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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Pulling Back

Posted by Rick | January 23rd, 2008 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection

Pulling Back.jpg

Last week I made my first pilgrimage back to the surf since my son was born. Conditions were forecast to be large”maybe too large”but having gotten a green light from the family, I piled in a van with my surf buddies and hoped for the best. When we got to the break, the ocean looked seasick. Massive walls of whitewater tumbled in from the horizon and the inside was a mess. Yet, being optimistic and surf-starved, my friends and I scoured the water for workable shoulders. There were a few, but getting to those waves would require taking a pounding and submitting oneself to unpredictable storm currents.

A brave surfer nimbly negotiated the rocky entry into the churning sea in front of us. He had a long pintail gun under one arm and was wearing a helmet. As soon as he paddled past the inside shorebreak, he vanished from sight into the fog and froth. Then, one of my friends asked the million-dollar question: Do we go for it?

I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the salty sea air. I imagined the feeling of cold water flushing through my wetsuit. I thought of the slippery boulders, the ice-cream headaches, the huge breakers holding me down as I tried to find the outside; the burning of my shoulders, arms and lungs from a lack of conditioning.

I thought of my new baby at home, waiting for me to come back and play with him.

“Let’s grab a beer and watch the waves,” I suggested. And that’s what we did. We talked trash, told stupid jokes, and planned our next session. It was a blast, and just what I needed, but the experience made me wonder: Would I have charged it if I didn’t have this newfound responsibility?

5 Responses to “Pulling Back”

  • January 25, 2008 at 10:58 am | Stacy says


    You still rock my man!!! You’re story made me laugh out loud with empathy. I too, find that having to deal with our grown up lives, gets in the way of our continued effort to live as an immortal teen. But, you did the right thing, enjoyed it, AND lived to tell about it.

    There is always more surf to conquer and more giggles to gather from your toddler.

    Be well,

  • January 25, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Pete says

    Even if you were not a parent, there are days best left to helmeted local guys with pintail guns.

  • January 29, 2008 at 1:16 pm | Brett says


    The situation you found yourself in while scouting the sketchy surf conditions is one that is universally testing. I don’t have any children, but I always think of my loving family and friends while deciding whether or not to drop into a risky environment.

    While the rewards for putting yourself out there on an epic day often times result in a stoke you may have for the rest of your life, you still need to make sure that you will live in order to reflect on the stoke.

    When I’m balancing the decision of whether or not to ski avy-proned backcountry terrain, I let the words my brother taught me run through my head.

    “Powder is a life long pursuit.”

    Usually my bro is with me so our decision making is twice as safe as it is when he’s not around. After choosing to be safe, we’ll share a little humble pie by vowing not to blame each other for backing out, then hoot’n holler down a safer line and eventually make our way to a cold beer where we raise a glass and cheers to the stoke we can reflect on.

    As the infamous and living Ed Viesturs puts it “Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory.”

    Here’s to staying safe Rick!



  • January 30, 2008 at 1:09 pm | Rick says

    Thanks, everybody!

    Yeah, I tend to agree that growing older and more aware of one’s mortality makes decision-making a little more deliberate in the sports we love–where there is no safety net, no lifeguard on duty, no glory for a broken leg or worse–regardless of if you have a dependent or not.

    But can that hesitation in the heat of the moment–when you’re scratching into a double overhead bomb or throwing your juevos over some crazy cliff on skis–that tiny bit of mental uncertainty that causes a slight lapse in reaction time–work against you?

    I guess it’s all about mind control.

    Anyway, the next weekend I got some amazing waves when the surf mellowed out a little. “Surfing is a lifelong pursuit,” is a great mantra that I’ll continue to live by in the future.

  • February 1, 2008 at 4:29 am | Beach Bum says

    As a father to three sons all under 10, I enjoyed that bit of pondering Rick. It gets worse – because you start to think of them on the beach watching you and you wonder, “now, do I want them to do what I’m trying to do?” .. getting them involved in Surf Lifesaving is my way of engendering sea sense in them…congrats on the Nipper’s arrival btw

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