WOW- he did it!
Local Jax Beach surfer and design professional Kurtis Loftus surfed for 31 hours, 16 minutes and 35 seconds this week, breaking the world record for longest surf session. Kurtis was surfing to raise money for 26.2 With Donna, The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer, a hugely successful foundation established by beloved local newscaster Donna Deegan, who battled the disease herself.
As I noted in my post a week or so ago, I was fired up to be able to assist Kurtis in his attempt. After a hectic week in which the schedule was moved several times to coordinate with the most favorable weather/surf conditions (hard to do here in late October), the event was launched on Wednesday the 26th at 1:00 pm, ending at about 8:15 pm on Thursday the 27th.
Kurtis needed a minimum of 16 certified witnesses to verify and document his effort, as well as support and encouragement in the water. I was stoked to be able to do both, surfing with Kurtis from 9:00 pm – 1:30 am on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. As Kurtis notes in this article, surfing at night was extremely difficult. There was no moon at all and only minimal lighting that the local Jax Beach Lifeguard Station had set up (Shout-outs to them- those were “lifesavers”!)
I can state that after 4.5 straight hours of surfing, I just don’t know how Kurtis pulled fully 7x that amount. It was superhuman. Check out his knarly “zombie hands” in this post-event celebration when we gave him a champagne bath. I understand he slept for 7 hours afterwards, then was right back at it, alert and smiling at his desk in his office. Incredible.
Surfing during the night was an interesting experience. It was extremely difficult to see and the waves would get right up on you before you knew it. I’m a shortboarder, but brought a longboard to sit up as high as possible out of the water and have a lot of board beneath me in the event of unwelcomed sealife. Gnerally, conditions were very peaceful. The surf was about 1-2 ft., maybe a little bigger than that on sets and the water warm in a fullsuit. During the evening, I saw three good-sized dorsal fins (at various times) in the nearby area, but I believe all of them were dolphins. One was questionable, but I wasn’t going to be the one to disrupt the attempt in any way. There were also 4-5 guys in the water at most times, so I figured my odds were good.
One of the things that I loved about Kurtis’ attempt is that for him, this really wasn’t about a world record, but rather about genuinely trying to raise money for a cause he is truly passionate about. Kurtis loves to help people, loves surfing and very clearly loves challenges. He’s also got a lot of faith in Jesus Christ and I love all those things about him, because I relate to all of them.
Coincidentally, tonight, just one day following Kurtis’ successful finish, my wife, Gretchen and I went to drop off a meal to David and Ann Smith, friends of ours from church. Ann used to oversee our children’s ministry and has been undergoing chemotherapy for several months for breast cancer.
While we were there, we asked her if she had heard about Kurtis and/or Marathonsurfer.com. Of course, they had. She also immediately went on to share how much help Donna Deegan’s foundation had been to her and David, providing significant financial assistance for treatment, that without, might have resulted in financial calamity, or worse. And just that quick, we had a clear affirmation about the tangible importance of Donna’s foundation; why Kurtis did what he did; and why it is important for all of us to look for similar opportunities to use our own passions, imaginations and energies to help others. You may not break a world record, but you can change the world around you and make it a better place for all of us.
Postcript: I think it also important to note the very critical role of Kurtis’ wife, Margaret. In all the various press I’ve seen, I think I saw one article that mentioned her presence. Like Kurtis, Margaret stayed awake for the full 31+ hours. I was out there for the kickoff; checking in and out of my own time slot; and at the end; and I don’t think I ever saw Margaret sitting down one time.
This was possibly even more callenging than being out in the lineup, where you are buoyed by adrenaline and much less succeptible to the temptation to just lie down, or to just go home and take a short nap.
Margaret also spearheaded the pre- and post-event coordination of scheduling and paperwork, of which there was more than you could imagine. I don’t believe that people accomplish feats of these sorts without extraordinary support from those closest to them- the kind of support that comes from relationships like the one Kurtis and Margaret, now well into their second decade of marriage, seem to enjoy. I know I have always blessed with a similar force (my wife, Gretchen) behind me who has always been there for every big and small effort I’ve ever seen fit to pursue, working as hard as she can to lift me up and help me achieve my goals. As I am sure Kurtis will relate, it is almost an unfair advantage. Hopefully Guinness will overlook Margaret, too. ; )