God bless the VAL (sort of), God bless Devon Howard, God bless you.
Here, on your BeachGrit, we often speak about Vulnerable Adult Learners but we rarely, and by “rarely” I mean never, speak to them. Unless yelling in the water. Unless hate scrolling The Inertia and chortling words like “5 things I hate about you, more like it.”
A shame, truly, because as the great military strategist Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Over the past weekend, the great style master Devon Howard was captured full spraying a shoulder hopping VAL. Yesterday, the video and images were posted to various surf Instagram sites, achieving a modicum of virality.
Today, I spoke with the brave WaveStormer.
I’m still soaking it all in. Am I enjoying it? God, yes of course! 100%! I can’t imagine something like this happening and not being able to laugh at it.
Ok, so I had surfed twice in my entire life before the weekend, in Santa Cruz when I was a teenager, and haven’t paddled out since. I’m a DJ and my boss, KC Campbell, and I were having a brief business call on Saturday when he said, “Hey, I’m going surfing at this spot in Malibu. Would you like to come out? You have to.”
At first I didn’t want to, but he’s my boss and it was Saturday so I thought, “Ok.”
I don’t own a surfboard, but my roommate just bought one from Costco for $50. I grabbed it, a pack of waters, a six-pack of Corona beers and headed to Malibu.
My first mistake, I parked on the wrong side of the pier and realized when I walked down the stairs. The tide was high, water hitting the rock wall, so I had to figure out how to get around. I waited for the water to recede then ran but as I’m running, the plastic ripped on my water bottles and I lost them, spilling everywhere, then I got pummeled by a wave fully-clothed. I’m soaking wet, my towel is soaking wet, sneakers soaking wet my water scattered.
This was going great.
I picked up everything I could and am looking for KC Campbell but can’t see him anywhere though can also see all the surfers in the lineup wearing wetsuits. I don’t have a wetsuit but that wasn’t going to stop me. I put my stuff on the beach, hopped in the water, stubbed my toe all clumsy getting in but keep going.
As I’m paddling out, this surfer says to me, “Well, this isn’t the best decision you’ve made, huh.”
I responded, “Because I’m not wearing a wetsuit?”
“No,” he replied. “In general.”
Once I made it out, I realized the movies are real. Surfer dudes are territorial and they must be realizing that I was a total newbie.”
I found KC Campbell in the water and he said, “Look, if you see a surfer coming at you, get on your board and flip over. You do not want to get in their way.”
I was doing my thing and this nice wave came in. I saw this guy on the wave doing all this cool shit that I can’t name… the names of the tricks he was doing. He’s coming closer to me then he cuts the wave, or whatever it’s called, and sends tons of water in my face.
I think, “Ok. That was either unintentional or that guy is a complete asshole.”
I stay out for another hour, or so, observing, thinking surfing has a very specific and unique culture. A cohesive culture. Then I realized I had that spray-to-face coming. I tried to catch waves but never did, thought, “Fuck this,” got out to wash my surfboard off.
As I was walking the leash was dragging behind me and some dude says, “Pick up your leash. Surfers are going to think you’re uncool.”
That ship had sailed.
At the end of the day, sun setting, I passed my Coronas out to the surfers who were sitting around. One of them, a real nomad-type, saw how cold I was and offered me his jacket and hat then gave me a piece of art.
Everyone was super kind. I watched the sun go down, cheered the surfers on and had a great time.
The next day, KC Campbell called me up and said, “You’ve made it on Kook of the Day!”
I didn’t even know what a kook was but realized it is like a buffoon, a village idiot. I’ll take it. He called yesterday and said, “You’ve made it on Surf Journalist!”
Life is crazy but it was honestly a fantastic experience and I am so lucky to get a peek into this world. I’m working on a web series, actually, called Talking to Earthlings. It’s a show where people from all different walks of life talk about their experiences to help connect us as earthlings. We haven’t had a surfer, or any guest remotely close to that.
Maybe Devon Howard would be interested in talking.
He will be now!
And I dare you to tell me your heart isn’t warmed by this beautiful story.
One tiny layer beneath our crust, our grouch, is a generousness of spirit.
You know it’s true.
You know, each and every one of us, bleeds anti-depressive.
God bless the VAL (sort of).
God bless Devon Howard.
God bless you.