Surfing: do you remember your wave of a lifetime? | Photo: Shutterstock

From the moment it approached, the best wave of Jonah Stone's life as a surfer was clearly otherworldly.

As it swelled into being, four dolphins glimmered beneath its surface, driving it forward with their heads as they spouted in pairs.

The sea in front of it turned to glass, and a sharp reflection of majestic clouds pierced by the sun spread over the water like a staggering glimpse of the heavenly reward.

Harps sounded, but Jonah had no idea how.

He whipped his board around and paddled for all he was worth. No way was he going to miss this one.

He had waited his whole life for it, and he knew it. He felt it in his bones. He had been to every classic surf location on Earth, spanning five continents.

Never before had his wave sense kicked in with this much conviction. Yet the wave, once committed to, was not difficult to catch.

It pulled Jonah in, gathering around him like a mighty helping hand, curling gentle fingers with whitewater nails.

He felt his board slide into a perfect line for descent. The nose tipped slowly forward.

As he stood, a pathway of swirling sand in the likeness of golden dust surfaced in front of him, granting him a welcome.

Seaside observers noticed and pointed. The first maneuver was flawless.

Jonah nailed a brilliant bottom turn and skipped along the face of the wave, leaning back against the water, his fingers dragging through it.

He saw the crest of the wave curl over him, closing him in.

Waves: gifts from Nature | Photo: Shutterstock

A Cherished Dream

Jets of foam dangled from it like long silver hair blowing in the wind. A long tunnel took shape.

"My God," Jonah uttered, entering the tube.

It was perfect from end to end, extending forever, it seemed. He had never seen anything like it, not even in his wildest imagination.

The culmination of a cherished dream. And like a dream, the wave began bending basic rules.

As Jonah disappeared into its hermetic inner chamber, it zipped itself shut and assumed cyclonic inner spinning.

Its concave blue walls flooded with light. The sound of harps intensified.

"Jonah Stone," declared a booming voice.

Jonah looked around. In both directions, the rotating cylinder of ocean stretched well beyond his feeble eyesight.

The total scale of things was impossible to fathom. Its enormity took his breath away and altered his sense of motion.

Had he not felt strong gales blowing over him, he would have sworn he was stationary.

"Jonah Stone." The voice originated everywhere.

"Here I am."

"Stand before me."

"Kinda busy," Jonah noted, carving slaloms. The tube was unbelievable.

Tube: the ultimate surfer's goal | Photo: Shutterstock

Corkscrew Tunnel Vision

He was able to ride up one wall, then come down the other side, something no surfer had ever done.

He repeated the stunt many times, leaving an unbroken corkscrew wake behind him. He glanced the pattern over his shoulder. "Righteous!"

Then he realized he could turn around and surf the other way, back to where he started.

He zipped across the tunnel in both directions, newly amazed by each course change.

As he executed the seventh, he discovered something else, utterly unprecedented in the sport.

If he chose to delay in mid-reversal, he could surf straight down the wave like a hamster in a wheel, getting nowhere while enjoying rapid spin.

Here too, he had the uncanny sensation that, for all his apparent motion, he may as well have been still.

Stray strands of kelp and bursts of loose seafoam blew past him at regular intervals like party streamers and thought bubbles, respectively.

Oceans: the sanctuary of life on Earth | Photo: Shutterstock

The Procession of Land Animals

Because, however, the wave showed no sign of ending, Jonah eventually accepted the idea of cooperating.

He crouched on his surfboard and waited, water rushing by without moving him. He peered up and down the rotating tunnel.

"I'm listening," he offered.

"Stand tall, Jonah Stone."

He obliged, springing to full height, his bony knees wobbling beneath the hems of his dripping board shorts.

Now that he thought about it, hearing a booming voice state his full name inside a perpetual wave was pretty disturbing.

He wondered what the voice wanted.

Did it have anything to do with whatever was suddenly coming down the tunnel at him? He witnessed a long parade of land animals swirling in the water.

"In Mine own image, I have given man dominion over all these creatures," boomed the voice, "and how has man thanked Me?"

The animals passed in pairs, like an inventory of Noah's ark.

They streamed through the tunnel by the dozen at lightning speed: two lions, tigers, zebras, elephants, bears, cows, horses, pigs, and every other creature with no proper claim to warm tropical waters.

Jonah could hardly believe his eyes and almost reached out to grab a stray tail or two for a jetski-style tow into the further reaches of the wave, but he resisted.

He simply watched the procession with his mouth hanging open.

"Hey! Monkeys!" he shouted, pointing at the final pair, which seemed to taunt him by puffing their lips and displaying their armpits.

"All right, let me think," Jonah resumed, focusing on the original question, not sure of the answer.

"Can you give me a hint?"

"As custodian of his habitat, man has failed!"

"Geez," Jonah thought, "this guy's a grouch..."

Wave: a blue cylinder of aquatic dreams | Photo: Shutterstock

Riding the Present Wave

He peered down the tunnel, watching the animals vanish from sight. He longed to resume his wild aquatics.

The pure blue water raged around him like an enticing tornado. He was in the eye of the storm.

"Bummer," Jonah said, frowning. "That custody thing is a real bummer, man. Don't I know it: I have two ex-wives!"

"I have chosen you, Jonah Stone, to -- "

Here Jonah badly breached surfer etiquette by intentionally "dropping in" on the voice. That is, he cut it off on purpose. Or tried to.

The action sat poorly with his conscience, but he was afraid to hear the next words. They likely involved some binding responsibility.

"Hey, did one of my exes set this up? Good trick, though." He stood admiring the wave.

For better or worse, the voice had not stopped speaking. It finished its prior sentence without missing a beat as Jonah talked over it.

At best, he could claim he had not heard it well or understood it sufficiently, but he had. In his heart, he knew the truth.

He had heard every last word and understood them perfectly.

For a long time, he paced back and forth on his surfboard, considering what to do.

"Why me?" he finally wanted to know.

In something other than speech, the voice told him.

It asked him to recognize that riding the present wave was the fulfillment of his greatest personal wish.

He agreed. Of course.

Had he not devoted his whole life to that moment, sometimes at all costs?

Now in his forties, he knew nothing would top it. He also understood nothing needed to.

Surfing: the place where reality meets fantasy | Photo: Red Bull

Reality or Fantasy?

Thus the voice continued, no longer booming, no longer needing to, that after living his dream, man is to wake up from it also.

It comes time to give back, behave usefully, and steward the collective.

The voice made it clear that only trouble could come from denying or avoiding this calling.

But how was it telling Jonah these things?

The roar of water persisted on all sides but was not the source. The wind tore through his hair but was not the source. The invisible harps released heavenly arpeggios but were not the source.

Audibly, there was only one place left amid all that racket and activity: inside Jonah.

At that moment, the man named Stone felt his heart become anything but. It seemed to soften in his chest like a glob of spent surf wax.

"I understand," Jonah stated.

Then the wave began to contract and unravel. The top rolled back like the canvas roof on Jonah's convertible Volkswagen Beetle.

The water lost its backlit glow and became a simple swell in the natural process of crumbling.

To Jonah's surprise, the people on the beach were in roughly the same positions and attitudes as when he first caught the wave.

What for him had persisted at least fifteen minutes had for them been more like that many seconds.

The observers who had been pointing at him were still pointing as if not much had changed.

To reward their interest, Jonah finished the ride with a few seasoned tricks.

He did a soul arch, sticking both thumbs in the air. He shuffled forward and hung ten, his long feet well past the nose, kicking spray with his toes. He turned around and hung heels.

Surfers: only they know the feeling | Photo: Red Bull

A Metaphor of the Self

Then he did a strutting cross-walk to the back of the board, where he shielded his eyes with both hands and peered at where he'd just been.

There was no sign of the encounter that moments ago had put his life in perspective.

He saw only more waves coming in and more unsuspecting surfers, due perhaps for a similar cowabunga. He bowed, wishing them well.

Outside the wave, it was an ordinary day.

The sun shining, a few clouds, a gentle breeze. Jonah smoothly finished the ride and toted his board to the beach.

His day of surfing was definitively over. Going after more waves felt altogether pointless.

Instead, he sat on the sand and contemplated what had happened. He wondered whether anyone would believe it.

Possibly working against that reception, in addition to popular dismissal of the irrational, were Jonah's decades of experimenting with myriad hallucinogens.

He scratched the stubble on his chin and huffed.

"Telling people is unnecessary," he realized.

He could imagine the booming voice saying that too. In fact, it was. But as his own.

He touched his chest.

Eventually, the sunset came, and Jonah watched it as a metaphor for himself and where he was in the cresting wave of his lifespan.

As direct daylight faded and the soft hues of dusk turned the sky to its most magic shades, he brainstormed how best to reconnect with his children, celebrate their special occasions, offer home improvement to his ex-wives.

He also nurtured his first ideas about caretaking the planet, hoping to make it a better place.

The voice was right: Man, at his best, was a wise and willing custodian.

Darkness fell, and Jonah knew it was time to head home.

On the other hand, he had the wonderful feeling that he was always, wherever he went, in a place by that name.

He pulled on his poncho, kicked into his flip-flops, stood tall, and got started.


Words by Graham Best | Writer, Translator, Psychotherapist, and Teacher

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