I went to grab a tee shirt from my closet on a recent Saturday morning and stopped dead in my tracks. It didn’t feel right for a 43-year-old non-surfer to don a surf logo shirt, much less one emblazoned with an image of a surfer riding across a wave.
I scanned the stacks in the closet, and, sure enough, they’re all surf tees. There’s nothing else. And it hit me – aside from a couple packs of undershirts for work, I haven’t bought a tee shirt since…well, ever.
I was 13 when a surf company “sponsored” me, meaning they flowed me a few stickers and a couple tee shirts. I was making it to the finals of local surf contests, so I was pretty badass. My parents sponsored the other 97% of my wardrobe, an inconvenient truth that would’ve ruined that whole “badass” feeling if I’d bothered to think about it.
At 15, I competed in a series of surf contests in Cape Hatteras put on by Quiksilver called the Warpaint Grand Prix. Against guys who were older and in my mind way better than me, I finished third. The Quiksilver reps deemed I really was a badass and put me on their national surf team.
My mom’s shopping duties instantly shrank. Instead of perusing TJ Maxx for off-price surf duds, she waved at the UPS man as he plopped a brimming box of the freshest Quik gear on my doorstep every few months.
Soon I was making annual summer pilgrimages to Southern California, where I’d stop in the Quiksilver warehouse and walk out with as much swag as I could carry – Quik shorts, trunks, pants, jackets, socks, underwear, backpacks, luggage, and yes…tees, loads of ’em.
Other sponsors followed suit, and I was given everything else I needed – surfboards, wetsuits, contest entry fees, even beer and pizza. The only thing that could’ve completed this teenage dream was if the girls at school thought I was badass too. Unfortunately they saw the real me – just a smartass.
The free clothing train has kept on trucking to this day, although I imagine it may abruptly run off the tracks in light of my new situation as a landlubber.
I explained my present tee shirt dilemma to my teenage daughter, who incidentally wants nothing to do with surfing yet understands me better than any other human on the planet. She’s only surfed a couple times in her life, and that was because her surf-obsessed dad forced her to as a form of punishment. I know, bad idea.
Anyway, she laughed at my predicament and asked, “You’re going to start surfing again after this, right?”
Me: “I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not.”
Her (screaming): “Oh my god!”
Me: “What are you getting mad about?”
Her (still screaming): “You’re…not even my dad anymore! You’re just some…man who yells at me.”
I laughed hysterically.
Her (distraught): “You’re like a…normal old man!”
Her (seriously): “You’re not going to get fat, are you?”
Makes you wonder. Come the end of 2014, will I be just another fat kook, blending in with the legions of others in town, forced to ride a log to keep from sinking? Will I come back at all? Or just maybe, will I come back better? Now that would be pretty badass.