I’m getting rid of everything I own. Surfboards. Wetsuits. Clothing. It’s scattered across my front yard like a bomb went off. Sandals. Watches. Booties. Towels. DVDs. Where did all this crap come from? Boardbags. Swim fins. Skim boards. Strangers are milling about my yard, pawing through my derailed hobbies and cancelled aspirations. A yard sale is like having yourself psychoanalyzed by a runaway train. I barely recognize half this stuff, but it’s all worth something to somebody. Somebody else, that is. So, I’m pouring stiff, mid-morning Bloody Marys and making deals like there’s no tomorrow.
There is no tomorrow.
In the days before I quit my surf mag dream job, I was fortunate enough to interview several top World Title contenders about their upcoming WCT season. And now their words play like riddles on my memory. Guys like Jordy, Taj, Parko and Damien universally referenced Mick Fanning’s unwavering focus. His blinding dedication. His vicious single-mindedness. Mick’s ’07 program ran like a blueprint for victory, and his competitors took careful notes.
At the Snapper Rock season opener, half the WCT showed doing their best Fanning impressions: Personal trainer. Designated wingman. Swiss exercise ball. Theme song. Eye of the tiger. Two weeks later, with nothing but two-foot slop on tap, Kelly Slater — the guy who hadn’t surfed in a full month and was adamant about not competing this year — had smoked them all.
He did it again at Bells.
It made no sense. The guy who seemed to care the least about winning, dominating the competition.
Three Bloody Marys deep into my go-for-broke, quit-my-job, move-to-Indo yard sale of a lifetime, it struck me. Mick won his title by pushing everything aside and focusing his entire being on one thing and one thing only. Now, all these guys were ADDING elements to their surfing in order to win like Mick. Adding trainers. Adding workouts. Adding pre-heat stretching routines. Meanwhile, Slater just showed up with his favorite board, chatted up his old friends and enjoyed the empty Superbank. He rode a quad. He surfed switchfoot. He tried new airs. As other guys were flexing their abs through wimpy two-foot sections, Slater simply played with the waves. And it was a pleasure to watch.
Competitive or not, surfing is a sport of self-expression. Whether you’re hucking whirlybirds or cruising rollercoasters, what matters most is your own personal experience of it all. That’s what you have to chase with all your being. And after five years of making surf mags, it hit me like a beachbreak lipper: the harder I worked at making magazines and writing pretty stories about the noble state of surfboardriding, the less I was actually surfing.
So, I quit. I bought a one-way ticket to Indonesia. And I put everything I own in front of my house under a big “FOR SALE” sign. It’s been great, but finally I’m getting rid of this waterproof iPod housing. These polarized surf-goggles. This electric wetsuit dryer. I’m saying goodbye to un-opened surfing board games, un-read surfer biographies and un-watched surf-yoga DVDs. Just take it all. The less I own, the faster I can get to Indo. One suitcase. One boardbag. And that’s it.
And one last Bloody Mary. The strangers are gone now, and the yard is littered with the unwanted remains. Rubberized safety fins. Surf wax nativity candles. A strap for applying sunscreen to your own back. Ridiculous stuff. And I imagine that sooner or later, it’ll all end up back in my closet in some form or another. Then some friends from the office drop by and I’m reminded what it is I’m really leaving behind.
“Come on,” they demand, “one last session out front before you go.”
“But what should I do with the rest of this shit?”
“Leave it,” says one, stealing my Bloody.
“Burn it,” another jokes. “Gotta make a sacrifice, right?”
It doesn’t matter that the waves are crap, it’s a session I won’t forget. Surfing is a solitary pursuit. To surf the most, to surf your best, you’ve got to put everything else aside. You’ve got to be selfish. But when it’s all said and done, no trophy or title or wave-of-your-life will compare to the sessions you share with your friends.
I may be leaving it all behind, but I’m taking plenty along with me.
Words: Nathan Myers, photo: Dustin Humphrey