I realized it one weekday evening this May while kayaking the Elk River. The stretch is fast and clear, running east-west straight into the sun above Sand Mountain, which backlights its waves into a camera flash ribbon of white.
It’s these waves that make the run so appealing. Rising over the boulder-strewn bottom, their haystack shape — mimicking those on nearby ranch fields — makes them as perfect for surfing as Mount Werner is for skiing. It was while surfing a particularly textbook wave that the revelation hit me.
The key to surfing is finding the right balance. You have to lean forward enough for the wave to hold you but not so much that it sucks you in and spits you out. You have to lean back when needed so you don’t pearl in but not so much that you fall off its crown. You have to micro-adjust on the fly, combining an incessant combination of leans and strokes, all at the right time, to stay in that perfect state of equilibrium. Nail it and it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
It’s an apt analogy for life, especially the one we’ve all carved out for ourselves by choosing to live here in Steamboat. You have to find the same balance in life, juggling work, finances, family and personal time. You have to know when to lean in and pressure things and when to back away, whether it’s at the office or dealing with a persnickety teenager at home. You have to know when to resist the currents around you and when to go with the flow.
Finding the right balance in life can be difficult, but if lifestyle and community are important components of it, living in a place like Steamboat sure makes it easier. Everyone here seems to have a handle on setting priorities, not all of which involve material gain. And most of it starts with where you live.
I was reminded of how important this is in the spring by a fluke of illness and death striking friends. In the whole scheme of things, our lives on this Earth are as short as a surf on a wave, a schuss down a powder field or a ride on a trail. So enjoy each and every second of it while you can, and continue balancing your priorities just as you do your weight during your recreational pursuits. Luckily, living here gives us all a head start.