Trim and Glide: The Middle Way? The Unwobbling Pivot?

While longboarding, for the first times, this month I've happened upon some sublime moments. Near the nose on one nice curling wall at Combesgate I had a particularly great ride. But it feels like more than that - doesn't it? Why can't I stop thinking about it and why does it all seem significant, rather than a simple pleasure?

Also: I've read the sarcastic phrase 'pontificating longboarder' recently (can't remember where) - why is this a cliché?

While drawing the other day and thinking about waves and wave shapes I looked up the "Golden Section". This mathematical diagram has been studied for centuries with many people believing that they have found the proportions used in the composition of many artworks (the Mona Lisa is one example). People aren't sure whether to believe the proportions have been used by artists as a definite structural plan or can simply be found in compositions that have a 'magical' aesthetic strength.

Looking further into this hypnotic wave-shape then picked me up and deposited me in the middle of Buddhism without me knowing quite how I'd got there.

My ride began by reading that the "Golden Section" derives from something called "The Golden Ratio" or, as I'd heard of it before "The Golden Mean". "The Golden Ratio" is a simple proportion to the brain but produces an irrational number which has compelled mathematicians for centuries. (You may have heard of the Fibonacci sequence which approaches nearer and nearer to the Golden Ratio as the sequence progresses.)

However, in looking this up I discovered the phrase, perhaps innately linked (in being about proportion), exists also in philosophy. The "Doctrine of the Mean" (also translated as "The Middle Way" or "Unwobbling Pivot") is one of the books of Neo-Confucian teachings. From Wikipedia:
In James Legge's translation of the text, the goal of the mean is to maintain balance and harmony from directing the mind to a state of constant equilibrium. The person who follows the mean is on a path of duty and must never leave it.
Isn't the surfer in trim on a path of duty?

Aristotle too expounded a theory called "The Golden Mean" where he described  virtuosity between extremes or, opposing vices. (For example courage lying in between cowardice and recklessness.) In surfing you could take cowardice to be sitting doing nothing and recklessness to be ripping the wave to shreds - trim could be seen as that perfect balance in the centre?

Aristotlean philosophy apparently has a lot in common with Buddhism. In The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma (Buddha's first teaching after his enlightenment) Buddha described The Middle Way as a path of moderation between extremes. The Middle Way was, apparently, described not as a point of compromise but of higher value so more like the high point in a triangle. The achievement of The Middle Way is also described as the Nirvana or achievement of 'perfect enlightenment'.

In my experience there is something special about our moments of perfect trim, glide, balance that is akin to a Nirvana. Something that rubs out all the crap and leaves us shimmering along in a place we've never been to before. It isn't about the heady show of ripping the wave apart and, like the Buddha meditating under a fig tree for many days in order to achieve enlightenment, it takes commitment and time to get there: it's the finding of what feels like a 'right place' (like the Noble Eightfold Path: 'right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration).

Now I don't want to get carried away with myself. All this stuff is thanks to Wikipedia and the internet. I don't know all about Buddhism and so on. But that is the point. We're not all finding our Nirvana's through Buddhism but perhaps these states of mind, these philosophies and these proportions that have obsessed pulsing brains through the world and the years are akin. Perhaps we can find The Middle Way on a wave. I'm not suggesting that finding that perfect balance on the wave is of the same significance to humanity as the teachings of Buddha, Aristotle or the mathematicians who have studied The Golden Section, but I am suggesting that in trim we may be experiencing a significant harmony.

Allan C. Weisbecker writes in In Seach of Captain Zero:
"...I could remember nothing of the final couple hundred yards of the ride, except an odd sensation. I was flying and I was walking on water, yet it was also as if I were standing still—as if I were stillness itself..." and then, "Having spent so much uninterrupted time in the place and state of mind I refer to as The Glide, I had achieved a perceptual breakthrough of some sort..."
Trim and glide focuses on right position, balance and proportion (wave to board to figure) just like Buddha's Middle Way, Aristotle's Golden Mean and The Golden Ratio.  Experiencing this perfect state, these beautiful proportions and balance gets us stoked! It's our Nirvana which may then may help us to be in 'right mind' as we stomp on through our modern lives. Maybe it's this transcendent experience in trim that forces the logger to get all metaphysical and pontificate like a nutter!

So there you go, one month with a log and I've become a 'pontificating longboarder'. Aw crap...


  1. A most academic tone tonight Tom, and I can totally relate. I am so obsessed with this mental state.


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