Thank You, Kelly

Photo: Brent Bielmann for WSL

On Saturday afternoon in pumping 10- to 12-foot surf at one of the world’s most dangerous breaks, Kelly Slater made history … again. The 11x world champ won the Billabong Pipe Masters just six days shy of his 50th birthday. He took the final against 24-year-old Seth Moniz, a world-class talent, North Shore local and Pipeline specialist.

 It was Kelly’s 8th Pipe Masters title and 56th event win of his illustrious career, one that spans 30 years, 832 heat victories and 31 perfect 10-point rides. He is the youngest world champ ever (age 20 in 1992) and the oldest ever (age 39 in 2011). He won 5-straight world titles from 1994 to 1998 and holds nearly every record of significance in professional surfing.

 As word spread around the net about Kelly’s most recent – and possibly, greatest and maybe even last professional milestone (he referenced the “R” word) – images of his incredible rides and emotional post-heat interview began popping up on social media. If you are connected to surfing at all, you likely came across a few of them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

 On Sunday morning, I even saw a post about it on LinkedIn. It garnered a handful of likes and made me feel good to see it there. But it also gave me pause to consider all those people for whom the post might have seemed trivial on the professional careers network, as well as others who might have noticed it only briefly on various other platforms while quickly scrolling through the news of the day. 

 For many, Kelly’s historic accomplishment may have been nothing more than a passing headline in their newsfeed, a novel tidbit about a vague personality in a sport that is too often associated with frivolous immaturity. But for those of us who surf, who through some serendipitous fortune have had the opportunity to witness the entirety of Kelly’s incredible decades-long career, it was and is something far more meaningful and consequential.

 There is a poem by Samuel Ullman titled, “Youth”. General Douglas MacArthur used to keep a framed copy of it on his wall and often referenced it in speeches. In it, Ullman reflects:

“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life … Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage, and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.”                              

 I am not big on celebrity culture and I have never been one for hero-worship. But what are heroes? In their simplest form, they are people who do something more. They work harder, persevere longer, take more risks, and make greater sacrifices. They inspire us to change and to do more, ourselves.

 As a 50-something who still surfs regularly (your average free-surfer, but I’m out there), who remains professionally and creatively inspired, and has never been willing to forsake my physical health, stop chasing my dreams or setting my personal goals one inch lower because that’s the expectation of culture for people my age; that’s what Kelly’s victory in the powerful surf at Pipe, his current World #1 ranking days before his 50th birthday (February 11th), and the entirety of his career, mean to me.

 It is about optimism and the challenge of remaining true to one’s ideals.

For the greater part of my adult life, Kelly has been one who has inspired these things in myself and so many others– to pursue life with vigor and passion; set goals based not on what others think, but on terms you set for yourself, and to believe anything is possible, something more – far more – than most others might even be able to imagine. Yes, there will always be wins and losses, but why burden yourself with pre-conceived notions and limitations?

 To Kelly, on behalf of myself and millions like me who have followed every step of your remarkable career, I say, Happy 50th Birthday. Thank you for your unyielding optimism and countless messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power played out across so many waves and oceans, and for so many years.

 Thank you for your enthusiasm, your unfailing childlike appetite for what’s next, and joy for the game of living. Thank you most of all for a lifetime of inspiration and for holding fast to that wonder that lives in the center of your own heart, and in ours.

Sacred Vows

Sacred Vows

As Dane Reynolds patently reaffirmed for us this past year, often the most interesting things about surfing the planet are not the waves you score, but rather the people you meet and experiences you have beyond your sessions. Like him, I relish this aspect of surf travel and have always been conscious to seek out and soak up these transcendent occasions.

Our world is so big, diverse and ever-changing.

If you’ve ever stood atop a 14,000 foot mountain and tried to make sense of the enormity of the world around you; sat in a foreign lineup and tripped out on a pre-historic jungle hugging the shore; or even marveled at feats of engineering in a concrete jungle of towering skyscrapers, well then… you understand what I’m saying.

Our lives are fleeting.

In the context of time, we are not on this earth for a moment. Not even a breath of a moment. Tomorrow is not promised to us. Nor, even the next second. So, you’ve got to seize every opportunity to experience life, and just “go.”

It was with this mindset that I related the importance of surfing and traveling in my life to my bride-to-be long ago, as we planned for our future. As someone who has enjoyed the indescribable blessings of a true soul mate and happy marriage for years, I can inform you that helping to ensure this has the best chance of being the case doesn’t require all the formalities of pre-marriage counseling and meetings with a Pastor– just the simplest bits of common sense.

My wife and I established our compatibility and commitment to one another over the course of a couple of years of dating (always wise). As a result, when our minds turned to something a little more permanent, something like a lifetime– well, we actually got things squared away in about half an hour.

Had we both dated long enough to know with certainty what kind of people we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with? Check. Did we share the same religious beliefs? Check. Were we good with combining bank accounts and tossing everything else into one big pile? Check. Could we agree to hold off on kids for a bit to ensure that our marriage was sound, and to play with each other for a couple of years? Check.

It wasn’t rocket science.

But as a surfer, there was one more thing that I had to add to that list– my undying love for and commitment to, surfing and surf-travel. (Until death would do us part.)

I informed my future wife, Gretchen, that years before the time I had ever met her– from those earliest days until eternity, I had already committed to a lifetime of chasing waves and new experiences in places near and far. And I wasn’t about to go back on this promise to myself. As I looked into the future and imagined a day when kids, careers and yard work might slowly pilfer away the friends that I had once surfed and traveled with, I assured her that I would never succumb to these same “traps”– that I would forever be limited only by the resources that enabled me to continue to “go.”

I told her that if she were willing, I would love to share these experiences with her. And that if not– if she wasn’t interested or resolved in the idea of a bit of adventure, and if one day the boys just couldn’t pull it all together, well then– I’d still be going…

I’d just be traveling solo.

Fortunately, she was stoked. And we never looked back.

Today, while we’ve still only seen and surfed a fraction of the places on this earth that beckon, sharing these adventures with her, and now– our children, has made chasing these moments all the more pressing and fundamental.

Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, a leading-edge highly-popular action sports website based out of California billed as, “The Planet’s Largest Network of Thinking Surfers” To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/

 

Love on the Rocks: California and the U.S. Surf Industry

Love on the Rocks: California and the U.S. Surf Industry

Dear U.S. SURF Industry (SIMA Members, Grind Media, ASP NA, New Media, Shapers, Pros, Joes, Rebels and Start-ups):

Greetings from sunny Florida!

I hope this letter finds you well and that you have been enjoying some bountiful surf. We’re not complaining over here. Seems like there have been great waves all year. And hurricane season– well, you got a little taste of it in NY. (I hope you enjoyed your trip east and found your way around the city). We scored much more of the same down here (BretIreneKatiaLee, Maria, etc.,), only without wetsuits. The water temps have retreated into the mid-60s lately, though. I guess all good things have to come to an end sometime– which brings me to the reason I’m writing.

I know we don’t see each other a lot, but we’ve been friends for a long time. And I care about you. Everyone here in Florida does. But there’s something important that I need to tell you. It’s not easy and I hate to have to be the one to do it, but I just think you need to know.

You see, California– she doesn’t love you any more.

Surfing? Yes.

But you– the surf industry? Sorry man, afraid not.

Trust me, I’m on the websites and message boards. She’s been talking about you behind your back, dude. Nasty stuff. I’m hearing words like “incestuous”“soulless”“hose”“monumental screw-up”“sickly”“polluted”, “dangerous”“evil” and “lame”… She’s over you.

But, here’s the deal: While you’re not a kid any longer, you’re still plenty young; not too old to bust a move and make a transition in your life. So what I’d like to suggest is for you to consider relocating to Florida. Yeah man, throw your gear in a bag and come on over! You don’t have to take all of Cali’s sh#%! Granted, she’s beautiful– but you have spoiled her rotten. And there’s plenty of eye-candy here. We can set you up big time. And you know, I think you’d really love it.

Most importantly, you’d have someone who loves you back.

Yeah, I know– global economic focus is shifting to Asia, and you’re a little closer where you’re at. But Florida is also a global hub for business with large modern and growing ports and airports. Consider: Once Europe finishes imploding and the US does the same, then who’s left holding the debt bag? That’s right- China! And once they are forced to restructure and we all hit the “reset” button, then where do you think the money will head? Yep, right back to the good ol’ USA– safest bet on the planet! China won’t be such a big deal, then.

Besides, even if things don’t go down exactly like that, consider: Do we (can I take the liberty of saying, “we”, because I’d really like for you to start thinking of us as your new “partners” here?) Do we really want to be in bed with China? I’m telling you– this is one of the problems that Cali says she has with you. You know… human rights issues. It’s serious stuff. And none of us want to ignore it.

Let me introduce you to Latin America

I know you’ve always loved Mexico… We do, too! And hey, the Brazos– they’re NUTS about you! Man, with surfers like AdrianoAlejoJadsenHeitorMiguel and what’s the other new guy’s name?… Oh yeah– Medina! With those guys coming on like a 9.0 California earthquake, do you think there might be a growing market for you there? Those guys are our “neighbors”! Oh, and don’t forget about Puerto Rico… and Cuba! Cuba’s coming– just a little more time… you’ll see.

Look– I know at first glance, Florida might seem a little uptight for you; maybe a little more conservative than you’re used to. But hey, a little fiscal restraint’s not a bad thing, is it? Everybody knows what Cali did with the credit cards… (Yeah, we used ours too, but they’re on ice now.) In most other areas, things are pretty relaxed here. You’d dig it!

Oh, and how about this idea? Instead of sourcing to countries that want to kick our ass and rob us blind, how about getting your apparel manufacturers together and we can all help establish a sustainable new economy in Haiti? Seriously. Your Gen Y customers want you to do better. We all do.

Did you know that at the same time he is shrinking the state budget, our Republican governor is also pledging $40 million for Everglades restoration (part of a larger $600 million plan) and is pushing a $1 billion bump for education funding? And the part of the state I’m living in– Jacksonville (where I’d REALLY like you to direct your focus), well this may sound strange– but as one astute local columnist noted, we’re the “New Progressives”. That’s right! San Francisco has nothing on us.

Just look at the facts.

Our population is younger (35.8 to 38.2) (tons of talented young artistsphotographers and filmershere). We have a new African-American Mayor– a fiscally conservative Democrat who is actually doing what he promised and now, the NFL’s first and only minority owner! Yeah- a dual-citizen Pakastani with a stylish ‘stache who “busted down the door” on the world’s most reknowned rich white guy’s club. Heck,Forbes even has Jacksonville listed at #6 on “Best Cities for Technology Jobs”! (I think I saw San Fran on there at #29). We’re happy at #6, but once our spaceports for horizontal and vertical space launch open, I think that’s when you’ll really see things blast off.

So what’s bringing businesses east (and south) to places like Jacksonville and Florida? Why did Lebron, Wade and Bosch choose the Heat over… everybody? Because Florida is business friendly. The tax advantages are huge compared to California. And financial incentives? State, local… we pay big for jobs! Operators are standing by.

But hey, this is all stuff for the suits. I know the real problem you’re having with leaving Cali is the emotional connection, right? A lot of good memories there, I know. (Hey, me too and we only hooked up a few times… Oh, I’m sorry– I didn’t mean it that way.) At first glance, Cali seems to offer a lot: 840 miles of coastline! Of course, Florida offers 1,350 by itself,  not to mention the rest of the east coast.

Surfing Heritage? We’ve been doing it here since the 1930s and Florida surfers are responsible for 13 out of 29 ASP Men’s World Titles, and 8 out 29 Women’s Titles!

Look, I’ve played in Newport. I’ve caught a couple of those solid 8’+ south swells at Huntington. Man– big ol’ perfect skate ramps! So fun!! But, we get those same waves here during hurricane season and other times of the year… South BeachReef RoadSebastianRC’sNew SmyrnaSt. Augustine and Jax Beach, not to mention the Gulf Coast– they all go off!  Think about it– Nor Cal is cold and inhospitable. And Central and Southern Cal are crowded, with growing environmental concerns. Look through your photo album. Are you really enjoying yourself?

Mavericks: Ha! Yeah, right. Take a picture. Or, visit warm, perfect Puerto Rico instead.

Steamer Lane: Cold, crowded and localized.

Rincon: Ultra-crowded.

Sandspit: Crowds, localism, pollution (although, please take note that one of your premiere breaks is indeed a SANDBAR.)

Malibu: Hollywood. Crowded and localized. A zoo.

Huntington: Rips, localism, pollution and crowds.

Trestles: Urchins, localism, crowds and soon, toll roads?

Lunada: Sure, if you know martial arts.

Newport Jetties: Rips, rocks, localism, pollution and crowds.

Blacks: OK… gorgeous, yes! But also crowded and hard to reach with wacky nudists, rips, undertow andlarge, mouthy neighbors (Yes, we have a few minor issues here. Put a band-aid on it.)

Am I missing anything here? “Secret spots” like Pt. Mugu (hmm… another beach break) or The Ranch? –  Sorry– do you have double top-secret clearance, or a billion dollars?

Let’s see, what else is in Cali’s magic spellbook?

High cost of living?

Springsuits in August?

Hollyweird?

Kelp?

Look… here in Florida, the water is warm; the people are friendly; the waves are fun; and the line-ups not nearly as crowded. The weather and the business climate are both ideal and there’s not thousands of people bitching because you’re not good enough for them. Rather, this is a place where no one will take your venerable qualities– the jobs, the business and culture that you bring to the table– for granted.

So, what do you say? Will you consider ditching Cali once and for all? Yes, she has some fine physical attributes, but maybe it’s time you considered someone with a better personality.

You know, sometimes in life, it’s best to just stop arguing, and accept that you might not be right for one another.

Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, a leading-edge highly-popular action sports website based out of California billed as, “The Planet’s Largest Network of Thinking Surfers” To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/

 

 

 

 

Remembering AI: A Fan’s Perspective

SURFER Tribute to Andy Irons

A lot has been written about Andy Irons from some of the surf world’s most notable personalities- people who knew Andy personally and interacted with him in a variety of ways.

So, I’ll offer some perspective coming from the rest of us– fans of Andy who knew him only through a prolific collection of videos, magazines and online webcasts, but who somehow still felt strongly connected to him, just as if he was one of our own crew paddling out, laughing, and sharing good times and bad with one another.

Keala Kennelly wrote in a moving tribute to Andy that her remembrance was “…one of the hardest things I have had to write about, because I don’t feel like anything I write will be good enough to honor Andy.”

Keala, if you happen to read this, it was better than “good enough”.

What was so beautiful about it is exactly what was so beautiful about Andy. It was an honest expression of emotion that came straight from the heart. And honesty in all things (writing, design, music, art, people…) is what ultimately makes them special and so compelling to all of us.

When I reflect on Andy’s passing, I do so coming from a perspective that is likely not too uncommon– that of a lifelong, die-hard Kelly fan, Andy’s long-time nemesis.

I viewed Andy as a “villain” (aka “asshole”) for a great part of his career until ultimately won over, not just by his incredible surfing, which was always undeniable; but by his fierce competitiveness, raw energy and passionate personality– no matter where that passion was directed.

But Andy’s rise from Antihero to Almighty, even amongst those of us who once rooted against him, wasn’t just about that endearing kinetic energy that oozed from him. No, what ultimately drove his popularity off the charts for all of us, the rest of us– even Kelly fans, was when he finally started owning his insecurities.

Not hiding them.

Not apologizing for them.

Just being authentic and admitting that he had them like everybody else. Just like Kelly himself did in front of Andy following the death of his father, as he so eloquently related in his own moving tribute to his career-long foe and good friend.

That’s why Andy became and remains one of my favorite surfers. 

 It’s one of the same reasons people are drawn to Dane. 

 And, it’s why Keala’s tribute wasn’t just “good enough”, it was freaking perfect.

You see– you can be a superhuman surfer… and still be human.

I didn’t know Andy, but I sure do miss him.

 

You can see a lot of that honesty on display in this gem of a video.

Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, a leading-edge highly-popular action sports website based out of California billed as, “The Planet’s Largest Network of Thinking Surfers” To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/

 

 

 

Soul Surfer, Too: Our Children, Beneath the Surface

Soul Surfer, Too: Our Children, Beneath the Surface

As almost any parent will attest, there are many moments in life when our children make us proud.

 

When they bring home straight A’s from school…

When they score that first goal, or achieve some other kind of athletic milestone… 

When other adults remark how beautiful they are, or even better– how polite and well-behaved… 

 

But there are some moments that are better than all of those, combined. 

 

They are typically more subtle in nature and can rarely be anticipated. They are fleeting moments of revelation that provide us genuine clarity about who our children really are, and if we are so fortunate, perhaps also a little affirmation about the real jobs we’re doing as parents.

 

I enjoyed one of these moments just the other night.

 

Our family had huddled together in bed to watch Soul Surfer, the movie about Hawaiian surfer Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm at age 13, to a 14-foot Tiger Shark. Somehow, she not only lived to tell about it, but learned to surf again with one arm. It’s a great story about faith, determination and never giving up. I highly recommend it.

 

There’s a scene in the movie, when, after deciding to try and compete again and struggling bravely against rough currents with one arm during a surf contest, a  frustrated  and emotionally defeated Bethany heads to the parking lot post heat, ready to give up surfing for good.

 

As she sulks back to her parents car, two young fans, about 10 or 11 years old, approach her for an autograph. 

 

Dejected, Bethany quips, “Here’s something better…” and proceeds to give both of her surfboards to the girls, who delight in their good fortune, and run away excitedly to show off their new souvenirs to their friends.

 

Eventually, Bethany makes up her mind that nothing is going to stop her from surfing again, training herself to duck dive with one arm, then returning to competition. 

 

I won’t spoil the ending, but will say that both of my girls, ages 9 and 12, really loved the movie.

 

Later that evening, I was lying in bed with my (newly) 9-year-old, Kaelyn, putting her down for the night. The movie had clearly affected her in different ways and she seemed to want to talk about, and process it.

 

“Dad, do you really think she didn’t scream when that shark bit her?”

 

“Does she really surf that way in real life?”

 

“Can you teach me to duck dive?”

 

 

And then she said it. Just a sweet little comment, stated thoughtfully and solemnly…  

 

 

“Dad, you know when those girls took her surfboards?”

 

“Yes…”

 

“I wouldn’t have done that…”

 

“What do you mean you wouldn’t have done that, Kaelyn? You wouldn’t have done what?”

 

“I wouldn’t have taken her surfboard…”

 

“Really? Why not? What would you have done?” 

 

“I don’t know. I just wouldn’t have accepted it. She was feeling sad, you know?…”

 

“Yes, I know.”

 

And of course, Kaelyn didn’t have to explain it to me further. I knew exactly why she wouldn’t take it. It’s called “empathy” and “compassion” (coincidentally, an important secondary theme in Soul Surfer) and it so warmed me to see it  in her that instant, on display in such a simple, honest way. I can’t think of many times as a parent when I’ve felt so proud of her.

 

To me, and I would guess for many parents, it’s little moments like these that really leave their impressions.

 

So much more significant than than winning a trophy, ribbon or a medal.

So much more substantive than good looks or even bringing home a good grade.

So much more profound and revealing….

 

About who our children really are. 

 

About the efforts we’re putting into raising them.

They are little moments that whisper and affirm… “You’re getting this right.”

Author’s Note: This is a piece I originally wrote for The Inertia, the highly-popular website based out of California billed as, “Surfing’s Definitive Online Community” for thinking surfers. To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/