It’s 5 o’clock in the morning – time for dawn patrol. The surf is going to be good. Offshore winds are cleaning up a fresh combination swell sweeping in from the North and South. There’s going to be a-frame peaks up and down my local beach break giving chest-high right and left hand awesomeness to all takers. Which board should I take? What’s the water temperature? All I can imagine is that first wave. How it will instantaneously wash away all the stress and worries I’ve been accumulating since I was last out. Stoked!
A mini eruption blasts out of the bassinet next to my bed and shatters the ethereal silence of the morning. The little surfer-devil sitting on my left shoulder screams, “Danny, run for the door, go quick, Laura will wake up and take care of him!”
Of course, she was up last night with him, and the night before, and she’s taking care of him (and me) all day seven days a week. I wrestle myself out of my semi-stupor, rush into the bedroom and collect my rather angry son, who I’m sure is thinking “What took you so long?”
Needless to say, I’m not going surfing today.
Levi is just coming up on seven months old. In that time I’ve come to realize something about fatherhood and the desire to raise your children with a love for the outdoors. It’s not just raising them outside, but getting adult outside time. We have all these grand plans yet don’t realize that there’s a lot more to it now that we’re parents.
Getting out in the water, or taking a day to go to the mountains becomes elusive. It never was before. We can no longer without a care, take off when the surf report says, “Go”! What we once took for granted can feel like it’s slipping away.
I got a comment from a new father that he had an 18 week-old baby boy. He was totally stoked, but hadn’t been in the water in weeks and was about to go insane. I’m confident I speak for most like-minded parents in saying we know exactly how that feels. Surfing, climbing, skiing — these pursuits seem different to me from other outdoor activities e.g. golf or ultimate Frisbee. For me, surfing is not just a physical outlet. It is my meditation. My communion with the natural world. My immersion in a force greater than the sum of my personal life. For most participants being high and dry for long periods of time (days for some people, weeks for others) really has a tangible negative effect on our psyche.
We’re dads now. Being a father is one of the most important jobs we’ll have on this earth. Sit down and make a list of what is important. These lifestyles we pursue often end up surprisingly far down the list. Responsibility is part of being a father. I’m not saying we must always sacrifice all of our personal pursuits to spend every moment with our family. Personal sanity is important, but the priorities have changed and it is hard for many fathers to find that perfect balance of familial joys and personal passions.
Pick a surf magazine and you’ll read about the power of surfing on people’s lives. You might even read something along the lines of “marriages have failed because of the powerful pull of the ocean…” or some such nonsense. When I sit back and look at the big picture, one day a week in the water when the waves aren’t even good, with a happy, close, and loving family is a lot more important than catching a session every time the swell comes up. If you look at the statistics of absentee fathers in this country, many fathers must find it difficult to balance personal fulfillment with family. Some refuse to scale back their activities, while others scale them back so much that personal happiness goes away altogether. They can build up resentment towards their family that all to often leads to a break.
Now that contentment with my new lot is setting in, my biggest concern really is what I’m going to be able to do when my son is old enough to join me. I envision myself in a couple years taking Levi on his first wave. I place him in front of me as I kneel on the board paddling out to the break at San Onofre. A wave comes through untouched, and I spin the board around and with a few quick strokes Levi is feeling the wave propel us in towards the beach. We stand up and turn, going to the left with the wave lining up for us perfectly. As we accelerate, the smile on his face gets bigger, and bigger, he’s hooked. Am I going to be confident enough in my abilities to do that with my boy? I hope so. It’s my goal.
Steve Bohrer, my fellow contributor at The Outdoor Parent, likens life to the seasons. There is a season for everything and if you embrace that season you’ll get the most out of it, he says. There’s always that nagging thought in the back of your head when you look at the surf report and know its going to be good, yet know you’re not going to be in the water for it. When it’s a lifestyle, not a hobby, it can be difficult to let it go at all, but that’s what fatherhood brings you, a dramatic shift in priorities worth any sacrifice.
You must be logged in to post a comment.