For a Few Good Waves

“I must say, there’s nothing better than a good surf.”

My eldest daughter finished her second year of high school and the first thing she did was clean her room.

Well, sort of.

The second?

She roped her mother into a hair-brained plan. They would drive four hours to the beach so the 14-year-old could get two days of surfing in before we fly to England on holiday. She would return and hit the movies with her girlfriends and the following day we would get on the plane. All of this would come after going out to an all-night party in Buenos Aires, where we live.

I hesitated.

She deserved the surf trip, of course. She had just finished her second year of an agronomy-focused school with high grades and only one exam to sit again in March: physics. She did all of this after coming from behind with low grades in the middle of the year in biology, chemistry, history, literature and math.

My hesitation was because their trip to the beach would leave me in charge of her younger brother and sister while covering back-to-back conferences as a reporter and trying to do all the last-minute errands before flying to England.

So what did I think?

I thought of when I was 18. I had just finished high school and I didn’t have a job. I was hesitating on what to study at university. So what did I do? I went surfing. I took off for Central California for a week, returned to L.A. for a couple of days and went with my father to see a production of Othello in Hollywood. I then took off to Mexico to surf for another week.

I had time to burn — and some cash, and the world was mine.

And what did I want?

A few good waves, and some intellectual stimulus.

I would go on to study Shakespeare as an English major in university, while taking as many surf trips as possible. My hero became Miki Dora, whose travels around the world made me want to follow in his footsteps, as documented in David Rensin’s All for a Few Perfect Waves. I would do that after university, taking off for a year to travel. I surfed in Argentina, England, France, Ireland, Hawaii, Mexico, Portugal and Scotland, and took side trips to Russia, Poland and elsewhere. It wasn’t as long as the trip taken by William Finnegan, whose book, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, expertly captures the passion of surfing. But it was long enough to mark me for life.

I still surf whenever I get a chance.

And I watch lots of surf videos on YouTube. A favorite of mine is by Kepa Acero, a Basque surfer. The video, scored with The Doors’ “L.A. Woman,” has as a backdrop a superb speech by José “Pepe” Mujica, a former president of Uruguay.

My favorite line from the speech — and there are many — is:

“If you are young, you have to understand this: life escapes you and it goes away minute by minute, and you can’t go to the supermarket and buy life. So fight to live and give content to your life. You can be the author of the path of your own life.”

So what did I say to my daughter?

Catch some waves!

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