The Voids in My Soul, and How Surfing Helped Fix Them

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the concept of loving something, and being passionate about it every single day. An activity, a sport, a hobby, whatever. How do you know the difference between something you enjoying doing and something you want to center your life around because your passion for it is that consuming? For me, for a long time that thing was baseball. Once that was gone, a hole was left in my spirit/soul/being that needed filling. The search to fill that void has been a long and interesting one, but one that’s taught me a lot about myself.

Hiking is the number one thing for me. I can’t describe the unbridled joy I feel when I sling up a 25 pound bag, lock my car, and set off on a trail for a day or two. In that moment, I’m whole. But here’s the thing about hiking, it takes a long time. There was a time where I was content to do a day hike of a 1,500 footer close to my college campus, but those days are long gone. Nowadays if it isn’t over 4,000 feet or part of a multi-day death march, my ears hardly perk up. These kinds of hikes take days, sometimes weeks, of planning, prepping, and execution. And when you’re a college student trying to graduate early, working a few jobs at a time to pay the bills and save up for the future, time is your most precious commodity.

So I found myself miserable for those long stretches of time between my hikes. I needed something for that time. Something to stop my “itchy feet” from causing me to skip classes or call out of work to run into the mountains for a day or two. Something to fill the void in my being. 

Enter surfing.

In reality, I was a beach kid long before I was a mountain man. I was born in Oceanside, California, and of the dozens of places I’ve called home over the last 21 years; the majority have been on the coast. And I’ve always had a silent obsession with surfing. I’ve followed surfers on Instagram, watched surfing videos, window shopped for boards, and learned everything about surfing through a computer screen for years. So when I finally hung up my cleats and was able to stop worrying about my pitching shoulder all the time, it was finally my chance to get into it.

I’m a big guy. I’m around 6’4 and fluctuate between 210 and 220 pounds, depending on how many Oreo boxes Colleen allows me to buy on our weekly grocery trips. Add in the fact that 100% of surfers will tell you to begin surfing on a board over 9 feet (a longboard) and you would assume I would start my surfing career on a longboard. Well hold on. Longboards run around $700-$800 at the low end of the scale. Remember the whole thing about working a few jobs to pay bills? Yeah, somehow I didn’t have $800 to throw down on a surfboard right then and there, and no amount of Craigslist skills found me one on the cheap.

With summers being so abbreviated here in the northeast, I did the only thing I could. I bought a smaller board then recommended. I bought a small, albeit beautiful, 7’7’’ “gun-shaped” board from a man in Portland off of Craigslist. It had been split in half and remolded, it was too small and thin for me, but it was only $200.

I surfed the shit out of that board for two straight months. I drank more saltwater then freshwater, I hit my head so hard on the sand bottom I thought I was going to die, and I endured more than one judgmental gaze  from some chubby tourist who had the pleasure of sitting on the Old Orchard Beach sand watching me flounder around for hours on end.

But then, I kinda stood up. Then a rode the wave for a half second. Holy shit I was surfing. Kind of. I was hooked beyond belief. Every day, I’d wake up, check the surf report, see that it was flat, say f— it and go anyway, drink a gallon of saltwater, catch zero waves, come home and tell Colleen how awesome I did. It was the best.

Then, a miracle happened. The surfing gods blessed me. A longboard for sale in New Hampshire for a mere $400. I immediately called, asked the guy to hold it for an hour or two till I got off work, pulled the money out of the ATM and bolted down the turnpike, covering the distance in one hour. It was mine and it was beautiful.

I went straight from this man’s house to the beach in OOB, and oh my goodness I was surfing. It wasn’t pretty, I wasn’t carving it up or getting barreled, but I was standing up, riding a whole wave, doing little mini turns. It was euphoric.

Still a long way away from booking a trip to Oahu and competing in PipeMasters, I’m very excited I’ve found my thing. Something I could spend a day doing, a week, or just thirty minutes between school and work.

I think we all need to continually strive to find our thing to fill that void in us. I think whether we realize it or not most, if not all, of us have a void in ourselves and in our souls that needs something to be passionate about. That something that you can think about, be passionate about, that gets you up and out of bed in the morning. Something to look forward to. Routine is the enemy of a fulfilling life, and I think we ‘re all guilty of making excuses to stay in our routines. 

I recently read about a woman from Idaho who started rock climbing at a small gym near her hometown at the age of 70. Why? Because she says it was something she always wanted to do. So now most days she spends climbing in a gym with a bunch of 20-somethings while most of her peers stay inside and yell at CNN or Fox News all day.

So what’s your excuse?

Find that thing that fulfills your void. Mine is surfing for now. It might evolve into something else, but when it does I’ll keep trying things till I find that “something else” that I need. Go out and find yours, whether it be surfing, or knitting, or photography, or fishing, or painting, whatever it is. There’s something out there for everyone. You just have to be brave enough to find it. What are you waiting for?

-TN

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