I learned to surf when I was 6 years old, on the real deal – a 5′ long fiberglass single-fin board that was my brother’s. Still in the family today, the board sports a multi-color shooting star followed by a rainbow stream. The first time that I managed to stand up, I road that wave all the way triumphantly from the far breakers to the shore.
As I grew up, I still surfed on the star board, but more frequently I would invest in and use Morey Boogie boards. The surfboard was still awesome, but the boogie board was lighter for me to carry and also meant I could enjoy the surf more often – instead of having to wait for waves big enough to ride with the fiberglass board.
Then in my late teens, I started to bodysurf more and more, leaving the boards behind on the beach. If you’re not familiar with it, bodysurfing is when you position your body to ride the wave, being propelled towards the shore while suspended in the curl and crash of the wave – your body is the board.
In thinking about how I personally define Witchcraft, spellcraft, and magick at some point last week, I saw a connection. On the best days of my personal practice, I feel tapped into the Universe, that I am flowing with it and on it – not unlike bodysurfing the waves of the ocean. I’m subject to how the Universe flows, but I can choose what I wish to ride and I can change how I am positioned within it. And when I’m consciously working magick, it’s just me alone and the powers that be – nothing else between us.
So in looking how one practices, you could use surfing as a metaphor to describe the approach and interaction.
The fiberglass surfboard? It’s a big, expensive tool that has a certain amount of danger to it. It takes a lot of energy to haul it out and use it, and requires regular upkeep and cleaning. You have to be very conscious of who’s around you when you’re using it, as you severely hurt someone if you run into them with it. Also, when you fall off, you have to be careful that it doesn’t bounce back at you and hit you. (Requiring stitches, you can ask my brothers.) It takes skill and dedication to really learn how to work it, but the amount of risk never quite changes. When the waves are hard to come by, you may have to go out really deep in the water, where you can’t touch the ground anymore, and are possibly subject to sharks and other sealife. However, when everything works in your favor, you’re riding on top of the world, and everyone can see that too. You’re not quite of the wave because there’s this big board between you, but you’re riding with it and on top of it all. That to me sums up ceremonial and similar forms of ritual and “high” magick: a lot of effort, a fair amount of risk, a lot of factors to figure in, but can produce some amazing results.
Bodysurfing equates to magick without any tools or physical evidence of a working – just you and the wave. And unlike the surfboard and boogie board, you’re not riding on top of the wave, but are IN it. And to get the best ride possible, before you take off, you make sure the road is clear ahead of you, put your head down and launch. Sure, you could try and keep your head up and see where you are going, but that impedes the shape of your body and affects how well your ride will go. Bodysurfing isn’t about how it looks to anyone else, because it’s pretty hard to see the person riding the wave or for them to see anything either. No one will probably even see you or know you did it. It’s best to close your eyes and become part of the wave, to feel the sensation and movement of it all, adjusting your body and mind instinctively. Occasionally you do end up sand-logged and shell-scraped on shore, or modestly positioned in the little breakers needing to reclaim your bathing suit, but you got there regardless. It’s the most immediate, immersive way to ride a wave. It would seem to be the easiest of all three methods, because it doesn’t involve any investment, but it takes skill and practice to not only train your body/mind to move the right way and to keep in shape, AND learning to read the circumstances in order to choose the best wave.
In the end, all three methods are perfectly valid ways to ride the waves to get to the shore – they’re just each a bit different, providing separate viewpoints and experiences. It all depends on you and which you choose at any given time – because just because you’ve done it one way, doesn’t mean you can’t try it other ways.
Catch a wave, because surf’s up!