Storytime: Feeling the Surfing Blues

This morning while driving to work, I got a nostalgic twofer on the local rock station. They played a song by The Offspring, back to back with some Red Hot Chili Peppers.

That combination brings back pretty powerful memories for me, because both of those bands evoke for me the time when I lived in Southern California, and almost all of my free time was spent either on a surfboard, or on the beach playing volleyball when waves were rough.

It’s funny, I don’t know if it’s just because both of those bands were on the airwaves a ton back then while on the beach, along with Suicidal Tendencies, or if it’s a similarity in tone, but hearing them always brings back that ‘surfer vibe’.

Hearing those songs, bringing back those memories after so long really shocked me a little.

It crept up on me. I can’t believe I live in Minnesota. I’m a freaking Minnesotan? Like, you want to go to the State Fair this year? You betcha!

Grr, hell no. That ain’t me, man. No way.

If you’d have asked me years back, I’d never in my wildest dreams have believed I’d end up living in a totally land-locked state, about as far from the ocean as you can get in the continental USA.

I’ve got the sea in my soul. It’s trite, and even corny, but dammit it’s true.

I was born in San Diego, CA, and I spent my entire life living right up close to the ocean, whether West Coast SoCal or East Coast Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton.

Right up until I left for Marine Corps Boot Camp, all my life I was never farther than a 15 minute jog to the beach.

All my memories of growing up are tinged with an awareness of the closeness of the sea. Jogging the intracoastal waterway, working my uncle’s tourist sport fishing boat off the Miami Pier during the summer months, boogie boarding and surfing and snorkling, lazing around on the scorching hot sand, bitching about the long walks to get from the street to the surf, lots of my time was spent hanging around the ocean.

Even when I wasn’t within sight of it, though, you’d get the smell, the breezes, and the attitude. The awareness that, sure, right now you may be suffocating in a classroom, but freedom was just minutes away. Skip class and you could be in the water in minutes. Ahhhhh.

When I was at loose ends after High School, waiting for my entrance date to go to boot camp, I had months to get ready. I spent most of that time in Delray Beach at an apartment off South Federal Highway, and in the evenings, like starting around midnight every night when it got cooler and the humidity only felt like breathing through a wet dish towel when you ran, I’d head out jogging, go down to the big bridge over the intracoastal waterway, run up that sumbitch at a dead heat (and then coast down the other side), and run all the way to the fancy pants Marriot and out back to the beach cabanas they had back there in the planted palms. I’d run full out to get there, and then just sit for a while and relax, in the dark, enjoying the cool sea breezes, just being there and feeling the pulse of the sea. It’s incredible. 

And then I’d have to run my happy ass back up that bridge to get home. Ugh.

It’s silly, but the whole thing feels like a weird dream when I take a step back and get some perspective on it. I never would have imagined a time when I’d live so far away from the ocean that people would talk about going to a waterpark, and seriously talk about the fun of playing at a “wave pool”. A big tank full of water with a machine that forces that water to simulate the motion of the waves of the ocean.

Say what? How, well, soulless.

Even in the Marines, events conspired to keep me close to the sea. Years spent in South Carolina at Beaufort right near the ocean, with Hilton Head Island a quick trip down the coast. Savannah just a little farther. Sure, it’s roads through swamps, but it’s still coastal. Then there was Okinawa and the joys of windsurfing. Oh, how I loved windsurfing.

I had no choice but to learn windsurfing in Okinawa, the big rocks they reinforced the coasts with mean the waves break RIGHT where your face meets concrete. That’s a scary damn thing for a soft sand beach boy to learn to deal with, right there. Coming in, coming in, coming in, Bail! Bail! Bail! Windsurfing gives you more steering control. 🙂

We won’t talk about the years in the desert, shall we? Let’s just say that I really, really enjoyed the stark contrast between life in the desert, and life near the ocean. I found it far more fun than if I lived in some normal place. Fortunately, the military isn’t in the habit of wasting perfectly good land to put a military base on. They’ll find some remote sandpit or swampland, and plant stakes there.

Yet, here I am. It was always meant to be a temporary visit until I could return to a REAL state, one with some tasty beaches. I came up here to visit because Minnesota is where my dad was born, and where all my family on his side still live. I came to visit relatives I’d never really had much chance to get to know before, and ended up hanging out for a little while. Inevitably, I made some friends. Next thing you know, I’ve got a job, apartment, friends I hang with, and I fall in love with a wonderful lady whose entire family lives here locally, and, well, once you start sinking roots that deep, you tend not to move very far away. 🙂

Is there a point to this?

No, not really. Just on my mind how funny things turn out, in ways you’d never expect when you sit down as a teen and plan out how you think your life will go.

If you’d asked me back then, nope, never in a million years would I have expected to end up in Minnesota. Just, how?

And yet, here I am, and honestly, I can’t imagine living anywhere else… because this is where the woman I love is, and where we are happy with our son.

Now I get to think about what life will be like for my son, with all of his roots here in land-locked ‘flyover country’. Having never known the sea, never known it’s power, what will his future be like? Will he grow up never imagining a time when he’d end up living anywhere else? Will he someday find himself living on a small atoll in the South Pacific wondering what the hell happened?

God help me, he’ll probably end up on a Navy Submarine.

I guess if there is a point to any of this, I guess it’s to not get too hung up on making long term plans, or setting serous expectations for the future.

If you get all wrapped up in how you think your life should go, then when real life comes along and changes everything around you, you might be too caught up worrying about what might have been to sit back and really enjoy the things you actually HAVE. 

Still. Dammit, I miss good barbeque. One thing you can say for Southern Florida, barbeque is plentiful. And fresh seafood. Oh, the fresh seafood. How do I miss thee? Let me count the ways. OH! And cuban food!

Okay, I don’t miss Florida, I just miss the food!

In all seriousness, the one thing I really do miss is just being at the beach, at night, when things are quiet and there’s nothing but you, the sound of the surf, the feeling of massive waves pounding into the rocks transmitted to your feet, and the stars in the clear sky overhead. That’s just the best.

On the other hand… what I get now is the joy of watching my son hit a ball off a tee-ball post, and run to first base like a nut, arms waving madly all over in his excitement. Oh, and the way he giggles when he farts, driving his mother batshit insane, because “he’s just like you!”.

It doesn’t get much better than that. 🙂

18 thoughts on “Storytime: Feeling the Surfing Blues

  1. Long time lurker and first time poster, because I just had to comment on this. See I was born and lived all my life in Wisconsin until after I was out of college, but ended up moving to Beaufort, SC less than a year ago. I’d never even seen the ocean until I was 25, and now I live really close to it. 🙂


  2. I cannot leave Miami or the Ocean I just don’t feel right, I have lived in Tulsa Oklahoma for about 2 years but I got to fly home to the beach each weekend…if I stayed to long I would get crazy. I would get home and get in the cab, cab driver would roll up the indows to put the AC on and i would tell him to leave them down, I needed the salt air.

    Since I know what you mean about missing the food, and since i know there is not a Cuban to be found up there, here is a link to get yourself a piece of home..

    they even ship Cuban bread from what I read….maybe I can move to the mountains???

    Just a Bear making sure another bear is well fed!


  3. “God help me, he’ll probably end up on a Navy Submarine.”

    Heh…never thought I’d see those words. From a brother of the ‘phin, if he does, it’s not a bad thing. After 10 years in submarines, I’ve learned that we take care of our own. It’s a hard life, as was your time served, but we are a family. If he is anything like you, we’d be proud to have him.

    Another big bear butt out there….. blocking for the healer.


  4. I hear you Big Bear. I was born and raised in San Diego, and spent most of my life in southern California. I moved out to this foreign land Oklahoma 9 years ago, and boy do I miss the food, the beach, and the wonderful humidity free weather, but my kids love it here, and the people are wonderful. We are planning one of those harrowing road trips next summer to visit all the family, but mostly to see the beach. SSSHHHHH don’t let my Grandma know it would hurt her feelings. Thanks so much for sharing yourself with the rest of us druids. God Bless.


  5. Mountains? Snow? Water sports?

    What are these things you speak of? Oh yeah and then there’s that fabled OCEAN thingy I hear about from time to time. I’m a Texas girl through and through, and I’m very used to my wide open plains. I’m thinking my story will be similar to some of those here. I’ve always lived in Ft. Worth myself, and I’m looking at a strong possibility of moving to Virginia in the next year or so. I met a fellow druid on my server and the sparks are flying like crazy… but he lives in VA and I’m more flexible at this point than he is as far as moving. I get the feeling I’ll be relocating to VA for a large part of my life if things work out. I hear there’s like, hills and trees and stuff there. O.O


  6. Oddly evocative for me too… I grew up in Maine, where you’re very rarely actually *in* the water (are you #$%#$ing kidding me? it’s 15 degrees out?!) but you’re always very aware of it. When I went to college in Indiana, the ocean was the thing I missed. I took my Missourian roommate home to see it in mid-March one year and made her stand in ankle-deep snow on the beach just to look at (and smell) the water.

    Through some odd twists and turns, I’ve wound up in landlocked Missouri myself, and look likely to stay in the midwest now. I can’t imagine having kids and not getting to take them to the beach… it would be just a very different childhood than mine.

    @Kattrinsaa hello neighbor!


  7. It’s funny how life goes. I spent 32 years in NC, born and raised. Never thought I’d leave. Then I lost 2 jobs in 1 year. Last year I was offered a job in LA, so packed up and moved. 6 months later, I pack up my pregnant wife and 2 kids and get them out here. We had to leave our families. It was 1 of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Child 3 will be here next week. Our families are coming out. I can’t wait and I don’t want it to happen all at the same time. I’m not looking forward to seeing them leave.

    But I’ve got a great job with a great company, just wish it was back home.


  8. great story bbb,

    i’ve led a twisted life so far as well. I come from that little tiny sliver of yankee land between maine and new york. (of the two possibilites there, i’m talking about vermont.) I could get to the ocean if i wanted to go a few short hours. but the mountains were what fascinated me there.

    I now live in a vastly different place. Saying that Texas is big, is like saying an alligator gaar is a fish. Technically true but does nothing to impress on you the truth of the matter.

    My spouse hails from the left coast, So-cal to narrow it down a bit. and yet, we both met in the absolute back end middle of nowhere each coming about half the distance from where we started to where the other began.

    Now that i’m here, I can’t imagine going anywhere else, tho I do miss the mountains and winter sports from my previous life in vermont.


  9. I grew up on the gulf coast, sitting long into the night fishing off a pier. Water skiing in the bay, getting stranded at the river’s mouth b/c some idiot forgot to fill the gas tank up! *cough* How the heck did I end up in Ft. Worth?! I miss the water too, that is the truth. However, as you said: the woman I love is here, my 2.5 yr old son is the joy of my life, and we’re expecting another to be here soon. There’s no other place I would rather be.


  10. One of my friends pointed out to me just last night that The Offspring are playing at the Taste of Minnesota next Monday, if you need a stronger hit of that vibe than the radio can provide.


  11. Only ever seen the ocean once. Spent a weekend and we didn’t go to the beach until about 10pm until 3am or so all three nights. I live in northern Indiana and lane Michigan doesn’t come close to comparing. I thought it would. Silly me. I love your stories; this one made me miss the one time I played in the ocean body surfing.
    I have a 3 year old with my wife. The last paragraph couldn’t have hit closer to home. I lol’d when I read it.


  12. Actually, I just realised I left you a comment on your blog, and you never let it through moderation. What, my kitty name suggestion was inappropriate? hehe


  13. Hehehe… Chawa, did you know one of my favorite phrases to use as a gentler alternative to ‘talk to the hand’, is ‘thanks for sharing!’?

    Dechster… c’mon man, you’ve got better things to do than comment… what are you naming your kitteh?!?!?!


  14. Wonderful, inspiring story. Brings a smile to my face in the warm summer weather here in Scotland. Cheers. 🙂


  15. This one really got me to thinking. Actually more like remembering.

    Cast netting for Mullet just after dawn to sell to the local bait shop. Way better than mowing grass for spare change in the Florida heat.

    Staying sundown to sunup out at Playlinda beach, having an all night bonfire / beach party to welcome in the new year.

    Joining the service (Navy in my case) and meeting the love of my life while I was at tech school.

    At Great Lakes… near where all her family lives…

    Thats how I ended up in Wisconsin.

    Reading your tale sounded oddly familliar.


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