Why We Surf
Before I was born my mother always knew she wanted to get to a place called Cardiff By The Sea. There she would raise her children at the beach surfing, skating, and soaking up the sun. Inspired by the lifestyle introduced to her by her uncle Jeff Timpone and his friend Shawn Stussy - legendary surfboard shaper and surf apparel entrepreneur, respectively - my mother would catch the bus, surfboard in hand, and ride for hours to get to Huntington beach to surf with the up-and-coming crew back then.
Wanting to raise a family of her own in such a open-minded and ocean-centered culture became her dream. Finally, in 1991 she took the jump and brought my sister and I to Cardiff By The Sea - from what I could tell, an entire town of people who wanted to raise a family in that same way.
My mom waisted no time in getting me into the ocean. The same month we moved to North County San Diego, I found myself thrust into the waves. I was gripping onto a board as though I was holding on for dear life as my mom would hurl me into a mountain of water crashing and tumbling in every which way.
This did not excite or interest me in the way my mother had hoped. I would spend the next few years jumping between sports. Running without direction on the soccer field, day dreaming in right field while playing baseball, sitting on the bench or talking with the cheer leaders while a football player, and somewhat finding myself on the basketball court. Each time my mom was right there. Assistant coach, snack bar sales casher, car pool liaison, whatever the team needed a single mother and provider for two somehow always had time to invest in my extracurricular activities.
It was not until the summer before junior high school that I would return to the board. That summer, during orientation, I had met a new kid that moved from Colorado. We both shared an interest in skateboarding and he expressed a desire to learn how to surf. That summer I would ride my skateboard while holding a 7 foot surfboard two and a half miles each way. Hanz, my new friend from Colorado, and I would surf for a couple hours before riding our skateboards home. This would become the beginning of my life long affair with surfing.
When school kicked off I was pumped to find out surfing was a school sponsored sport. And just as always, mom was there. Being the son of the assistant coach came with all sorts of perks. A personal relationship with the surf coach and school history teacher being chief among them. Now, every Thursday was more than just practice with the surf team, it was family night. My sister would meet me at the house and mom would have our boards packed up ready for us to hit the beach.
Team practice was at a place called pipes near our town camp grounds. For one week every year my sister, along with our mom and step dad, would move out of the home we lived in together and pitch a tent at the local camp grounds. For one week, and during school since this was the ideal swell time for the reef breaks there, we would be living at the beach! This meant we got to wake up, surf, go to school, then surf again after we finished class.
My second year in junior high school we almost didn’t have a surf team. The long time coach needed some time off and wanted to take a break. Luckily, my mom was there again to step up and fulfill whatever it was my pursuits in life required. And this year, my passion for surfing required a coach for my junior high school surf team. We didn’t win any prestigious awards that year, but I did get to surf in every competition. I also had my pick of the swag that would come in from local companies offering to sponsor our team. At the time I felt a little guilty over the nepotism. Looking back however, all the hours my mother had to put in, the challenges she volunteered to handle, and the operation she ran on behalf of a litter of spoiled little So Cal groms earned her authority enough to do as she pleased with our team and its resources. And if giving me a special sweater from a local company who sponsored us would lite up a small for weeks on my face, then she was completely within her rights to do so.
More recently I have come back to surfing again. It is possible one of the greatest gifts my mother has afforded me. The wisdom she had in those early years of her life, instilling in her a dream of raising a family born of the ocean and living for waves, carried us through much. In fact, if you were to plot the amount of surfing I was doing, on average, over any given period of time, you would see a powerful correlation to positive outcomes in my life.
I am only now realizing this as I write. The times that surfing was in my life were some of the healthiest and most growth oriented periods I have had. When I started, that summer before junior high, I went from almost being held back a grade in 6th grade to becoming an honors students by 7th grade. In high school, when I surfed most, I became the ideal first generation college student. An honors and AP student for the first 3 years while I was surfing. It was not until I stopped surfing my final year of high school that I did not follow through with going directly to college.
And here I measure myself again. This last year, as I started surfing and feeling a renewed passion for it, I appear to have surmounted my greatest obstacles yet. I have come out of a multi year slump to find a career in my life-long passion of teaching. More recently, as I became the digital strategist for the Christian Surfers of Tahiti and really started to surf, I was promoted to a management position where I reside now facilitating other tutors in achieving success with their students.
As I look forward I have so much to be thankful for, as I always have. But now, after writing this reminiscent piece, I have someone I need to reach out to and share these exciting findings. Because I am sure they will want to be right there enjoying this wave with me.