Yesterday was one of those days I won’t soon forget. And hopefully one that my younger son, Everett, won’t soon forget, either. I think everyone remembers the first time they stood up on a surfboard. Mine was December 5, 1995. I recall the moment like it was yesterday. Freezing water. About the most north-westerly point of the continental US. I think we actually parked on the beach, and it may have been an indian reservation where we unloaded the truck. In the water, I was basically totally hung out to dry by a couple good buddies of mine from undergrad. Left to my own devices. Actually pretty dangerous, in retrospect, once I sort of wandered out beyond fooling around in the whitewater. My leash wrapped around a car-sized, partially submerged rock, pulling my face beneath the water when the waves surged in. Surreal, as I watched my buddies off in the distance a hundred yards further out. They would never have any idea what had happened to me.
Afterwards, I don’t think I ever even mentioned my little brush with immortality to them, though. Because the lingering euphoria I felt after that session from standing up for the first time was overpowering. The flirting-with-drowning-thing was well worth it.
June 24, 2015: Nine year-old Everett’s first wave was presumably less dramatic, but hopefully no less memorable. As a kid who grew up in the middle of New York State, I am frequently envious of my sons’ ongoing experience of growing up on the California coast. I would have killed to begin surfing when I was 9 years-old, as both of my sons have. They don’t have to kill anyone or anything for the opportunity.
And unlike most of the amazing things these boys experience every day, the surfing thing is not one that either of them takes for granted. The looks on their red faces after they first stood up — I recognize that look and that underlying feeling very clearly. I witnessed that expression play across Everett’s face for the first time yesterday; I see it broaden Max’s smile every time we get in the water. And I felt it on my own cold face nearly 20 years ago.
People say the best surfer is the one who is having the most fun. I think that’s probably true. In no parallel universe would I be anything other than the worst surfer in the world. But nothing brings me more joy and makes me happier than seeing my boys experience the ocean like we did yesterday. I wonder what it would feel like to see their kids (my grandkids) surf for the first time? I hope I’m around for that, that likely would make me the best surfer in the world.
Thanks for reading.