Today, during lunch, a few of the guys from our staff went surfing. Jumping in the ocean during the middle of our workday, no matter what the waves are like, is a consistent ritual here at the magazine, though it’s an easy thing to neglect when things get hectic. And being that we’re in the midst of putting the final touches on this issue while simultaneously opening our first surf shop — SURFING Supply — in Huntington Beach, things are certainly hectic at the moment.
I have way too much to do to join them, I told myself as everyone walked out of our office and into a beautiful August afternoon. And then, instead of surfing, I opened editor-at-large Beau Flemister’s essay, titled: “…But I Surfed Instead.”
Oh, the irony.
In it, Beau writes: “In high school, dry land became a complex waiting room until the water. Going to prom, getting a girlfriend, keeping the faith, losing my virginity…these were all obligations that required tedious scheduling and attention, and plain got in the way of my relationship with the ocean.”
Beau — like most devoted surfers — has built his life around the ocean. It’s always been priority No. 1. In his piece he explores the wonderful route his life has taken thanks to this inherent decision to surf instead, and he also spoke with a handful of others to hear how their relationship with the ocean has molded their own lives. Says Nic Von Rupp: “I think a lot of people don’t have as much passion for something as a lot of surfers have. They might not know what it’s like to be totally devoted to something, having to chase it at any cost.” Nic makes a great point. Unlike other sports (or hobbies, or however you like to categorize surfing), we can’t just schedule our addiction. No. We’re at the mercy of swells, and swells sometimes show up at very inconvenient times. Take this issue’s cover boy, Balaram Stack, who missed his own brother’s wedding to go to Tahiti to surf instead.
Beau’s essay got me thinking. And then it got me moving. I grabbed my board and bolted for the beach. All of my office work will be here later. But a 3- to 4-foot combo swell, with 78-degree water and a group of great friends, will not.
As I was about to jump in the water an older lady approached. “Are you a good surfer?” She asked. “Umm, well, I try,” I answered. That’s always an awkward question. “Well, my daughter is out there, and she’s getting really frustrated because she can’t stand up. Could you give her a hand?”
Twenty feet from shore I could see her daughter floundering in the whitewater on a soft-top, so I waded out to meet her and introduced myself. She was 14. Her name was Alexis. Today was only her second day surfing and it’s something she had dreamed of doing growing up in Colorado. After a couple of awkward wipeouts I nudged her into a clean one and she popped up and rode it straight all the way to the beach. She jumped off on the sand and excitedly whirled around and claimed it. I gave her two thumbs-up and then I paddled out to meet everyone.
Back at the office, refreshed and re-energized, my phone dings with a direct message from Instagram. It’s Alexis. “Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to help me stand up today. It’s maybe the most fun thing I’ve ever done and now I’m totally addicted.”
Looks like I found yet another reason why it’s always better to surf instead. —Zander Morton