Surfing has brought me so much. From humble beginnings growing up in a mill town and not even knowing people surfed in New England, to eventually dedicating much of my life to it. I started later than most die-hards so have had to make up for lost time. This has meant complete immersion and I tackle the pursuit with complete dedication. Nothing else gets me up at 4 am and has me driving for hours through snow and ice storms. Its led me across border crossings at night in Central America. It has led me to countries and introduced me to cultures I never expected to do more than read about in a book. It has led me to the most beautiful corners of the earth on a wing and a prayer and 5 bucks in my pocket and often less.
Many of the surf sessions happen as almost a bonus compared to what you sacrificed to there in the first place. Hiking over mountains to surf in solitude with a couple friends at a powerful river mouth with just a few seals as our companions. Surfing in driving rain, ice, snow. Surfing over coral, ledge, volcanic rock. Being pounded to the bottom and held down to the point of drowning, only to be released and barely escape, gasping, exhausted but very alive.
I’ve surfed naked and surfed at night a nd once much to the chagrin of my friends, did both at once. I’ve been caught in shipping channels frantically paddling against 5 knot plus currents with a freighter bearing down on me. I’ve slept under coconuts trees which are statistically more dangerous than sharks, which i’ve surfed with right under neath me clear as day in Panama among other places.
What I’m most proud of has been the exploration and quest and dedication to surfing in solitude away from the ever growing crowds. In some swells after epic drives just to get to the coast, I’ve then surfed 10 different spots in 3 days. It seems the norm for me now to have to work extra hard to get there like last year when i packed my chainsaw in the van and cut a full size downed tree that was blocking the highway during tropical storm Irene.(the police actually said I could?!)
This past Saturday was no different. Meg and i headed out in the wee hours to drive for 3 hours trying stay awake and get the coast to meet up with a friend. The whole coast was shrouded in DEEP fog to the point of extremely limited visibility. The waves were short period wind swell which meant you had to duck dive over and over and over on the way out. The waves were breaking everywhere, no rhyme or reason it seemed during the t and first session. Poor Meg fought and fought and was pounded back to beach hundreds of yards from where she began. As I was out there with our friend, I wished for her safety as the fog blocked me from seeing anything.
After warming up and taking a breather, we headed out once again and the fog just became even thicker even though now it was well into the afternoon. Usually the fog lifts as the sun rises but not this day. I surfed one right that put me right over the rocks near the cliff and I could see my buddy Mike for a minute, still inside fighting to get out. He never did make it out so it was just me out there for sometime. Alone in the North Atlantic, pondering the 40 year journey of my life so far. From not even knowing surfing existed to being completely surrounded my Mother Ocean, feeling for her mood and asking her for permission to play. What a gift it was along with so many prior. And in the grand scheme of things, it really means nothing. Their are no paychecks or glory or personal recognition for such dedication. When I pass along into the next journey, few of my friends or family will ever understand or be able to comprehend what it was like for me. I can only hope that they may find or feel what is like to give in to your passion so completely, if only for a brief lifetime.
The journey continues..Their are new storms brewing and trips planned that are merely a dream now but with hard work and dedication, can become a reality. There are new cultures to explore and more harrowing escapes(I hope). More waves and more boards to explore and new friends that come along with the journey. I will soon teach my nephew and a select few as well possibly who display a dedication or even appreciation to our great Mother and want to protect her and only borrow a few foggy waves.
Pics shot by Megan Walsh.