Outdoor Junkie

Photo: Frank McKenna / Unsplash

The Inertia

Surfing has this funny ability to mess with our perception of time. How often have you been out in the water and suddenly realized you are very late for work, for class, for your meeting – even though it seems like you just paddled out? And maybe the truth is that being one with the ocean and a wave truly can bend time.

These days, I try to sneak a surf in before work, which means I typically change after my surf and head straight to the office. Unless it’s really good, those workweek surf sessions tend to last only an hour or so. And this gets me thinking about my future. I think about a time when I’ll have a kid or two and the surf sessions suddenly become even shorter and less frequent. But part of me also looks forward to having a kid I can teach to surf and share something I love with.

I had an interesting conversation about this while surfing the other day. I was talking to a guy I see fairly often, who seems to surf a good amount himself. He is not old, but older than me by maybe 15 years. He seems educated and well-traveled. Worldly. In our short conversations between sets, I gather he has worked in technology and has followed a career path similar to the one I am on, filled with fits and starts, some successes, some frustrations.

I’ve watched him surf and although he might be a bit slower than me, he does it with a power and style, probably gained through a lifetime of surfing. From the few exchanges we’ve had I’ve learned he’s an avid skier and spent a lot his younger days windsurfing and surfing. I hear him joke with some other surfers about the lack of trips they take now thanks to responsibilities, family, and other shit. Frankly, that sort of frightens me. It’s scary to think that over time I’ll be able to take fewer trips instead of more while my day-to-day time is even more restricted.

I’ve traveled a fair amount surfing in my life so far, but is that what is in store for me? I know I will get slower, but will I miss out on more adventure? I flip through my Instagram and Facebook pages and see all the pictures I have from surf trips with friends, ski trips, snowboard trips, and all the other stupid things I post to show I live a pretty good life. What does his account look like? Are they mostly pictures of adventures from “memories” back in the day or a mix of family-related pictures? As I look to the future I get concerned for my future self and I feel a little sad for him. Did he give up his dream? Is he happy? Am I giving up my dream?

My mind has got the best of me and I’m running out of time. I have a career to build and someday, hopefully, sooner rather than later, I can check out, do something more fulfilling and free, and have more fun. At least that seems to be the trend these days where you quit the supposed well-paying corporate job, sell your condo, buy a van, trick it out, travel the world, and write about it from the road. Basically, the dream has become to live that nouveau, educated nomadic dirtbag lifestyle.

Snap! I need to stop wondering, start to focus, get my waves and get out. Then, out the corner of my eye, I see him drop in, drive hard off the bottom, project up the face, drive a big carve off the top, repeat that three or four times, and kick out. Nice ride. I see him look at the beach and then in a minute or so he paddles by me, smiles, and says “That was a killer ride, huh? Think I will grab a few more.” I just sigh as I look at my watch, waiting for the next set and knowing I’ll need to go soon. Tick tock, tick tock.

Once again, I start to wonder how this guy seems to have so much free time for surfing. It’s a work day so my schedule dictates I’ll probably be in and out within an hour. Another meeting to attend, another email to write, another plan to create. He doesn’t seem old enough to retire and I don’t think he works for himself. Maybe he made out well in his last company and cashed out. Lucky bastard. Or maybe the company merged or folded. Or maybe he was “reorganized out” because it’s cheaper to have a team of younger less experienced staff than one highly paid, very experienced and seasoned vet. Poor bastard.

So I keep on wondering if that will be me in 20 years. Hmm. Maybe he’s exactly where he wants to be? Maybe he is living his dream? So what is my plan?

Shit! I missed my last wave. My hour is up and it’s time to go.

Thanks, dude.


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