Any ocean-lover knows of the fabled “green room”. As swells are generated by wind energy, water molecules rise and fall across the ocean surface. Waves travel abruptly from deep to shallow water and the bottom of the waves are hampered by the ocean floor, while the topmost waves continue forward. As the tops are forced to steepen, the upper layers cascade down the edge, creating barrels. The inside of a barrel is vibrant and beautiful, energetic yet calm, chaotic yet ordered.
It is difficult to find the perfect barrel but once you enter that sweet spot in the forceful water, the moment transcends all else. The beauty of the tunnel lies in its brevity. Time stands still for a moment, allowing the viewer to see through a narrow — yet simultaneously complete — view of the world. If the viewer is lucky, the tunnel crosses all the way to the outside world of sun, sand and people. It is an unforgettable experience, being so fully contained within the barrel while also knowing that life is continuing outside of the transient tunnel. The force of the tunnel — the water violently pushing towards the sky — makes one feel so powerful and helpless at the same time.
Tunnel vision makes barrels so exceptionally fascinating. The viewer understands immediacy — the water curling around one’s body and the path ahead — as the hole of blue sky narrows. While in the tunnel, one can only focus on the celerity of the moment, even knowing that within milliseconds the experience will come crashing down.
One must take it all in — the crisp water and array of blue-green reflections surrounded by crescendos of crashing water playing like an all-immersive soundtrack — and enjoy the ride for the sake of the experience alone. Even after the swell flattens, climbs up the shoreline and recedes back into its abyss, the kinetic energy of the rushing water and the all-encompassing salty smell never really leave.
It’s a nice thought that life rolls much like barrel waves and that people see with tunnel vision for their own experiences. Life is simultaneously ordered and chaotic, much like how a barrel follows such a rhythmic and physical motion while being so unpredictable. Furthermore, the experience of the barrel depends on the viewer’s receptiveness to his or her surroundings, much like how people care about certain aspects of life but not others.
Is one looking out of the tunnel as an outsider, touching the thin but powerful wall of water narrowing around the body, or are one’s eyes closed to heighten the sensation of the descending wave? Similarly, does one focus on others and their own complex, unique lives, or do they allow themselves to freefall into their own world and leave behind today’s stressors? There is no correct way to experience tunnel vision in a barrel like there is no correct way to experience life’s many journeys. There are simply a plethora of individual opportunities that people handle differently.
I have never felt so aware of my own life and the energy of the world around me as I have in a barrel, which is why I always return to the ocean when I’m feeling out of place. I often think of my own individuality in reference to tunnel vision. The water has always drawn me in, calmed me when the world has been too much and healed me physically and emotionally.
I can vividly recall how it feels to be fully immersed in the ocean even when I am hundreds of miles away whenever I need a moment to breathe. I can imagine plummeting to the sandy ground from the peak of a wave, flattening out on the shoreline as the water leaves me behind. I can visualize the energy of a windy high tide and drying in the sand afterward, coming to life on a hot summer day. Nothing in life is perfect, that flawless tunnel is fleeting. There is always the omnipresent sand wave that wrecks your hair, a barrel that collapses on your shoulders or an underwhelming swell, but all the half-rides make me appreciate the best waves all the more.
If the water has taught me anything, it is that you must care equally about yourself as you do the world around you. Take in the thrilling moments but know they will eventually settle into a calm. Always give in to the excitement of life and cherish what the world has in store for you.
Most of all, I recognize my tunnel vision in everyday life. I try my best to take beauty, passion and knowledge into myself so I can appreciate everything this precarious world has to offer — and perhaps add a little of my own post-wave clarity to the mix as well.