to be a surfer… .WITH
By DANIEL PULLEN
There were a couple of low pressure cells over the Atlantic last week
that caused pretty nice surfing conditions up and down the East Cost.
Hatteras experienced one really nice clean day of surf on Wednesday,
On that day cars were lined up for a mile in either direction on both
sides of Highway 12 around the S-Curves, the stretch of roadway coming
into Rodanthe from Pea Island. The Lighthouse Beach parking lot
was packed. Not a parking space was left, as locals and visitors
alike went for a surf.
The photos accompanying this article were taken on that Wednesday,
early in the morning, at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Beach. Some of
the surfers pictured are Wolfi Blackwood, Brett Barley, Cash Barris,
and Rusty Midgett, all of Buxton, and Jerry Rosell of Hatteras.
As I photographed the surf this Thanksgiving, I began to think about how I
take surfing for granted. And my friends who surf, I bet, take
surfing for granted also.
It is a five-minute drive from my house to the beach, and I will go for
days without setting my eyes upon the ocean. Like many surfers on
Hatteras Island, as I have gotten older, I have gained responsibilities
that keep me from going out to the beach at the drop of a hat.
Also, I have gotten picky about the surf that I choose to ride. We
don't always get to surf when it is good, and many times we have a rare
window of opportunity to surf, and yet we are still picky. For
instance, I might have the morning free, and there could be surf, but
if the wind or shape is not right, I choose to do something else. Sure,
there are also people on the island who belong to the "nothing better
to do club." These are the folks that go out wherever and whenever they
want. But I still think that all of us have a tendency to take surfing
for granted. I met a guy a
few years ago from Richmond, Va., named Robert. He is a super nice guy
who is seriously stoked on surfing. He is also a quadriplegic. He would
call me almost every week to ask how the surf was. I must have sounded
like the biggest cry baby to him.
"Oh,” I would say, “the surf isn't that good today. The
wind is on it. The tide's on it. I don't think it is worth it to drive
down to see it."
Many times, even after my surf report, Robert would still come down and
try to video us surfing. His dad would drive him out to the beach
in the back of his pickup truck -- or lay plywood on the sand and roll
his electric wheelchair up the dunes and onto the beach. (This was no
Robert was in a car accident several years ago and was paralyzed from
the neck down. He used to go out and ski and snowboard in Utah every
year. He was a great surfer too. After his accident, he could no longer
surf, but his passion for surfing didn't diminish. He got his hands on
a custom-built camera so that he could film surfing and still be a part
Granted, since the accident,
Robert is confined to his wheelchair. The fact is he may never feel the
sand between his toes, but I bet you if he could, he would walk down to
the beach on the flattest day, with the wind onshore. He would stand on
the shoreline for a second, squishing his toes in the coarse, warm sand
and scan the horizon for an incoming knee-high set. As he saw the first
set, he would run to his car as fast as he could, grab his board, and
hit the water running. He would paddle out and sit and wait, and all of
the troubles of life would be gone for those moments. I can picture the
biggest smile on his face. Then, there it would be, a two-foot
windswept, choppy, lumpy, close out. Without hesitation, Robert
would turn and start paddling like his life depended on it. Then he
would pop to his feet, turn, and trim down the line, smirking the
entire way. He would ride the wave to the beach and step off the board
into the sand once again. Instinctively, he would turn around and
paddle back out again and again and again. The entire time, he would be
smiling. I doubt that Robert would take surfing for granted.
I haven't heard from or seen Robert in over a year,
but he is in my thoughts and prayers constantly. As I thought of him
this Thanksgiving, I was touched by the gift he has given me -- the
insight into his world, a world that holds the very thing that makes us
Robert has taught me over the years that surfing is a lot like life.
There will be bad days and good days, but in the end, we can and should
be thankful for them all -- thankful for another time to rise and face
the day and thankful to stand up and surf another wave. I am thankful
for Robert. I am thankful for surfing. If I didn't surf, I don't think
that I would have met Robert, and I would have missed out on having a
I am thankful to be a surfer.
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