One of the interns we had stay with us last year is an avid rock climber. During her time here, she was struck with the parallels between surfing, yoga, and rock climbing — not just in terms of their physical natures, but the mentalities that their practitioners seem to share. Surfers, yogis, and rock climbers are typically conservationists and avid believers in the “experiences, not things” philosophy. She was inspired to write this blog post during her time here.
“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” – Plato
Stereotypes come with almost every culture and every “type” of person. We all have the image of the “surfer bum”, living in a shack on the beach, salt-covered and tanned, not really doing much except catching waves. In climbing culture, the equivalent is called the “dirt bag” — a person who lives out of a van, drives from crag to crag, looks for the cleanest lines, and is not too worried about hygiene or food source. “Yogis” bring to mind the image of “peace and love”: incense, beaded necklaces, candles, and dreamy, far-off-look-in-the-eyes. Each caricature of these people has one thing in common: they differ from the social norm. Surfers, climbers, and yogis are known to lead lifestyles that are far from “traditional”.
Like all things that are different, stereotypes and ridicule emerge because people don’t really know what to make of these other folks. Some envy this alternative lifestyle, and wish they could live it. Others abhor it, and view these climbers and surfers as selfish and unwilling to contribute to society. Either way, it is widely recognized that the individuals who commit themselves and their lives to these activities are different from the rest. Perhaps this is because none of these pursuits subscribe to, what in our culture is known as “normalcy”: productivity, money-making, and consumerism.
So, why do people live for these activities?
The answers are simple:
- Climbing, surfing, and yoga elicit joy
- They provide meditation
- They are for the moment
- They yield a cleaner lifestyle
- They coincide with the 6 Rs: refusing, reducing, reusing, repurposing, reinventing, and recycling
Practitioners of these activities don’t need much. Yogis need just a mat, their bodies, and the challenge of quieting their minds. Surfers need their board, a leash, and the desire to get out into the water. On the simplest level, climbers need shoes, chalk, and the itch to problem solve in a vertical world (and some don’t even use the shoes). Climbers, surfers, and yogis try to bring the presence of mind that they feel when they do their activities to their daily lives, so they don’t have much need for distraction and toys. These people don’t need to fill a void in their lives with consumption, because they don’t have a void to fill. They are out there doing what they love, and they are passionate. They know that buying a new pair of shoes won’t fulfill them, but the perfect wave, a splitter crack, or a fully present vinyasa flow will. When we really think about it, they are committing rebellious and creative acts.
A culture of stuff, ironically, is an empty one…
- It doesn’t fulfill us as humans
- It fills up the corners of this beautiful, blue and green planet with unnecessary stuff
- Much of it used only for a short period of time and then is disposed of and/or replaced
- This waste adds to the buildup of garbage in our backyards and oceans
Climbers, surfers, and yogis seem to be ahead of the game on this front. Since they are happy with what they have, they generally consume less and thus waste less. Maybe that’s why society has labeled them as social outcasts, non-contributors, or degenerates.
“Follow your bliss, and the Universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” – Joseph Campbell
Historically, figures that we now consider to be geniuses were thought to be crazy in their time. The masses feared their different ways of thinking. Their beliefs, experiments, and resistance, were met with push back and disdain, but eventually they were recognized as visionaries. We need new cultural leaders, shakers, and visionaries now, so that we can halt a culture that is destroying itself. The modern-day Galeleos, Einsteins, and Rosa Parks’ may be high up on a mountain, catching a wave, or in downward dog at this very moment. The rest of the world may look upon these individuals with confusion, pity, or even contempt. But I think it’s pretty clear that the van dwellers, tent pitchers, mind-quieters, and joy chasers are on to something…
Written by Sarah Coburn