Editor’s Note: Welcome to the latest installment of our INSPIRED Series, presented by Cobian’s Every Step Matters (ESM) initiative. This series looks at compelling moments, people, and places that inspire athletes to do what they do, that in turn inspire us. Learn how, by choosing Cobian footwear, you can make a positive impact and enrich the lives of others at Every Step Matters.
You’ve probably never met anybody like Zane Schweitzer. I’m reminding myself of this fact as I rack my brain for just one story to share about him; something that articulates the coolest, funniest, or most striking thing about him as a person. You see, I’m attempting to introduce you to an athlete that isn’t a top five ‘CT title contender with a multimillion dollar endorsement. His face isn’t on massive Target billboards and there are no signature board shorts.
And like I said, you’ve never met anybody like Zane Schweitzer, because none of the aforementioned accolades are what he’s after. He’s an accomplished athlete who’s quick to say his proudest achievements have little to do with any athletics at all. In 2012, Schweitzer founded Stand Up for the Cure, a stand up paddle event that raises money for uninsured cancer patients. And on his own, Zane created InZane SUPer Groms as a way to teach kids all over the world to surf.
Shortly after meeting Zane for the first time I found myself on a beach with little to no waves. It was the kind of day that, schedules permitting, would have called for hours of driving to find something worth surfing. But the Mauli Ola Foundation was already set to bring a group of children with cystic fibrosis and their families to that same beach for a day of surfing. So here, catching a wave was not about one’s selfish pursuit of joy five seconds at a time and instead was quite literally about spreading some aloha.
Zane was paired up with a young boy named Taylor, assigned to give this kid with a life threatening illness his first surf lesson. But what happened over the course of that afternoon seemed like it was more than just an hour of splashing in the tiny waves that rolled through. Not too long after Taylor had been pushed into his first waves, Schweitzer had the young boy’s brother, Jordan, out in the water too. And soon after that Jordan was stroking into waves of his own. They jumped on their boards and raced out well past the surf, turning around to paddle back in, catch some whitewash to the sand, then everybody jumped back on their boards and did it again. Somehow the routine of it all never got old even for me – just standing in about shin high water, watching the three of them do this over and over and over. I imagine the reason I was so entertained with it all was because all three of them genuinely seemed to be having the time of their lives, Zane included.
Eventually all the surfers from the event were told to wrap up their lessons. Parents stood on the beach ready to give their children high fives and hugs. Some had cried, watching their children do one of the few things in life they can enjoy pain free (cystic fibrosis is a life threatening disorder that attacks the lungs and digestive system. It most often creates a thick mucus in the lungs, making it complicated and even painful to breathe. The ocean, however, offers a natural therapy. Inhaling saltwater mist loosens the mucus, reduces infections and literally allows children with CF to function in ways they can’t on land) and most hugged the surfers who had just made it all possible. Everybody headed into the beachside cafe for the lunch that had been prepared, waiting in line, filling up our plates while listening to the kids tally off their first sets of exaggerated wave counts – any surfer’s rite of passage. But while most of us were already moving on to the next plot in the day, Zane, Taylor and Jordan managed to stay in the water. Easily a half hour past the “five more minutes” that had been belted out from the beach, the three kids (again, Zane included) snuck in as much water time as they could before finally coming in for lunch.
Now if there’s one perfect way this story could sum up what I’ve been able to learn about Zane Schweitzer, it’s that you shouldn’t be surprised if Jordan and Taylor weren’t the ones begging for just one more, just five more minutes. In all likelihood it was the Maui born (insert water sport expertise here) ______, 2016 Ultimate Waterman Champion, big wave surfer, Stand Up World Tour Competitor, motivational speaker and philanthropist egging the others on to hold off lunch just a little longer. Because there seem to be few things that keep Zane Schweitzer on land for long, but he definitely enjoys it all more when a little bit of time in the ocean is bringing joy to somebody else, not just himself.