc.
However it was on those days when the surf was cranking that consumed every ounce of Virgil’s being, and eventually led to his slide away from reality.
In his ninth and penultimate year inside Virgil no longer looked out of the window and mind surfed the long walls of water, instead he focussed on his notes and scribbles but now a stuttered commentary coincided with the task. His descent was a gradual process but to everyone else it almost appeared to happen overnight. The prison wardens had laughed at Virgil’s desperation but they weren’t malicious they believed he’d get out soon enough to live his charmed beach bum life once again.
For Virgil his conundrum had been solved, his suffering had ceased because he didn’t feel the need to surf the point anymore. He didn’t need to surf anywhere anymore, his mind was elsewhere…