Welcome to the Kellydome

Look at those eyes. No, please, just look at those eyes. Look at the frigging eyes!

Look at those eyes. No, please, just look at those eyes. Look at the frigging eyes!

“Let’s face it, your writing isn’t what’s going to sell this book. Kelly’s eyes on the cover are what’s going to sell this book to 12-year-old girls.” These words, flying into my ear at 3800 mph (five times the normal speed of sound) from the mouth of Kelly Slater’s manager across the country in Los Angeles, struck my temporal lobe and knocked me off my chair. He was probably right, and the bargaining technique his ancestors developed through centuries of bullshitting was probably effective, but I wasn’t having it.

“Look,” Mister Hollywood Manager Guy added, “there are three other people on our list, so if you don’t want to do this, we’ll move on to the next guy.” Not that I’d be stupid enough to pass on an opportunity to write the life story of the greatest surfer, arguably the greatest athlete, of forever, just because of a couple grand and some royalties. I would’ve taken the gig pro bono, but I wasn’t going to let some silver-tongued douchebag talk me into a corner. I hung up and called Kelly.

Not that Pipe Dreams.

Not that Pipe Dreams.

Lucky for me, Kelly had been hearing the “your manager is an asshole” line for so long that he knew his manager was…well, if you don’t have anything nice to say. I’d known Kelly since we were ESA groms, and he’d been humbled by a piece I wrote about him for Surfer’s “Most Influential Surfers of the 20th Century.” We weren’t bosom buddies, but the powers that be figured a fellow East Coaster from the same generation could best tell Kelly’s story. Manager Man was bypassed, and royalties were added to the contract. I had a job. A good one.

The timing of the project couldn’t be better for me. I’d recently lost my Surfline position in a final slash of the editorial staff, and had I still worked there I wouldn’t have had six months to dedicate to the book. Oh, and Kelly was in Hawaii for the Pipe Masters, so I had to bail on Va Beach in December and fly to meet him on the North Shore. Duty calls.

Not that Pipe Dreams.

Not that Pipe Dreams.

For two weeks, I slept on a sofa or under my friend Cab Spates’ dining room table, the whole night alternating between battling mutant mosquitos and sweating inside my boardbag. Don’t feel sorry for me. I spent the rest of the trip surfing the seven-mile-miracle, watching the event at Pipe, and swimming through the head of a waveriding genius nonpareil.

I learned a few things about the champ in the process:

He’s late. We set up a time to meet every day, and every day I sat around waiting for Kelly to show up. His tardiness is not due to rudeness but negotiating an endless parade of people asking for his attention. It’s a wonder he makes it anywhere, ever.
-He’s patient. That endlesss parade of hangers on would be enough to break any lesser man. Kelly, lemme get a photo. Kelly, sign my vagina. Kelly, gimme some free clothes. Kelly, tell your manager to stick his offer up his ass. Slater understands that invasions of privacy comes with the territory and never loses his cool.

Not that Pipe Dreams.

Not that Pipe Dreams.

-He’s sensitive. You might think the best water-walker in 2000 years (if you believe the gospels’ accounts) would have thick skin, but the guy is human. I mentioned Kelly’s receding hairline in an article, and he reacted by calling and telling me it was a surf mag, not a hair mag. He was being serious.
-He’s generous. Kelly didn’t hesitate when I asked him to give up a piece of his royalties. When the book was complete, he also offered me two custom boards from Channel Islands. (I didn’t need any boards at the time so I grabbed one of his personal sticks as a raffle prize for a local fundraiser and gave the other to Steve Hawk for helping my career.)
-I wouldn’t want to be in his flip flops. People see Kelly’s magic and think, I’d love to be him. I beg to differ. In addition to being pulled in fifty directions, hounded by fans, and belittled by wannabe journalists, imagine the pressure he faces every time he paddles for a wave. Kinda tough to have fun when every pair of eyes expects you to surf like Kelly Slater. I have mad respect for the way he handles his stardom.
That Pipe Dreams!

That Pipe Dreams!

All in all, the experience was invaluable. I wrote the book, convinced the publisher to abandon the kooky sea animal images they wanted at the start of every chapter, and handpicked the title, the cover, and the photos (many of which I plucked from digging through Kelly’s closets). As Slater made the late night TV circuit and signing tour after the release, Pipe Dreams peaked at #29 on the NY Times bestseller list for hardcover non-fiction.

The weirdest thing about the process, which makes perfect sense, was that after six months of writing Kelly’s story in the first person, I felt like I was inside his head looking out. Seeing the world through his eyes made me hyper-aware of my surroundings, especially when I was surfing. Things made more sense, except I couldn’t figure out why so many 12-year-old girls were staring at me.


The short happy life of the septuagenarian grom

There's nothing in the quiver that is big enough for Gary Slaughter.

There’s nothing in the quiver that is big enough for Gary Slaughter.

I’ve taught thousands of people to surf over the last twenty-something years, but this guy in 2007 was the most memorable.

I avoided his calls for most of September. Four months of shoving an old man into nosedives was more than enough, even if he WAS paying me 60 bucks an hour. I’d never encountered a student I couldn’t teach, but his failure was my failure. His phone number was a buzzing reminder. He may as well have hired a plane to write it across the sky.

The little I learned about Gary between pushes was that he grew up in New York but was a Red Sox fan, and his only other physical activity was cruising on his Harley. His reddish-brown crew cut was obviously dyed, and by the look of his slow, stiff-legged gait I guessed he was in his sixties. Neither of us was big on small talk, and he was usually too winded to speak anyway. Before our first lesson, on a muggy day back in June, he’d nearly keeled over from wedging himself into a fullsuit, all before we’d paddled out. I made sure he signed a waiver.

Gary’s education hadn’t been a total loss. He got most of the way to his feet, occasionally rising to a hunched, four-point stance. Then he’d let go of the rails, and all hell inevitably broke loose. In bathtub-sized waves, his wipeouts were fantastic, as if blasted by an exploding underwater mine. His body contorted in a frenetic game of Twister, and he’d struggle in waist-deep water to extricate himself from the leash while gasping to the surface. He couldn’t paddle by himself, but with his own personal pusher, he didn’t need to.

I half-hoped he’d move on and forget about surfing, but perhaps inspired by his Sox’ charge towards the World Series he kept calling. Gary wouldn’t tell me how old he was but promised to come clean when (or rather if) he learned to surf. On the other hand, the days were getting shorter, and he was scheduled for knee surgery in November. It was now or never, or at least till next summer.

Finally, I caved and returned his call. I dragged The Blue Whale, a 12’ foam beast, down the sand to meet him. If you can’t stand up on this floating sidewalk, give it up. You’ll never surf.

I wish I had a photo of Gary, but this guy does a fairly good impersonation.

I wish I had a photo of Gary, but this guy does a fairly good impersonation.

For the first half-hour, it was business as usual – wait for Gary to lead the Whale to the lineup and regain his breath, hold her steady while he’d climb aboard, turn the two of them around, wait for a wave, give a heave, and watch in horror as he’d…crawl…up…almost…come on…you got it…yes…nooo! Damn mines.

I clicked away the minutes until my, I mean Gary’s torture would cease. He was so exhausted that the muscles in his face lacked the energy to make any expression at all. Buoyed by some unknown call of duty, he trudged ahead. Meanwhile, I nearly threw out my shoulder hauling him into yet another gentle wavelet.

This time I couldn’t bear to watch. I scanned the boardwalk and spotted a friend on a mid-work surf check. I wondered if my buddy was gonna paddle out. Maybe I’d stay out with the Whale and catch a few. Only ten more minutes of agony.

Oh yeah, my student. When I turned back to view the carnage, there was none. No Blue Whale popping out the back of the wave. No epic struggle between the old man and the leash. Nothing. But fifty feet further in, a most glorious sight. Gary had stood, let go of the rails, and managed not to detonate any mines. He was angling slightly down the line at the Whale’s behest. Holy shit! His failure was my failure. His success was my success. He’s surfing.

An unstoppable scream shot from my lungs. I splashed hysterically. Someone might’ve thought a Great White had chomped onto my legs. If one had tried, it would’ve choked on the goose bumps. Never had I been as stoked watching a surfer ride a wave. I’d never been that stoked while I was riding a wave.

After our lesson, this was Gary (on the inside at least).

After our lesson, this was Gary (on the inside at least).

Afraid to twitch for fear of the moment disappearing in a puff of smoke, Gary hung on with everything he had. His pose made the Duke statue at Waikiki look like a spaz. The Whale delivered him safely to the sand, where he remained frozen a few more seconds before clumsily dismounting. I was pretty far away, but I thought I could make out the slightest crack of a grin. We called it a day.

In my excitement, I forgot to ask Gary his age. We agreed to meet again the next week, but winter came all at once. His knee surgery was approaching, and he never called. Swept up with life, I didn’t think of him. A few months later, I got the message from one of his friends. “Yeah, uh, I believe you are the surfing instructor for Gary Slaughter. I don’t know if anyone has let you know, but Gary passed away. He said you had this little game going about how old he was. Well, he was 72.” Gary was diagnosed with prostate cancer soon after his knee surgery and was gone a month after that. If he had any family, they were estranged. He prepaid to be cremated and wanted no funeral, not even an obituary. “I just wanted to let you know,” the friend added at the end of the message, “that he really enjoyed it.”

Eighty-six Two-eight

Instead of White Fang, maybe Adrian should have read a book on parenting in the 21st Century.

Instead of White Fang, maybe Adrian should have read a book on parenting in the 21st Century.

“I’m ready!” My kindergartener roared and charged into the living room. He jumped onto a chair and flexed all of his 52 pounds. He’d gotten dressed for school and chosen the shirt that turns him superhuman. It isn’t screened with a likeness of Superman or The Hulk, or any other comic book hero. He’d donned his favorite top, a purple jersey with the number 28 in big block letters. Across the back the name Peterson.

“Umm,” I searched for words. I wasn’t going to tell him to put it back. “Are you sure you want to wear that today?” We’d had ‘the talk’ over the weekend, the one where I tell him that his hero, our hero, has been arrested. That the two-hundred-twenty pound stack of muscles had hurt his four-year-old son. “Two-Eight (that’s what he’s called around our house) did a bad thing, so he isn’t going to be playing football for a while.” I asked my son several times if he wanted to talk about it, but each question was met with silence. Now, the thought that the good guys might not be the good guys was hitting home. He hopped down from the chair and ran back to his room.

I’m not going to ascend any soapbox (mainly because I have no idea what a soapbox is). Doing so would be hipocritical. I’ve spanked my children. Not regularly, and not with a tree branch, and nowhere near the point of breaking the skin, but I’ve done it. I don’t see anything wrong with an ocassional slap on the bottom and a bit of soreness to get a point across.

Apparently, I’m not alone. Nineteen states still allow corporal punishment in public schools, and most parents feel it is an acceptable and effective means of disciplining a child. The Adrian Peterson case is not about whether it’s okay to spank kids. This case is about a beast of a man who whipped a young child’s bare skin as many as 15 times woth a switch and caused injuries that were severe enough a week later to spur action. It is about child abuse.

Here is the problem. If administering the act is okay, but administering too much of it is a crime, punishable by loss of job, money, freedom, and kids wearing your jersey, where is the line? Who gets to decide? I imagine a twisted Seinfeld episode where the gang spends half-an-hour debating whether an act is abusive or not. The line, in this case, is clear. In fact, if you’ve seen the pictures of Peterson’s son, all 15 of the lines are clear.

I’ve been a Vikings fan for more than twenty years, another habit I learned from my brother. My earliest dream was to be an NFL running back (and had I been bigger, faster, and more talented, that dream might’ve come true). Ever since my team drafted the best back on earth in 2007, I’ve been a huge Peterson fan.

I was in Minneapolis with my dad and brother for 2-8’s lone playoff win, a 2010 drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys, by far the highlight of a lifetime as a sports fan. Standing inside the dome amid a writhing sea of purple and feeling the vibrations of 64,000 kindred souls was intoxicating. The following Sunday, when the Vikes came within a whisker of getting to the Super Bowl before choking, was the lowlight. Until this past weekend.

The hollow feeling in my gut as the news registered remained into Monday morning, when I walked in my classroom and was greeted by the Peterson “Read” poster that has hung on my wall for years. Another decision.

My father-in-law had texted me that morning with: “U r afforded a teaching moment with ur class. Speak out. Who knows. Maybe u have a kid suffering abuse or has a mom that is a victim of spousal abuse. A kid may come forward if not with u perhaps with some other authority.” I went straight to the poster and ripped it down. As each class entered that day, the first thing I did was explain that it is not okay for a parent to injure a child in the name of discipline. These kids don’t have much interest in learning about the Constitution, but they heard every word about how I can no longer cheer for 2-8.

I can’t say if I’ll one day cheer for Peterson again. It depends, I suppose, on what he does from here on out. I’m far from satisfied with his apology, and I don’t want to see him on the field anytime soon. He’s getting his $14 million salary regardless, so he can start by donating a chunk of that to shelters for abused women and children.

As for my son, he returned from his room moments later wearing a Batman shirt. Now there’s a hero, not a guy running up and down a field before adoring fans for big bucks, but a guy running in the shadows at night to rid his city of evil and keep the citizens safe for nothing in return. With two-eight out of football for a while, let’s send him out in a batsuit. Let him beat on some guys who deserve it.

Interview with the wave

Happy wave.

Happy wave.

September has surprised exactly nobody. August falls off the calendar, and pleasant breezes replace stifling heat and humidity. Tropical rowdiness forces away summer doldrums. Raucous noreasters blow flattening offshores out of town. None of which means diddly, but taken together they lead to one inevitable result.


They’ve been coming. They are coming. They will keep coming. With my self-imposed restraining order forbidding physical contact, I just want to talk to them. I have some questions for waves. If one of you will please forward these along the next time you meet, I’d really appreciate it.

When you roll into town as swell energy, after days of travel, do you get excited about breaking? Do you realize you’re here to die? Or that your final act won’t be some crazy as fuck explosion like if you’d landed at Pipeline, or Teahupoo, or The Wedge? It’s beyond your control; you’re a slave to the ocean floor, a victim of bland sand formations. Are you okay with rising a little, crumbling feebly, and belly flopping all at once onto the sand? Is your final thought, I should have done more with my life?

Doesn't say anything about surfing.

Doesn’t say anything about surfing.

Do you enjoy company? Many of you seem to want to be left alone, and refuse to pick up passengers. Have you grown accustomed to flying solo and don’t know how to be sociable? I can’t imagine you’re selfish. Who wants to die alone? If you have the opportunity to lift up a human, literally and figuratively, wouldn’t you take it?

I’ve seen surfers get mad at you, slap you, flip you the bird and scream, Fuck you! Some people horribly misjudge either you or their own ability and try to ride you on equipment that is not up to the task, like swinging a putter off the teebox. They manage to hijack their way onto you, then stomp like maniacal hillbillies at a hoedown in a fruitless effort to generate speed. Does that hurt? Do you hate these people as much as I do?

Do you prefer surfers who ride with you rather than those who try to impose their will upon you? You appear to favor longboarders, around here at least, but that theory is disproven when a gifted shortboarder paddles out and performs a graceful ballet. Would you rather ferry a skilled surfer or an unskilled one? Do you care if you’re just another in a long line of waves for a vet? Would you rather share the wealth and be that magical first ride for a newbie?

Can a wave feel regret? This one wishes it had picked up the other passenger.

Can a wave feel regret? This one wishes it had picked up the other passenger.

If you are capable of any of these thoughts, have you noticed my absence this year? Do you expect me to be there awaiting your arrival as I have for so many of your brethren? Are you wondering where I am? Can you see me pining away on the shore? Does it upset you that I secretly hope you stay away this year, or more, that you were never born? Do you miss me half as much as I miss you? Do you give a shit about any of this?

Most importantly, will you put in a good word for me?

"It's more glorious than I ever imagined," said a wave here never.

“It’s more glorious than I ever imagined,” said a wave here never.

Write good, you be trippin’

One cannot write about an event at Jeffreys Bay without spending lots of time getting to know Jeffreys Bay.

One cannot write about an event at Jeffreys Bay without spending lots of time getting to know Jeffreys Bay.

As easy as it is to be a professional surfer (enter a pro contest, wait for chicks to flock), becoming a surf journalist is easier. Trust me.

When I was a grom in Virginia Beach, getting my hands on a new magazine was as exciting as getting a new board. I remember several instances where a group of us frothed over a fresh issue, one kid doing the flipping and the rest of us elbowing each other for viewing position. We intravenously slurped up the stoke that oozed off each page. My buddies were happy gawking at the pictures, but I pored over every word of every issue. Repeatedly. That’s what you do with your bible.

I hated reading, but I loved reading surf mags. Matt Warshaw was the professional, Derek Hynd the instigator, and Dave Parmenter the god. Anything by these wordsmiths got reread so many times that their phrases were seered into my eyeballs.

As a fledgling pro in 1993, after scoring epic Hatteras barrels courtesy of Hurricane Emily, I was told that a shot of me was under consideration for the cover of Surfer. I happened to be in California, so I dropped by the hallowed Surfer offices to sneak a peek. “You’re who? From where?” I never made it past the lobby and sulked back to my rental car. And I didn’t get the cover.

A few years later, after hacking up a rundown of a local surf contest using my parents’ word processor, Surfer invited me inside the fortress as the new East Coast Editor. Under the bony yet nurturing wing of Tony’s big brother Steve Hawk, I became part of the family. I found myself sitting in editorial meetings with Warshaw and Hynd, hobnobbing at the Surfer Poll Awards, and like The Talking Heads I had to ask, Well, how did I get here?

"Daddy's in Africa working right now. He'll be home next week."

“Daddy’s in Africa working right now. He’ll be home next week.”

When Dot Com boomed at the turn of the millennium, Hawk assembled a dream team at Swell.com and asked me to join them. I had just started teaching, but when he said he could top my teacher salary by 50%, I could work from home constructing an online encyclopedia (surf a-z), and travel to the best surf spots on earth to cover world tour events, I flew out my classroom door faster than a kid on the last day of school. Um, like, where did Mr. Borte go?

My typical day: Wake up. Surf. Enter my dungeon. Scan list I’d compiled of a few hundred people, places, and events that, together, comprised the history of surfing. Pick a couple to write that day and email Warshaw with a request. He had every surf mag ever printed, and he’d fax me everything on those topics. Peruse the info, make some phone calls from a rolodex of surfing’s royalty, and cobble together the entries. “Gotta put you on hold, Laird. Curren’s buzzing in. Oh, forget it. That’s Lopez on the land line. No, not Shea, you knucklehead. Gerry! I’ll call you back.” And Parmenter was regularly sending me pieces about surfboards, for me to edit and post. Another miserable day at the office.

Over the next few years, my passport gathered more stamps than my kindergartner’s school folder. Cuba for exploration with legendary lensman Art Brewer, Tahiti for death-defying barrels, France and Portugal for beachbreaks and old world culture, Fiji for Cloudbreak perfection, Hawaii for world title showdowns in the mecca of the sport, and South Africa for the regularfooter’s dream come true at Jeffreys Bay – and I don’t have to pay for anything? Wait, you’re gonna pay me? Are you out of your freaking mind? I mean, yeah, sure, I’m okay with that.

Anything that sounds too good to be true usually is. The writing had been on the wall for a while as Swell had blown through megamillions without turning a profit. The editorial staff had been steadily shrinking. As I was about to put my son to bed one evening, I got the call from the boss, Sean Collins. He’d become one of the most powerful people in surfing thanks to his revolutionary surf forecasting and web cams. It was the only time he ever called me, so I knew that after two-and-a-half years my time had come.

Sean seemed genuinely bummed about letting me go, so much so I almost felt bad for him. When he mentioned a severence package, I did feel bad for him. He’d been paying me to do what I loved, and now he was going to pay me while I did absolutely nothing, at least for a few months.

I thanked Sean and went to read some Dr. Seuss to my son. “Right this minute our future looks muddy, but we’re gonna get to play together a lot more, buddy.” I needed a job. Little did I know that Harper Collins was in negotiations for a book on the world’s best surfer. All they needed was a writer.

’97 was a year

My man Deutschendorf.

My man Deutschendorf.

“He was born in the summer of his 27th year, coming home to a place he’d never been before.” – John Denver

1970 – Henry Deutschendorf, aka John Denver, age 27, found his “home” when he experienced the mountains of Colorado, inspiring the above words; I was born. 1997 – 27 years after “coming home,” Denver piloted his plane into the Pacific and died; I reached my 27th year and found my “home.” I’m not a big John Denver fan (although the haircut is pretty sick), but I’ve been partial to “Rocky Mountain High” since discovering the commonalities in our timelines.

Success or failure in pro surfing was easily defined in my day. You qualified for the world tour…or not. I didn’t. I was half in college, half in contests, and never maximized my potential in either. By 1997, I’d come to a crossroads.

My “career” as a pro had been a creeping rise through my small pond with ocassional forays into national competition. I’d outlasted my homies or was too dumb to find real success like them, outside of a contest jersey. Either way, I had nothing to show for my efforts, and with another season of the Association of Surfing Professionals East Coast tour about to kick off in Florida, I had no plans to be there.

My grandparents lived not far from Boynton Beach and dropped by to check out the event.

My grandparents lived not far from Boynton Beach and dropped by to check out the event, March 1997.

I was about to finish my Master’s in Education at Old Dominion University, but going to work in a classroom appealed to me as much as a rash on my nuts. Desperate for alternatives, I’d sent resumes to Surfing and Surfer magazines. Surfing contacted me and asked if I’d like to cover the ASP East season. I preferred the depth of Surfer over the teeny-boppiness of Surfing, but I would’ve written for Kook’s Digest if such a thing existed.

The Thursday evening before the first event, I was hemming and hawing about a $300 flight and how high I’d need to finish to break even. Even with a couple hundred bucks from Surfing, I’d have to make the quarterfinals just to recoup my investment. With kid #1 on the way, the bulk of my dollars were going to burp cloths and butt-wipe warmers. Gambling on a surf contest made as much sense as buying a bunch of lottery tickets.

K and I had started dating in high school, and in the decade since then she hadn’t uttered anything profound. Maybe it was the wacky hormones from the baby growing inside her, but all of a sudden she was Confucious. She looked at me and said, “Just win it.” Hmm, I honesty hadn’t considered that as an option. With that directive, there was no alternative; you don’t cross a pregnant woman. I bought the ticket, and that Sunday down in Boynton Beach, I won the contest.

Graduation day.

Graduation day, May 1997.

I found myself in a bunch of finals through the year, and on the eve of the last event of the season, I started doing some math. While figgurin’ ain’t my strong suit, I was able to ascertain that even if I went out a first round clown, nobody could catch me in the ratings. I called Craig Colburn, the tour director, to see if I was correct. He hadn’t thought about it, but after some figgurin’ of his own he confirmed that I was the ASP East champ, the first non-Floridian to win.

At any moment, the ceiling would open, and a blizzard of confetti would stream over me. ESPN would fly a reporter to my house and interrupt a Laker game to air a live interview. Paparazzi would trample one another as I hoisted the championship trophy for the cover of Sports Illustrated. I was a god.

I walked back into the living room where K was holding our baby boy. “I won,” I announced. “Good job honey,” she replied. “Now grab a diaper.” And we went back to watching Seinfeld.

The tour folded one event into the following year, effectively ending my “career” as a surfer. I was the champion of a thing that didn’t exist. Life was telling me to grow up and earn an honest living. I responded, “Not so fast, Life. I’ll just write for surf magazines and teach people how to surf.” I started my own surf camp that summer and moved over to Surfer after editor Steve Hawk got around to reading the letter I’d sent six months earlier.

The ones who call me Dad.

My loinfruits.

1997 was the most eventful year of my life, including my peak achievement and the establishment of how I still earn my living today. None of those things, interestingly, was the highlight of my year. None of them, however exciting they seemed at the time, changed me or had much impact on me at all.

The titles of champ, writer, and instructor pale compared with the other I received that year, a title I treasure although I did nothing to earn it, a title I’ll spend the rest of my life striving to live up to, and the reason I am what I am and do what I do, the title of “Dad.” That’s the one that matters. Yeah, it was a big year.

How to escape prison and do great stuff

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” When activist Thomas Paine saw the hungry, tattered, and all-around pitiful state of the continental army in 1776, he penned these famous words to rally the disheartened troops, dudes who were merely committing treason and sacrificing life and limb in an unwinnable war against the most powerful empire on earth. Imagine what T Paine would’ve said about a challenge as monumental as intentionally not surfing during hurricane season.

My personal struggle is entering its ninth month, and my soul is in for some serious trials. The tropics are on fire. Cristobal just lit up the coast, and more waves are coming. If we could string together a year full of Septembers and Octobers, Va Beach might deserve consideration as a halfway decent surf spot. Like the continental army, I’m in for the fight of my life.

My little odyssey is nothing compared to what ‘muricans undertook in 1776. I’m hardly deserving of recognition from anyone, other than maybe my family and the guys at First Street who each caught a few extra waves in my absence. Still, it’s tough. People tell me all the time, “I can’t believe you’re not surfing, that’s crazy!” I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced.

Two hours away but it may as well be a gazillion miles. Photo: Surfline.

Two hours away but it may as well be a gazillion miles. Photo: Surfline.

That realization popped up and bitch-slapped me like it was an unpaid pimp. The toughest task I’ve ever undertaken is trying to avoid riding a wave for a year. My hardest part is still ahead, and there’s a solid chance I won’t make it. How sad is that? When I think of all the tough shit that people do, I feel like a total douche.

Assuming I was the wimpiest sumbitch I know, I asked around. No one I spoke to has done much to challenge themselves either. Some have struggled through school or with a workout regimen, but that’s about it. As it turns out, the comfort zone sucks all of us in, and it doesn’t let us out.

Surfing was my comfort zone, and once I learned how to stand up, nothing I did in the water seemed like a challenge. Paine went on the add, “Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right ‘to bind us in all cases whatsoever,’ and if being bound in that manner is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth.” Now go back and replace “Britain” with “the ocean” and tell me it doesn’t ring true.

Why are we so attached, as a species, to what comes easily? You’d think, given our ability to outthink other animals, we’d recognize the importance of stepping outside our little boxes.


We love our instant gratification, which is a nice way of saying we’re a bunch of lazy fucks. We sleepwalk through the day, plop down after work and don’t budge until the next morning, when we do it all over again. We’re slaves to comfort, and our servitude keeps us from doing anything great.
I cannot say that I’d ever really stepped out of my comfort zone prior to this year. As frightening as it was to become a landlubber, I believe the results have been worthwhile. The only habit I’ve picked up is writing, something I’d given up on. By documenting real life for the first time, I’m hooked. Staying dry has led me to dredge up my past and to admit things to myself and whoever stumbles on my blog that I never would have said otherwise. And by doing so, think how much money I’ve saved by not paying a therapist.

While I’m still in control of surfing rather than the other way around, I want to urge YOU to step out of your comfort zone. Embrace uncomfortableness and see what happens. Don’t quit surfing; that’s just stupid. But step out. Do SOMETHING.

Don’t take it from me. Another famous American, Teddy Roosevelt, said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life.” Teddy was a sickly kid whose courage led him to greatness. He was a badass with a big stick, so listen to him.

I’m a realist. I know that the number of people who’ve been inspired to action by a blog post is precisely zero. You’ll get to this point, flush the toilet, and wash your hands of the whole idea. And you’ll live, at least a while. And dying in your bed, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back and tell our enemies that they can take our lives but they can never take our freedom!

You quoted my film without written consent?!

You quoted my film without written consent?!