Stab Magazine | Surfing, According To The King Of Acid

Live Now: How Surfers Get Paid — The Queens of Ascension


Surfing, According To The King Of Acid

“It’s perfectly logical to me that surfing is the spiritual aesthetic style of the liberated self.” — Dr. Timothy Leary

style // Apr 8, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

What does surfing mean?

There’s no definitive answer to that question.

On the surface, it is taking a flotation device into the ocean and dancing around waves on it. But in that same vein, life is an explosion out of a uterus and a somewhat less rhythmic dance to a hole in a cemetery. Point being: we give meaning to things based off how they make us think and feel, and that enables them to transcend their surface value.

And, speaking of transcendence, there was a fella named Timothy Leary who was all about it. Dr Tim happened to be a respected psychologist around the same time the US government started testing LSD as a mental health drug. Turns out there was a huge gap between psychiatric and psychedelic, and so the gov hooked right and classified it as very illegal while Leary went left and dedicated his life to waving the LSD flag high. Literally.

Leary’s the guy behind the “Turn on, tune in, drop out” that you’ve probably seen a stolen and misinterpreted version of somewhere. SURFER Magazine also interviewed him in 1978. I recently discovered that interview in my dad’s garage and pulled a few quotes for you:

Surfers have somehow been able to get in touch with the infinity, with the turbulence of the power of their own brain. You can talk about surfing brain waves as you would about surfing external waves.

There’s a great sense of timing. If you study how evolution works and how the DNA code builds bodies and builds species, timing is of absolute importance. Being in the right place at the right time. You can’t create a wave, you know; it comes and there’s a time to move and a time to lay back. It’s almost Taoist poetry. Almost Einsteinian.

It’s a merging of your own body neuromuscular, or brain body, with the power/energy/rhythm of nature. That’s what’s so jewel-like about mind/body/sea energy interfacing together. One thing I like about surfing is that it is all out. You can’t be half-hearted, or you can’t be thinking about something else. You’ve got to be totally there.

I want to have film of a surfer moving along constantly right at the edge of the tube. That position is the metaphor of life to me, the highly conscious life. You think of the tube as being the past, and I’m an evolutionary agent, and what I try to do is to be at that point where you’re going into the future, but you have to keep in touch with the past. That’s where you get the power…and sure you’re most helpless, but you also have most precise control at that moment.

The danger of the vulgar surfer philosophy is that, “Oh man, nothing is important; just kick back, wait for the wave, just hang out.” That’s beautiful, and it’s a step forward, but in a sense it’s a dilettante situation. The next step is to create the future, to take responsibility for it.

The key to post-terrestrial living is going to be grace and aesthetics… There’ll be no more constraints on linearity, of four walls; a building can be any shape at all. It’s tied to surfing because it means that we’ll be freed from gravity, and we can be totally into style and grace. And it may seem strange to be talking to surfers about post-terrestrial living, because surfing is water, and we’re talking about air or a vacuum. But it’s perfectly logical to me that surfing is the spiritual aesthetic style of the liberated self. The reason I define myself as an evolutionary surfer is because surfers have taught me the way you relate to the basic energies, and develop your individual sense of freedom, self-definition, style, beauty and control.

So…is that what surfing means?

Yes. Also no. Much like acid, surfing means different things to different people. To some, LSD is a conscious-exploding tab of spiritual wilderness that shoots ripples through your psyche and dramatically loosens your grasp on reality. To others, it makes you giggle for a night and dance to shitty Phish songs. Just like some people use surfing a vehicle to express athletic superiority and use it to access a uniquely tangible cosmic breeze.

So, if nothing else, this look into the acid king’s brain should serve as a reminder: life is life, but perspective is up to you. You can choose to sulk your way towards a tombstone. Or you try to connect with forces that may to may not exist. Decide now.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Airs On Trees: Bosiny Cracked The High-Performance Wood Surfboard Code 

Feat. Paulownia wood reinforced with Kevlar, these boards are as light as PU and loaded with spring. 

May 23, 2024

What’s In A Wedge?

Enjoyable water movement, explained by an expert.

May 23, 2024

Watch: Tosh Tudor In ‘Tube Therapy’

The 19-year old offers prescriptive insights into Desert Point karma, backside tube poise, and Off-The-Wall…

May 23, 2024

Swell’s En Route, Slater’s Involved, Here Comes Teahupo’o… 

A Tahiti Pro preview.

May 22, 2024

Can Medina Overcome His CT Drought In Tahiti?

Tahurai Henry offers his picks for the SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro

May 21, 2024

The 35 Best Song Pairings In Surf Films, As Ranked By Dane Reynolds, Taylor Steele & You

From Noa Deane and Courtney Love, to Andy Irons and Coldplay, to Creed McTaggart and…

May 20, 2024

Is This The Most Cost Efficient Way To Noticeably Improve Your Surfing In A Single Month?

All you can eat for $1500 AUD at URBNSURF Melbourne.

May 20, 2024

Watch And Learn: How To Score A Solo Sesh At 8-Foot Teahupo’o With Leonardo Fioravanti

Skip lunch and gorge.

May 19, 2024

Full Frame: The Story Behind The Photo You’ve Seen 1,000 Times

A viral ménage à trois in Bali.

May 18, 2024

Meet The Man Who Runs Kelly Slater’s Burgeoning Surf Empire

The Stab Interview with Dylan Slater. 

May 18, 2024

How Surfers Get Paid: Season 2, Episode 4

80+ interviews later, it's time to "send out the chicks".

May 17, 2024

How To Get To Stab High Japan

BYO ligaments. 

May 16, 2024

CT Earlybirds, Tahitian Warlords, And Aspirational Teenagers Divide Spoils From “11 out of 10” Teahupo’o Blob

Eimeo Czermak, Balaram Stack, Liam O'Brien, Cannon Carr, and Ryan Miller divulge tales from the…

May 16, 2024

The Lefts Off The Rights

Detailing the goofy-footed proclivity to go against the grain.

May 15, 2024

Watch: ‘Shotgun’ featuring Josie Prendergast & Taj Richmond

The allure of contradiction, displayed in the virtue of Northern Rivers sand.

May 15, 2024

How Accurate Were Our Pre-Cut Predictions?

Reflecting on the rookie-centric forecasts offered by CJ Hobgood, Stace Galbraith, Brett Simpson, and Mikey…

May 14, 2024

Local Wildcard Jordy Lawler Dusts 79 Transplants, Issy Nichols Denies Prodigy Erin Brooks Another Plush Toy

The Stab High winner is one semi-final away from tour qualification after only two events.

May 14, 2024

Which 2024 Stab High Competitor Has Given Us The Best Surf Part?  

Noa Deane, Chippa Wilson, Julian Wilson, Ian Crane and more duel for the most impactful…

May 13, 2024