It was the perfect time to chat all things balance with Jason ‘Salsa’ Salisbury, as his partner Mia was in India, leaving him in charge of his two groms for a few weeks.
“You realise just how amazing women are,” is one of the first things out of his mouth when I phone. The reason for the call, apart from the fact that Salsa’s a wonderful conversation partner, is that he’s just been to the Maldives where he scored perfect waves, and the footage is a potent reminder of quite how accomplished a surfer he is. Some like tricks, height, size. Me? I like a man (or woman) who gets from A to B in the most effortless way imaginable; drawing flawless lines that us mere mortals can only daydream about. Salsa’s that kind of surfer. He’s also a Vedic Meditation teacher, so he’s a little more in touch with the existential than most, and talks about surfing, and everything else, in a way that draws interesting connections.
“We got pretty lucky,” Salsa says of the Maldivian jaunt. “Last time I went it was dead flat, so I had this strange, slightly dismal expectation, but I left myself open to being pleasantly surprised. We got a good swell but it was a bit funky and wobbly, not clean and perfect, but that made it exciting to surf.” The enlightened will realise from the footage that it’s no thruster Salsa’s riding, in fact, it’s a channel bottom twin fin shaped by Josh Keogh. And twinnies don’t work on your backhand… or so they say. “I never usually get to ride them in those kinds of conditions,” Salsa says. “But having to was pretty enlightening. They actually work really well backside. You can do big, drawn-out turns, and when it’s bumpy and wobbly you fully just glide over the kinks.”
Salsa’s been surfing for over 20 years, a number of which were spent living in Indonesia chasing every blob that came through to far-flung corners of the archipelago. In short: he’s seen visions that most surfers of lesser ability haven’t and couldn’t. I ask him how he keeps up the enthusiasm for the lifelong pursuit, and he says that it’s as much about what happens in between the ears as what happens in the water. “Knowing that I’m going to feel much better post surf,” he says matter of factly. “And knowing that I’m a better dad as post-surf dad. In that way, you turn it from a selfish act into a selfless one. If I continue to do the things that make me happy, then I bring that home.”
Which leads us neatly to meditation. Salsa’s been a Vedic Meditation teacher for a while now, and he came to the practice in an attempt to ease the head noise that plagues just about all of us. “I was noticing heaps of anxiety, feeling that looming over me most days and I went hunting for something to help,” he says. “All the things I love were getting overshadowed, and I found that it cleared it. Small changes at first, but it was hugely inspiring and then it continued to unfold.” Vedic practices come from an ancient Indian tradition, but Salsa says a lot of the things it teaches are applicable to contemporary life. “It’s an ancient Indian practice, history and tradition that’s filtered its way to us through various teachers over the year,” he says. “But it’s a super contemporary mental technique that works. I feel like I’ve got my eyes closed in meditation, and then eyes open in things like surfing. They compliment each other.”
Ending interviews is always a bit hard and awkward, especially when you know the person on the other end of the phone and have flicked the switch to business mode. I asked Salsa if he’d read, watched, experienced anything recently that’s really made an impression on him. Before he could think of an answer he was interrupted by one of his kids who’d hurt himself. “I’ll be with you in a minute,” Salsa said in soft dad voice, before chuckling and telling me that his son’s response was, “But it’s a big scratch.” It jogged his memory. “Being here with the groms without Mia has reminded me of the biggest lesson I ever learned,” he says. “You think that you have no time, and then something happens that constricts your freedom and you peer back at a week ago and go ‘Man, what was I whinging about?'”