Two years ago, I tied the knot. And ever since that early December afternoon, Lydia and I have been traveling the world together side by side. That’s not an exaggeration. We run a bed and breakfast for surfers on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, where we live part-time, we make the pilgrimage to the North Shore each winter with the rest of the surf world, we settle into our other part-time home of California for a bit of the year, and bounce around the rest of the globe year-around for business, always together.
However, this summer, I said “ciao” to her for the first time so I could make my way to Surf Expo in Florida. I’d missed last year’s event after having been every year before for as long as I can remember, so it was important I made it out this time around.
See, last summer, we were sitting at LAX ready to check in for our flight to Florida. Hurricane Irma had other plans for us, though. I called 10 friends and clients for their take before getting on that plane and they all confirmed they weren’t going thanks to Irma. It was a tough decision, but Lydia and I followed suit. We could either make our way across the country and risk getting stranded in Orlando or stay put in Southern California where we’d be safe. I later heard stories from friends who’d been stranded for a week with minimal rations and even people who’d had to rent cars so they could drive to Texas and attempt to fly home from there.
So when this September rolled around, I honestly couldn’t wait to get back to Surf Expo. See, the surf industry is like a family to me. Business is a big part of why I am there, but mostly it feels more like I’m catching up with old friends. Friends like David Skedelski from Surf Co Hawaii, who invites me over to his house for dinner every time I’m in Hawaii for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Friends like CJ Hobgood, 2001 World Champ, who is one of the hardest working people in surfing, making a life and career for himself after competition by working with brands like Igloo Coolers and Salty Crew. I love grabbing a coffee with him every show, just talking about family and catching up on life post-Tour. I love seeing guys like Roy Turner and his staff who go out of their way to make sure that everyone at the show feels welcome. I also get to catch up with new and old friends from Christian Surfers (CJ runs in this community circle as well), who help smaller surf brands and vendors break down and set up their booths. Their only agenda there is to serve and love on the surfing community. They also provide a chapel service during the show for anyone who needs a time of connection, fellowship, prayer, meditation, positive message, and of course, food.
You see, living and working in the surf industry is fun, but it’s a busy life of non-stop movement. The surf world is big and small at the same time. There are familiar faces from a half a world away that you see in Hawaii for one event and somewhere in the lineup in Europe six months later. I might bump into CJ in California in July or a guy like Roy on a quick stop in Florida in the fall, but it’s rare that I get to find all these people at the same time and in the same place. That’s what makes something like Surf Expo more than just a trade show to me — because it’s so rare to find something where all these friends from around the world collect in one place. And that’s special. It’s why I took five flights, sat through four layovers, and rode two buses — not to mention leaving my wife’s side for the first time in two years — to get to Orlando this year. Relationships are priceless.
For now, I’m back in the Canary Islands awaiting the Atlantic’s next swell, but I really look forward to the times I can see all my friends and surfing tribe together in one place again.