How surf films changed my life

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

We’ve been de-cluttering the house a little. Less stuff will give us freedom. And freedom has become the thing that mommy and I desire most in our life as a family. Freedom to pursue dreams and to live a life less ordinary.

I went through some old journals in our office a few days ago. In a small black journal I found a few paragraphs that I wrote when mommy was in the hospital 4 years ago. I wrote a lot about spending time with you, Izzy. The first entries were happy – you were taking mommy’s absence in stride, for a 4 year old. You’ve always had an uncommon peace about you. A few entries later things changed a little. You were waking up asking me where I was taking you that day – meaning, who would be keeping you while I was at work. You bounced around a lot during that time and never knew who was going to keep you from day to day. I remember you being okay with it, but the upheaval in our life was on your mind when you woke up every morning. I wasn’t okay with that. So, I decided to send you to stay with Nana and Papaw for a couple of weeks. It was a vacation for you. But it was hard for me. And it was hard to read about it again this week.

I was alone in our home for the first time in 13 years. Mommy resting in Baptist hospital 45 minutes away and you an hour away. I wrote in my journal to pass the time. I don’t remember doing it, but the the words are there as evidence that I spent at least a few evenings writing things down.

It was also during that time that I discovered how peaceful watching surf films made me feel. I bought “Thicker Than Water” on DVD and got lost in the images every night. I looked at pictures of big waves and empty beaches online. I thought about the Jack Johnson song lyrics daily: ” If I drift long enough, I’ll be home”. That’s where we were back then. Drifting. Hoping for the best. Hoping to be together again soon. And that mommy and you two babies would be okay.

In the meantime I stared at the waves and imagined long boat rides off shore in tropical locales, jumping deep into crystal azure, sinking, emptying my lungs, and kicking slowly to the surface to breathe again. The films and the mental images helped me cope with the loneliness and uncertainty.

I wrote in my journal about surfing even though I have only been a few times in my life. Once was in off shore hurricane swell on Folly Beach, SC. That day gave me my first knowledge of raw power and how fragile a balance I could strike between adventure and recklessness. Writing about surfing caused me to write about triathlon and cycling. The adventure of triathlon and it’s training became my surfing. I made cycling movies in my head. Laid back Brushfire records sound-tracked movies of me climbing mountains on my bike – jersey wide open, fast descents – 40 mph on winding shadowy roads, open water swims at sunrise, long runs on country roads under pink sky. Those were my movies then. And now.

I’ve been making triathlon films in my head for 10 years it turns out. Those hard times for our family are long past, but I’m still making mental movies every day. They bring me peace. They’re a reminder that peace is in the breeze, in the water, and even in my calf when it’s hurting. They’re a reminder for me to hit “slow mo” in my life, to enjoy the ride, and ultimately, that everything comes back together.

Kate, a few mornings a ago Mommy took this picture of us dancing together in the kitchen – probably to Bob Marley.

I signed up this week for my 5th half iron distance race. I’ll be doing Rev3 Anderson, SC on October 14. So much for “never again!”

I love you kids,

– Daddy



Tues: Swam 1800

Wed: failed 3 mile run – injury

Thurs: Swam 2600 / Biked 25 miles

Friday: Swam 2000