Thursday, April 16, 2015

Reunion Island: Paradise Lost

Elio Canestri doing what he loved - surfing with his friends

Tragedy struck Reunion Island again last weekend when 13 year old surfer Elio Canestri was attacked by a shark and died from his wounds.

This news is devastating on several levels. First, the attack resulted in a fatality and any loss of life is devastating. Second, the victim was a child. Third, the attack was extremely violent and prolonged; more a mauling than the typical one bite attack stemming from a case of mistaken identity.

Fourth and finally, the attack occurred within weeks of the government loosening the reigns on a nearly two year surfing ban after a series of attacks (many of them fatal) in the last few years. Ahead of lifting the ban permanently early next year, the government has taken significant steps to mitigate the risk of another attack including the installation of towers, drum lines and underwater cameras among other measures.

Given Reunion is a small island, it's safe to assume it's a tight knit community and therefore family, friends, surfers and non-surfers alike are surely reeling from this tragedy. Next steps are surely being considered and run the gamut from proceeding as planned with lifting the ban to resuming the ban to another shark cull. All have their supporters and detractors as well as their pros and cons.

What are your thoughts? What would you do?

Vaya con dios, Elio

Until next time, may your waves be six feet and glassy.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Problem with Surfing

I'm ashamed by how long it's been since my last post. My apologies to the millions who follow me, who wait with bated breath for each post and who are overcome with emotion and inspiration with each word I write. Thank you for your patience. Allow me to offer an explanation.

John Severson, the founder of Surfer Magazine famously stated in 1960, "In this crowded world, the surfer can still seek and find the perfect day, the perfect wave, and be alone with the surf and his thoughts." Well, in the last 12 months, I have learned that there is a paradox to this statement. 

In late 2013, I was laid off from my job. I was relieved because I had been unhappy but stressed because I didn't know when or how I was going to get my next job. While searching the job boards was fruitless, it only took about 30 minutes. The rest of the day was mine. You'd think - and many of my friends expected - that I would surf every day. The assumption made perfect sense: I had the time and surfing offered me a chance to clear my mind. Severson's mantra reinforced this.

The problem was being alone with the surf and my thoughts created feelings of angst and guilt, not clarity and serenity. Rather than forgetting my problems for awhile while I played in the ocean, my mind swirled with questions like "what am I going to do," "why is this happening to me again," "am I on the right path with my career, with my life" and so on. Deep stuff. Surfing wasn't an escape from but rather a magnet for these questions. In addition, I felt guilty for surfing. I should be spending this time looking for work, networking, brainstorming, taking courses, and more. What was the matter with me? Had surfing failed me? Or had I failed surfing? It was a difficult time.

Of course, I did eventually find a job, which I always knew I would. Now gamefully employed, the pendulum swung the opposite direction. The weekends were now my only time to surf and I was either too tired or too busy with errands and chores. This is a problem for any weekend warrior but considering the fact that I had taken a job that paid half of what I was making previously, I was still driven by guilt. I should be helping around the house rather than taking time out for myself. I surfed once the entire month of February. 

If I couldn't bring myself to surf, I sure as hell couldn't bring myself to write about surfing. Hence the hiatus from this blog, which has always been a cathartic practice for me. 

I have since renewed my commitment to surfing. I surfed a lot in March. I also picked up the planer again and am finishing my second board of the year and fourth overall. I also launched a surfing apparel company that I had started over two years ago. It's good to be back.    

I am going surfing today and while I don't expect to find the perfect day or wave, I look forward to being alone with my thoughts. Thoughts of gratitude and hope. Again, it's a good to be back.

Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy.