Why there is only one surf movie (aside from that animated penguin flick)

A friend I hadn’t seen since George Michael was urging everyone to have ‘fay-fa-fay-fa-faith’ came into town recently. Damian Bibic is an Aussie who lived here during my wonder years and showed me what good surfing looked like. He wasn’t aware of my sabbatical, and the first thing he said the other night was, “I went down to First Street to look for you. I wanted to paddle up and go, ‘Good swell, how big are the sets?'”

In you’re unfamiliar with the only Hollywood film about surfing that’s worth watching, Damian’s line is from Big Wednesday. Straight-laced Jack Barlow returns from three years in Vietnam and says those words to his frequently drunk buddy Matt Johnson as if nary a day has passed. Damian’s return after a quarter century set off a wave of nostalgia. I remembered being at a party and painting him with barbecue sauce so he could dive into a preheated oven (“We’re gonna roast the Masochist. How you like your haole?”). It was time for a screening.

Roasting the Masochist. Perhaps this was the root of Busey's later problems.

Roasting the Masochist. Perhaps this was the root of Busey’s later problems.

We had no smart phones in the ’80s, so our eyes had lots of free time. Mine fixated on a vhs cassette of Big Wednesday. I’m baffled the magnetic tape didn’t disintegrate after the thousandth viewing. I cannot recall a single postulate from geometry, but by the time I graduated I could recite every line in the film.

Several years later I got the movie on dvd. I never watched it, and after moving twice I considered it lost. I tried to find a pirated YouTube version but Warner Brothers demanded my credit card information. Oh well, I have a smart phone, so my attention fluttered back to Words with Friends.

Enter fate.

The next evening, I was sitting on my bum in the living room when in walks my son. His hair was wet from surfing, and he was carrying my dvd copy of Big Wednesday. I envisioned that somewhere Gary Busey cracked a(nother) beer, the clouds parted, and Ray Charles was accompanied by a flock of angels for an impromptu rendition of “What’d I say?”

Best seat in the house. I can finally throw quotes at my son.

Best seat in the house. I can finally throw quotes at my son.

An hour later, I was sprawled on my son’s bedroom floor for closer viewing as the narrator began, “I remember the three friends best – Matt, Jack, Leroy,” and the trio made their way down the concrete stairs toward The Point. I’ll spare you the whole story, but I was struck like an Enforcer uppercut by all the memorable lines. Big Wednesday says so much about friendship, growing up, and life in general that I can overlook the hackneyed ride-of-his-life-near-death-experience-saved-by-his-friends ending. Here’s a my list of my favorites quotes (in the order they appear in the film).

1. “You’re always alone out there anyway. You shouldn’t have to depend on anybody but yourself.” -Bear
One of the best things about surfing is that it isn’t a team sport, or possibly isn’t a sport at all, but a mental, physical, and spiritual sanctuary with real consequences. There are no tracks, coaches, fees, or support staff.

2. “At home being young is just something you do until you grow up. Here, here it’s everything.” –Sally
After growing up in Chicago, Jack’s girlfriend realizes the Great Lakes mightn’t be so great after all. That’s why there’re so many grownups there. The beach is more like Neverland, and everybody wants to be Peter Pan.

3. “They’ve condemned the pier, Jack. I’m gonna have to go and start livin’ like an inlander.” –Bear
We all reach a crossroads where that thug called “life” threatens to rob us of our passion. Some of us realize the moment isn’t a crossroads at all, but a speed bump. We get knocked around, spill our $5 coffee, curse the creator for playing such a cruel trick, and keep right on driving.

4. “I just surf ’cause it’s good to go out and ride with your friends.” –Matt
Competition, adulation, and free stuff get in the way of surfing. They aren’t reasons to do it. Going out and riding with ones friends, that’s the ticket – riding waves, riding flat spells, riding to Hatteras and stinking the car up with jokes and Hardee’s biscuit farts.

5. “Jack, your friends are the most important thing you’ve got. Have a drink…to your friends, come hell or high water.” –Bear One day your friends will lure you into a shady business deal, steal your gal, and have your kids calling them, “Daddy,” but until then, they’re the best thing you’ve got. Quit blowing them off. Blow everything else off and meet them for a drink.

6. “The change wasn’t in the beach or the rocks or the waves. It was in the people. Some got married. Some moved inland. Some died.” –Narrator
No matter where you live, people bitch about how the place has changed for the worse. Unless you live somewhere they’ve built a harbor over your break, shut up. All that’s changed is people have moved on. Adapt or die, the choice is yours.

7. “I’m not your brother, and turn down that crappy music!” –Matt I haven’t had a reason to attend Surf Expo or any other gathering of bro’s for several years, and I do not miss it. Unless you’re my brother, or we’ve been to war together, or at least on a surf trip, don’t call me, “brother.” And hippy music is indeed crap.

8. “Nah, only when it’s necessary.” Matt, in response to Jack asking if he’s been doing much surfing
I don’t like the idea of surfing as a routine, like going to a gym and hopping on a treadmill. Riding waves is an adventure, and if it isn’t you’re doing it wrong and may as well be on a tennis court or a golf course. Go out on a choppy day or ride a different type of board.

9. “I never thought old Waxer’d end up in the boneyard.” -Leroy
We all die, some earlier than others. You never expect to hear that one of your buddies has expired. I’ve been through it a couple times and you always wish you’d been a better friend. Refer to #5.

10. “No, I’m just a garbage man.” -Bear, in response to a guy asking if he surfs
If you don’t surf now, you never did. That sounds funny considering my present situation, but I believe it. Since many think of me as a surfer, they are impelled to tell me about their days in the water and how they long to return. I wish they’d accept reality; they’re garbagemen.

On a final note, I’d like to think that when I die, I will relive Matt’s experience as he walks to the beach on the big day. He reaches the sand, and Jack and Leroy are waiting for him. I’ll walk up to the boardwalk at First Street, and I’ll find Jeff Hunter and Zeke Sanders standing with their boards. Nothing will be said. We’ll paddle out.


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.

When it is acceptable to cry at a surf contest

A more comfortable chair than it looks.

A more comfortable chair than it looks.

I’ve never cried while watching a surf contest. I’ve been thrilled a few times, angry lots of times, and I’ve been bored more times than I’d like to admit. But I’ve never had a tear well up in my eye in the process of viewing people in colored singlets attempting to outsurf one another. Hadn’t, at least, until today.

After competing in hundreds of amateur and pro events, covering dozens of others on the world tour, and watching as a fan forever, suddenly, today, tears. Do you want to know when someone cries at a surf contest?

When you see a six-year-old kid learning to surf at The Jetty with his dad, getting pushed into whitewaters as you ride into the shorebreak.

When that kid is 14 and he comes to your Sunday morning surf training, and you give him a few tips but can’t tell him the one thing holding him back, that’s he’s a scrawny kid and just needs time to fill out.

When the kid is 18 and starts traveling all over creation and immersing himself with good surfers and good waves and slogging his way through the trials and tribulations of international competition, a many year process, during which he may as well be in witness protection because he’s buried so deep in the ranks.

When he is 20 and you watch random events online, where the kid is surfing crazy fast but is still scrawny and unconfident, not unconfident in his ability, but unconfident in whether it is okay for him to knock off the best surfers in the world, even though he’s surfing better than they are.

When he is 24 and you tune in online and see that this year is different because the scrawny kid is filling out and gets pissed when he loses to the best surfers in the world, because he should be beating them and he knows it.

The man slips into a nice little day at The Jetty.

A nice little day at The Jetty.

When the kid comes home to the event that hasn’t been won by a kid from The Jetty since 1981, the year before you started surfing, and you’ve surfed this event countless times, made the finals a handful of times, once even came in and were told you won and were chaired up the beach on the shoulders of the guy who won back in ’81, but you ended up in second and had to watch another guy from Florida, or California, or Brazil, or New Jersey somehow finish on top and you feel like you let people down and you wonder if a local surfer will ever break through.

When you pedal to the beach to watch the kid’s first heat yesterday, and you track him down before he paddles out to assure him, You got this.

When you catch the rest of his heats online, heats in which he is fast, but also cool, radical, powerful, and dominant.

When he knocks out last year’s champ on the way to the final.

When he’s losing the final until the waning minutes and he scorches another jetty right that eliminates all doubt.

When the final horn blows and the kid enjoys a victory lap with his arms raised in elation.

When his friends don’t wait for him to hit the sand but rush into the water and hoist him onto their shoulders.

When that ’81 champ carries the kid’s board behind them and the entire procession has stoke shooting from their pores like fireworks.

When the beach screams with something it hasn’t been able to scream with in forever, something like pride.

When you feel that pride coursing through your veins and it causes the skin on your arms to erupt into little bumps and the hairs to stand at attention.

When the look on that kid’s face is the greatest look ever invented, that of pure joy.

When that stuff happens, your eyes get a little moist. Tears aren’t running down your cheeks, not like when you watch Rudy, but you can feel the moistness. You know that you had a little something to do with what is unfolding, just a tiny bit, because that kid once looked at you and said, It can be done. And he went out and did it.

Selfie with the man.

Selfie with the man.

And you know what you do then? You do something you haven’t done in years. You go down to a bar on the strip at almost midnight, even though you have to start school early the next morning, and you walk into that bar and see a mass of people toward the back. It isn’t the normal mass of people, downing drinks to try to forget that some out-of-towner swooped in and looted the top prize. This mass of people is celebrating.

You make you way into the middle of the mass because the kid is in there somewhere. You find the kid and he’s still coherent. His eyes light up. He’s honored that you made this effort. You’re honored that he’s honored. You lean in towards the kid and you say, You’re the man. And you step back to let everyone else tell him. And you walk out of that bar with your faith restored because it only took you 30 years to prove that good things can come from surf competition.

No homage

"Go, son. Learn to surf! Be miserable." Note my effeminate running style. I guess that's why "gay" used to mean happy, because I'm really happy in this photo.

“Go, son. Learn to surf! You’ll love it here.” Note my effeminate running style. I guess that’s why “gay” used to mean happy, because I’m really happy in this photo.

There are worse places to be a surfer than where I live, but not many. Trust me; it’s really fucking bad. I know this because 1) I’ve surfed here as much as anyone during the last 30 years 2) I’ve traveled to lots of places that are good for surfing so I know what good is, and 3) My son has been pissed off at me for ten years for not persuing a job offer in California. He looks at me like I’m a complete idiot and repeats the same question. Why?

I see his point. But before attempting to get to the answer, I want to explain what we’re dealing with for anyone who might not be familiar with my hometown.

We almost never get waves. The Atlantic flatlines for weeks at a stretch, and it does so on a monthly basis. When we get what we consider waves, and we’re jumping around like Juggalos at an ICP concert, most surfers would look at the ocean and go, “Meh.”

The reasons for our area’s ineptitude are as plentiful as cops on the resort strip. We can blame it on the continental shelf, the direction of the earth’s rotation, the Jet Stream, Laird Hamilton (rumor has it he was in town recently, and we all know he deserves plenty of blame).

"Can anyone tell me how to get to the beach? Wait, is that my daughter getting her ass spray painted with ...lost logo?"

“Can anyone tell me how to get to the beach? Wait, is that my daughter getting the …lost logo spray painted on her ass?”

Waves that miraculously manage to find their way here are met with a shoreline as straight as any in the world. Aside from two jetties and a pier, which provide minor help, there is nothing to prompt incoming swells to make their final act memorable. As a result, our waves tend not to pitch or peel so much as crumble. Imagine a timelapse video in reverse of Joan Rivers’ face through the years, and you trying to ride the chunks of plastic as they fall off. That’s what we’re dealing with here, and it ain’t pretty.

The best waves break in the designated surfing zones, which get as crowded as legitimate surf spots, but without any sort of merit-based pecking order like you’d find at those other spots. Here, the mentality is, Biggest board wins. In most cases, logs and SUP’s serve as crutches for those too feeble to catch waves using skill alone. It’s sort of like “Survival of the fattest.”

Every so often, perhaps a handful of days each year, the waves get taller than an average adult. In other words, “overhead,” the gold standard for surfing. Most of these days, the wind is blowing in some direction other than offshore, so the surf is choppy. Or, the tide is high and so the waves are fat. Or, without any coves or headlands to provide shape the waves shut down all at once. Going to the beach can be like going on a blind date expecting Megan Fox to answer the door but finding Redd Foxx instead. All you can do is laugh.

Rarely, the elements come together to produce waves that well-traveled surfers would consider good. Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, provided such conditions. I checked the surf for eight hours until the wind finally switched. For one glorious few hours, guys were standing inside barrels and we thought we’d found Nirvana. By the next morning, the surf looked like what was found of the lead singer of Nirvana.

Most people in town realize how bad our waves are and therefore do not pay surfing much attention. Unless Jim Cantore is on the boardwalk raving about this year’s Storm of the Century, the beach is simply a place they go to plop on a towel and work on their skin cancer. Otherwise they lead perfectly normal lives, deftly stepping around that old surfboard in the garage in order to get in the car and speed off to work. Surfing, around here, pfft!

Check the guy in the white pitching a tent in the background.

Check the guy in the white pitching a tent in the background.

Miraculously, at this moment a fellow resident, an absute ripper named Michael Dunphy, is ranked 18th on the World Qualifying Series. He’s one big result away from becoming the first surfer from here to make the elite level since OMG Wes Laine back in the ’80s. And outside of hardcore surfers, no one in town has ever heard his name. Mike Dunphy, is that the guy from Modern Family? The town doesn’t care.

That is, until this week. The final week of August is the one week that is different. Like moths to a flame, residents flock shoreward for The Big Contest. Dust ’em off and wax ’em down, it’s surf week.

$urf this, $urf that, everything $urf. Except it isn’t. Surfers laugh at this place; they come here for the money, nothing more. And these days the surfing is an afterthought, swallowed up by a sea of skate ramps, volleyball nets, flag football games, vendor village debauchery, “rock” concerts, freestyle motodemos, beer tents, boobkini contests, and 5K’s. Navigate through that obstacle course, and you may see a few wavelets ridden. It’s about surfing like Costco is about surfing. “Yeah, we got some boards in the back, but you’re gonna buy a bunch of other crap on your way there.”

As you can see, surfers love coming here.

As you can see, surfers love coming here.

Enough about the surfing paradise I live in and on to answering my son’s question: Why would a surfer willingly subject himself such dismal conditions? Compounding the dilemma was the fact that I dragged the poor kid onto a surfboard before he could walk, so I got him into this mess. Why?

Maybe I stayed precisely because of the dismal conditions. I loved that surfing around here made me something of a renegade. It’s not like in California, where your sister, your doctor, your principal, and your grandmother all surf. I’ve met people surfing on the West Coast, and when I told them where I was from they replied, “Whoa dude, is there even an ocean there?” Yes, that is an indictment of Southern California geography classes, but it’s also because, why the hell would they know there’s an ocean here?

I was proud of the fact that I could surf in spite of living in such a wave-starved place. The Underdog Story personified. While others complained about the meager surf; I learned to revel in it. I’ll show California. I’ll have just as much fun, and go just as far, surfing shit waves as them surfing good ones. And I did. I made it. I outsmarted everyone, myself included.

Meet Michael Dunphy. Kid is killing it. Let's support him in his bid to take over the world.

Meet Michael Dunphy. Kid is killing it. Let’s support him in his bid to take over the world.

PS: Go Dunphy! Bring it home, boy.

The Airpump Rumpus

Behold the greatest thing to happen to air since Michael Jordan.

Behold the greatest thing to happen to air since Michael Jordan.

I can’t remember the last time somebody wanted to fight me. Must’ve been the Hawaiian dude I asked to be quiet while we were watching a movie, somewhere around ’92. He promptly stuck his fist through the living room wall of our North Shore rental, turned to me, and deadpanned, “Mo betta if it’s ya face next time, yeah?” All had been peaceful in my world since then, the only person wanting to ring my neck being my wife. That is, until I made the mistake of stopping at a gas station to get some air in my tire.

The only place I know of that doesn’t charge for air is Wawa, so being the tightwad that I am, Wawa is where I go for air, even when it’s out of my way. They got these bitchin new airpumps where you punch in the appropriate tire pressure and it beeps when it’s finished. And did I mention their air is free? I should know by now that everything in this world comes with a price. If you think otherwise you probably believe the Kardashian’s are real people.

Someone was parked at the spot designated for the airpump, so my wife pulled the car into a spot three spaces away. I asked her to park closer, but she ran inside for a coffee and left me to fill the tire. When the customer finished and pulled away, I tried to stretch the hose three spaces rather than repark the car. It didn’t work.

I found a video of this Wawa scrum on the Interweb. Not sure if it started over the air hose or if one of them grabbed the last apple fritter.

I found a video of this Wawa scrum on the Interweb. Not sure if it started over the air hose or if one of them grabbed the last apple fritter.

I pulled out of my space to park closer, and in the meantime another car swooped into the airpump spot. I parked next to them and walked over to grab the hose. That’s when things got interesting.

The driver of the other car, a redneck sporting Fakely’s and a Nascar cap, hopped out from behind the wheel and barked, “Wought the fuck you think yer doin?”

“I’m just getting some air in my tire.”

“You think you can just cut in front of me?!”

“Oh, no. I was already here, but the hose wouldn’t reach.”

“Look at the fuckin sign.” He graciously pointed out that he’d parked his crappy old American sedan in front of the ‘Airpump parking only’ sign, proving he was capable of reading compound words.

“Yeah, that’s what I told my wife when she parked the car over there.”

My adversary preps for battle.

My adversary preps for battle.

Nascar was apparently getting confused from so much thinkin, and he had heard enough. He yanked off his Fakely’s and cap and took a step in my direction. “You wanna jump?”

Now I was the one confused. “What?”

“You wanna jump at me?” He was by this point, in the parlance of our time, all up in my grill. I had a decision to make. I could hand him the hose, happy to have avoided a senseless conflict, and allow Karma to have her way with him. Or, I could say, “Fuck you, dipshit,” and resume filling my tire with free air like I’d come to do.

This undoubtedly would have sent Nascar into a tizzy, and I would have soon found myself on the losing end of an MMA battle. In the Wawa parking lot. Over an airhose. With my kids watching from inside the car. The headline would’ve read, “Local Teacher Arrested in Airhose Melee,” but history would remember the skirmish as “The Airpump Rumpus.”

I coulda been a contender.

I coulda been a contender.

Unfortunately, the result was preordained. I’ve never been a proponent of violence, which is a nice way of saying I’m a huge pussy when it comes to physical confrontation. A favorite quote of mine, from John Gregory Dunne, states, “Violence is the way stupid people try to level the playing field.” I handed over the hose, or as my daughter saw it, he snatched it out of my hand. I need to get her eyes checked.

Considering the miserable existence  Nascar probably leads, I’m happy to have provided him the opportunity to feel good about himself (although that was anything but my intention). He left the scene feeling like he was nine-feet-tall and could take on Chuck Norris. I, on the other hand, felt like a complete wuss. Lucky for me, I have this seldom-read forum to poke fun at his sorry ass and exact a modicum of revenge. The pen, or in this case the blog, is indeed mightier than the dipshit.

Starbucks Buddha: “Little spider, why are you afraid to leave your web?”

Don't think about, dude. Just drink it.

Don’t think about, dude. Just drink it.

The only thing Buddha-like about me is my belly, but sitting in Starbucks tapping thoughts into my iphone Notes app I achieve a somewhat altered state. I string together letters and words and sentences that come across as wisdom, or at least that’s what some extremely wisdom-deprived people have told me. Somehow, my ideas have made people who don’t ordinarily think, think. Incredibly, this has all happened not because I did something, but because I quit doing something. As I’ve learned recently, the quitting=enlightenment equation is no coincidence.

“In order to understand something clearly, one must first give it up.” This is the closing line of Turtle Feet, a memoir I just read about a piano prodigy who quit Berklee College of Music to become a monk in India. Had I been given the book prior to this year, I may not have made it beyond the first chapter. It happened to be introduced to me at a time I could grasp the concept, and I devoured the whole thing, thinking at times of Dylan’s line, “Every one of those words rang true and glowed like burnin’ coal, pourin’ off of every page like it was written in my soul.” Well, not every word rang true, but at least two of them did – I quit.

Not surfing has given me nothing if not perspective. (That sentence was a triple negative, which is okay. I checked.) What I’ve replaced surfing with has turned out to be writing. Not quite as good of a physical workout as surfing, I’ll admit, but it’s more exercise than “monking,” whatever that entails. Through this blog, and the contemplation that goes into it, I understand surfing in a way I never did before, and never could have while I was neck deep in my 3/2 fullsuit.

Is it a coincidence that the Dalai Lama started following me on twitter the other day?

Is it a coincidence that the Dalai Lama started following me on twitter the other day?

The question that keeps popping into my mind, right after Do any of the girls who hit Starbucks in workout wear ever actually make it to the gym?, is Why am I not surfing? Like Buddha, who allegedly vowed to sit under the bohdi tree until he discovered the truth, I refuse to vacate my seat until I find the answer.

This is where the wisdom of Turtle Feet struck home. “Suddenly it occurred to me,” author Nikolai Grozni wrote, “how incredible it was that, despite having free will, people were often incapable of altering the course of their lives or even straying from a purely circumstantial narrative.” Which is the sentiment that led me to consider emerging from the primordial Atlantic ooze. He went on, “In a world where some people didn’t live past thirty, and the entire human population was recycled every hundred years, there had to be something that could account for the widespread clinging to prefabricated narratives, or the universal penchant for repetition. I didn’t have to be the person everyone expected me to be.”

This was news to me. I leapt from my seat, or at least my insides did. My body, anchored by the aforementioned Buddha belly, only jiggled. Prefabricated narratives! Penchant for repetition! I didn’t have to be the person everyone expected me to be! Nokolai Grozni, you’re speaking my language.

Scoping out spots for my new office.

Scoping out spots for my new office.

Quitting surfing and becoming a monk never crossed my mind. Besides, brown is such a blah color. Instead, I took to blogging since I can do it in my underwear. Still, we have that whole contemplation thing in common. Does the fact that some pianist dude had a thought that was sort of like mine mean anything? Does it validate my decision to quit surfing? Not in the slightest. But at least I’m not the only guy to abandon something really cool in favor of sitting around and thinking about stuff.

I’d love to go beyond the shallow issue of why I quit, to flip the question into Why WAS I surfing? But my cup is empty and I can only sit here for so long pretending I’m doing something important. I may have stopped surfing, but other prefabricated narratives (family, work, Starbucks) aren’t so easy to quit.