Here in Levanto, the summer tourist season is tailing off (though the weather is still quite summery) and people are gearing up for the next big event: the ASP World Tour Longboard Competition, the first international surfing event ever held in Italy.

I’ve tried surfing twice in my life, once here in Levanto with Brother’s Surf House and another time with the Santa Monica Surf School.  That second time I actually stood on the board for a few seconds, and I admit, it’s exhilarating.  But beyond my own very limited experience, there’s something fascinating about the sport, something that comes from the raw power spectacle of the waves themselves.

I’m not a big believer in the idea of man challenging nature, as many extreme sports fanatics seem to be, so much as a believer in man co-existing with nature.  My brother once got me into ice climbing, and there I learned to see nature from a different and very humbling perspective: dangling from an icy rope after badly planting an ice-axe, wondering if the screws hand been placed well of if my frozen fingers had cinched my belt on tightly.  Challenging nature is ridiculous, but participating with it to the fullness of everyone’s own abilities and interests is wonderfully healthy.

And so watching a video today as I was getting primed for the upcoming competition, a video of the massive surf at Teahupoo, gave me the buzzof awe and respect for the ocean and its riders.  Probably none of those guys will be here – it’s longboard, not shortboard in Levanto – but their brethren will be.  As the barista of a local café that caters to surfers told me this morning, they’re a strange bunch … more likely to sleep in their vans and drink beer on the beach than to drop money at tourist establishments.  I don’t think that makes them strange … it just puts them in the category of latter-day romantics and counter-culture icons.  I don’t know any surfers personally, so I don’t know if this is true, but when the tournament gets rolling, I’ll be one of the many curious to see real surfing life in action.

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