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Paddle Surfing

How does a guy from Minnesota end up paddle surfing? One of the greatest passions of my life did not arrive on the scene until well into my fifties. Surfing, as I discovered, was the perfect union of my values, life philosophy, and lifestyle.

Sure, I spent decades living in southern California beach towns where I admired the surf culture from a distance, but I never saw myself as one of them. Maybe it was my size or fear of sharks, but whatever stopped me, it was short-sighted. Thankfully a fortuitous move brought surfing to my front yard.

When Lizzy and I joined forces, we landed a beachfront apartment at the bottom of a main drag in Manhattan Beach. It was an eyesore of a building, but the location could not be better. Each morning I watched a dozen surfers about my age who met outside our window with their coffee and surfboards, rain or shine. From what I could observe, they appeared to be a tight gang I would love to join, so I thought of a way to approach them with the utmost respect and class. So, I picked up a couple dozen donuts, and I was in; it worked like a charm. I was now a member of the Marine Street Crabs.

Most of these guys had been standing at that corner every morning for over thirty years. They told stories about their antics back in elementary school together. It was the west coast version of The Buddies from my childhood. The only significant divergence was the prominence of surf instead of hockey. In addition to reminiscing and swapping stories, the Crabs would keep an eye on the surf conditions as they downed their coffee. Sprinkled among the stories were pauses to point to a wave or comment about a good surfer in the lineup. Finally, they would check out the girls running by before deciding whether to suit up and surf or head home to the wife and kids before work. More often than not, surf prevailed.

The Crabs were patient with me as I learned the ropes that summer. I purchased my first board and jumped in feet first to join my new gang as I took to paddle surfing. The initial sessions were a bit challenging with a dozen well-intended coaches, but it was my first egress from the water that I will never forget. My overconfidence may have been to blame when I paddled back to shore, expecting a smooth exit. Yet as I prepared to dismount, the tiniest reverberation from the shore hit my board and sent me tumbling. I fell awkwardly into a short foot of water and blew my elbow bursa sac. I was one hour into a new sport and already needed to see a doctor.

Things only improved from there . . . how could they not?

More on this experience and others in my forthcoming memoir, Aggressively Human, to be released on all platforms in November 2023.


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