Choosing your path to SUP enlightenment: an enlightened Yogi? Me? I'm the guy who thinks SUP yoga is for limber hippies and new age gurus, guys like Gerry Lopez or super fit girls. Can’t I just be an old surf dog with a new trick? I’m totally content cruising the lineup, with a paddle in my hands and eyes on the horizon.
Does it have to be a core workout every time I paddle out? My core? It’s trapped inside a battle-scarred and chubby body that’s as flexible as a stale baguette. Last time I did the splits was in the hospital getting a new hip. I didn’t feel a thing. That is, until I came to. Woke up with a metal rod and a plastic cup as my new hip joint, good enough to hop along for another 100,000 miles.
Me and yoga? That’s about as likely as Laird moving to Kansas. Some say that sitting in a lotus position on an oversized surfboard creates a sense of spiritual awareness. Would it align my chakras? Do my chakras even need alignment? How will I know when my chakras fall out of alignment? Does it hurt? Sure, I love the philosophy of “one with everything”. It’s my favorite way to order pizza.
In 1974, my first year out of high school, two friends and I drove a $1,200 VW bus deep down into mainland Mexico. Due to bad karma, engine trouble, and a host of other problems, we stayed south of the border for almost three months. We’d been in search of a legendary place of warm water and better waves than any of us had ever surfed before. A world that was 180 degrees different from the "Leave it to Beaver" suburbia we’d grown up in.
Careful what you wish for. We drove by miles of cardboard and blue-tarp “houses". Held our noses while passing dead cows and horses in flames at the side of the road. Pulled into plenty of military stops with kids in uniforms holding M-16 rifles at the ready. Spied an old vaquero on his hands and knees manicuring an acre of lawn at a car dealership with a machete. Fought ongoing battles with swarms of mosquitoes and dreaded no-see-em bugs. It didn’t take too many roadside motel rooms to figure out why a hammock is better than a flea-bitten mattress. Cliff note: skinny hammocks are sold to the tourists. Matrimonial-sized hammocks are “mas mejor para domir.”
We experienced an entirely diverse culture and tasted foods unrecognizable from any back home.Three wide-eyed, sorry-assed kids running head first into the third world. One sweaty afternoon we sputtered and lurched, as only a very sick VW bus can, into a town mercado in Oaxaca, jonesing for chicken and tortillas.
It wasn’t hard to spot the pollo dealer. He was the guy holding the bloody hatchet. We picked out a nice plump, healthy-looking clucker from his crate of live poultry, carefully avoiding eye contact with the condemned. Within moments, after some minor squawking and major wing flapping, we had our own fresh, two-minutes-dead chicken, plucked and ready to go. We had one last question for Colonel Sanchez before he wrapped our dinner in yesterday’s newspaper: Could you cut it up for us, por favor? "No problemo!” replied our new chicken guru, as he wiped fresh blood onto his apron. Three whacks on the horizontal and another three on the vertical equaled nine chicken “cubes”. Each neat square of chicken contained various and equal parts of meat, bones and skin. Literally and figuratively, “one with everything.”
Back at our beach camp, under a vast array of stars, we built a fire and slowly roasted our chicken cubes. A stack of handmade tortillas as warm as the night, a few one-peso avocados and a bottle of Centenario Anejo completed the feast. We sat on the sand well into the night. The tequila did the talking as we watched the moon light up the new swell. Was this the nirvana we’ve been searching for? The zen-like feeling of accepting the unexpected chicken cubes, being one with the universe, having high expectations of tomorrow's waves was what we’d been after all along. Bingo. Enlightenment al fresco. Muchas gracias, Señor Pollo.
Since then, I’ve been around the block and have learned that there are many ways to float your boat. Use your stand up paddleboard for a yoga platform, a vehicle for catching waves or fish. Drift on a small lake or run a raging river. It’s all good. For the life of me, I’ll never wrap my leg around my neck. Kundalini constantly eludes me. Dropping anchor for a downward dog still confuses me.
Luckily, I’ve found the lost shaker of salt. I’ve learned to let go of preconceived expectations faster than you can say "Namaste”. Can’t my own path to enlightenment be a simple beach trail to the surf?