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  • Reyn Kinzey


Surfing above Cho-choo is a continuation of Half-Time on the River, which is to say a continuation of my evolution from rugby player to kayaker. Before we talk about the surfing, I need to make a point about rugby.

When I was president of my rugby club, a reporter for the local papers came to rugby practice to interview me. One of his first questions was what I looked for when recruiting rugby players. Without hesitation I answered “aggression. We can teach rugby skills, but aggression is something you have to be born with.”

He laughed. I started to get angry, because I thought he was amused that I would say that. At the time, I was a shade under 5’8” and a shade under 150. Generally, when I took the pitch, I was the smallest guy out there. But the reporter quickly explained that he laughed because that was exactly how our coach had answered him when he had asked him the same question.

When you are the smallest person on the pitch, you need to be aggressive.

But the optimal commands in this poem are “Be still.” “Relax.” And the overall point of the poem is the koan: “The perfect way is without difficulty.”

If a Zen master had come to one of our practices preaching to my players “Be still.” “Relax.” I would have cut off his head with a sumari sword.

But the koan, as useless as it is for rugby, is perfect for surfing.

Surfing in a kayak is not necessarily a difficult maneuver, but it does take some relaxed disciple. Instead of going downstream with the current, you turn around and point your boat directly into the oncoming current. When you get it right, the water does ferry you in, hold you in place, and lift the front of the kayak above the water. Once you get there, it takes minimum effort to stay there, small adjustments with the paddle to keep you in the sweet spot.

For a few moments, the perfect way is without difficulty.

The Zen masters would take that as a metaphor for life.

But the birds, when they mount the air, know neither Zen nor poetry, just the wind under their wings, looking at the sight line, the shore and the trees.

Birds don’t think about the rapids beyond Choo-Choo, but as humans, we can never completely forget them. All the more reason for being still, relaxing, and savoring those moments out of time when the perfect way is without difficulty.

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