Surf culture has made a stiff departure from the Gidget days of the ‘50s, but the ‘surfer archetype’ of that era has gelled into a hard and fast stigma. As a business owner and proud over-achiever, I am ashamed to confess that I am afraid to tell clients that I surf. Here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, surfers watch buoys the way shipwreck survivors watch the horizon. When there are waves, you go. Deadline be damned— well, sort of. Thanks to the Internet, I get a heads up and will often stay up half the night to finish tomorrow’s work if there is even a chance of a bump in the water the next day.
That is the irony. The stigma of the irresponsible surfer is really born from an intense dedication (addiction, you say? Now you’re just splitting hairs). For many surfers, this dedication is first priority and the other facets of life suffer. There is nothing foreign to Americans about the concept of allowing one aspect of life to preside over the others. The Workaholic American is an archetype itself, but no one calls him lazy. In fact, we are trained from birth to strive for this paradigm. Sure, balance is touted as the be all end all, but there is an unspoken clause stating that the attainment of balance must in no way interfere with the attainment of money.
The surfer who decides to let surfing dictate his life is not lazy. He is committed, single-minded (selfish? maybe). Chasing waves instead of the “American Dream” may be alternative, but it shouldn’t be pejorative. Unfortunately, though, it is. Surfers are known for shirking duty to get wet. But who can blame us? If golf courses only popped up when the conditions were just right, I bet the landscape of corporate America would look a lot different.
I have never missed a deadline due to surfing. A phone call or two, maybe. I am not lazy or irresponsible. I run a business and raise a child. To me, surfing is a way to convert fear into love, to inject my life with beauty, mystery and a sense of achievement and peace that is unmatched. The Ocean has taught me to let go. To face challenges with grace rather than force.
When I tell clients I surf, they should be thinking: she must be brave and committed. Because that is what surfers are.