The Endless Summer

“If life is a gift, then perhaps there’s some virtue 
in getting the most out of it.”

It was the summer of 1965, I had just finished 8th grade and the endless summer called, literally and figuratively.  My grandparents had a home in Ocean City, NJ.  Hence, using de facto logic, so did I!  I couldn’t wait to get down there.  My surfboard was in the garage and this would be the summer that I too searched for the perfect wave.  Unfortunately they were few and far between off the Jersey coast.  In fact, the only time there were any really good waves was during a November nor’easter.  That summer, as I sat on my board, some fifty yards off shore looking at oncoming swells, I sensed a oneness with the ocean, and with my new cult heroes, Michael Hynson and Robert August.

Released in January of 1965, The Endless Summer was a documentary about Hynson and August, and their worldwide quest for the perfect wave.  It was a film about the ultimate adventure, two surfing friends spending what seemed to be a never-ending summer crossing the globe in search of the perfect wave.  From the uncharted waters of West Africa, to the shark-filled seas of Australia, to the tropical paradise of Tahiti and beyond (they didn’t surf Jersey), Hynson and August experienced in a few months what most people never do in a lifetime; they lived their dream.  The impact of this film on a fifteen year-old east coast surfer was powerful, and the film has become a timeless masterpiece that continues to capture the imagination of every new generation. 

Much like the lessons I’ve learned on the golf course (The Back Nine), the film served to illustrate important lessons gained through the sport of surfing that are applicable to our daily lives.  Unfortunately I didn’t come to really understand them until later in life, but hopefully you can use them now. 

  1. Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon:  We see the swells forming as we look to the horizon. The best wave is not to be found in the current moment or in those you passed by; it is yet to come. The best news is there will be another after that!  Like waves, the opportunities in our life are endless.  
  2. Trust Your Instincts:  There is no formula for catching a good wave; it’s just a feeling you have.  Time has taught me that our instincts are almost always right.  It’s almost like the inner self speaking.  It’s something you just feel or know.   More often than not you’ll notice that it was the moments when you trusted that feeling, that you ended up in positive situations and enjoyed the ride. 
  3. Know When to Bail:  This is similar to trusting your instinct.  It’s knowing you are in over your head.   The wave seemed perfect but it built too quickly and you knew it was beyond your ability.  A wipe-out was imminent.  While failure is necessary to learn, this is more about knowing when the risk is greater than the reward.  We can almost sense an impending wipeout. In life and in surfing this tends to hold true. 
  4. Be Present:  One of the best parts about surfing is simply sitting between sets and enjoying the moment.  During those times you can feel and hear the water as it surrounds you.  On sunny days the warmth of the sun counters the chill of the water.  Some surfers will tell you this is when you become one with the water and can sense the next wave.  When you are present, on a surfboard or in life, you set the stage for peak performance.  Too much focus on the future and too much dwelling on the past is a recipe for mediocrity.
  5. Embrace Patience:  In a desire to get that first ride, I would sometimes jump at the first opportunity and grab the first wave.  Sometimes you take the first wave in a set and look back, the second wave is bigger and better.  Life kind of works the same way.  Consider everything you see.  The first opportunity may not be the best opportunity.
  6. Choose Wisely:  Selecting the right set and the right wave can make all the difference!  Choose the right wave and you’ll have a memorable ride.  Choose the wrong one and you’re in for a miserable experience on the ocean floor with lots of time under water.  Success in anything we do is largely dependent on the choices we make.  Life is kind of the same way.  Choose your path, not because of what others are doing, but because it is right for you.  Let your experiences and instincts guide the choices you make.   
  7. Celebrate:  At the end of the day we can sit on the beach, look out at the waves and think about our wipeouts, time spent underwater and the aches and pains brought on by the pounding waves.  Our other option is to remember the thrill of a great ride, the quiet moments between sets and the opportunities that lie ahead.  Our lives are no different.  We find what we look for.  Celebrate each day.  Find reasons to laugh and smile.

Like the ocean our lives go through phases of stillness, turbulence, and serenity. There are days when the waters are quiet, the breeze is still and waves are almost non-existent.  Likewise there are those times when the ocean is angry, and even thinking about testing the waters creates anxiety.  But in the end, what makes the ultimate difference is the decision to enter the water and take that first ride.  Make the most of it!

Embrace the Challenge.