Jack Hebner, the man better known as the Surfing Swami or Swami Narasingha, passed away on January 2, 2020. He was 73.
The Swami was a hugely important man in surfing. To use an overdone quote, to know him was to love him. Swami had an energy in and out of the water that was infectious. In 2018, I had the good fortune of talking with him for a few hours via Skype for a story about the time he got carjacked in Mexico, a place that he loved dearly. It was a wide-ranging conversation that ended up being less about the carjacking and more about his life, and I’m glad it took that turn. I’ve spoken with a lot of very interesting people for stories, but few stand out to me like the Swami. Our conversation stuck with me so much, in fact, that two years later, the audio recording of it is still on my desktop in its own file. Once or twice a month, I’d say, I will click into it and scroll to a random spot. Everything he said in that conversation is worth re-listening to. Everything. He told stories with a kind of reverence for them: they were not just stories, but vessels for some kind of lesson to be learned. His voice then was a bit raspy, and I assumed it was from his battle with cancer, but I couldn’t get up the courage to ask him.