The falling feeling is an unmistakable sensation. Many people experience it even while sleeping as a hypnic jerk. As with all “feelings,” falling is the result of our brain interpreting signals from our body. These signals are sent from the vestibular apparatus found in the inner ear. As our bodies move through space, fluids in our inner ear roll to stimulate sensory receptors. Those receptors fire off pulses to the different systems of the cerebellum and brain stem. Our “ape brain” screams for help while our natural reward systems beg for more.
The best waves offer a succession of sustained falls, plummeting and rising again. Some rides are good for the one short blast of biofeedback, but each and every ride is accompanied by that endorphin-releasing sensation of the fall. Our brains are tuned into the frequency of gravity. As we launch our bodies over the crest we are hurled violently back at the Earth’s core. Space itself is pressing us downward as the Ocean does its best to keep our bags of bones afloat. We return again and again for more. We volunteer to be the middle knot in the tug-o-war of physics and hydrodynamics. With every sacred fall, the neural obsession bites a little stronger and the addiction to falling grows.