Every surfer worth her salt has been caught in an uncomfortable position at sea. Maybe caught in a riptide, panic starting to bubble. Maybe out just beyond a swell that has risen significantly, fear beginning to grip. Shark fin spotted, bashed-off-the-reef wipeout, leash ripped and board sucked away, etc. etc.
It feels good to get oneself out of trouble and it also feels good to get someone else out of trouble and, days ago, volunteer lifeguards in New Zealand saved a surfer from his perch stranded on rocks and felt good.
California does not have the volunteer lifeguard position available but I do believe they are called “clubbies” in Australia and NZ.
Anyhow, the dramatic rescue took place on Muriwai Beach when a member of the public spotted the surfer and called the emergency number.
Volunteer squad member Glenn Gowthorpe, accompanied by another lifeguard, jumped into action and made it across the churny water, arriving to the surfer how had been stuck there for 2 hours and was cold. A police helicopter circled overhead, shooting award-worthy video (watch here) and acting as backup.
“You never know what could happen. We might end up in trouble,” Gowthorpe said.
Eventually, they convinced the surfer to get back in the water, as he was “apprehensive,” and made it successfully to the beach.
The surfer appeared to be riding a round nose fish.
A very fun choice in playful surf but maybe not when dramatic rescues are in order.
If you had to be saved from rocks, all caught on video, which board would you want beside you?
Important to think about.
Study reveals: “Surfing may prime you for addiction to stronger forms of intoxication, stronger rushes!”
Part addiction memoir, part sociological study, new book The Drop “dismantles the myth of surfing as a radiantly wholesome lifestyle immune to the darker temptations of the culture…"
It’s a sad trajectory we know all too well.
Ace surfer wins world titles and/or rides giant waves only to fall into substance abuse in the post-athletic years.
It makes no sense. And yet it makes perfect sense.
The Drop: How the Most Addictive Sport Can Help Us Understand Addiction and Recovery, by Thad Ziolkowski, explores this phenomenon at length. Part addiction memoir, part sociological study, part spiritual odyssey, Thad “dismantles the myth of surfing as a radiantly wholesome lifestyle immune to the darker temptations of the culture and discovers among the rubble a new way to understand and ultimately overcome addiction.”
A lifelong surfer, a Yale PhD, a Guggenheim fellow, the author of the memoir On A Wave, Thad lives with his family in New Jersey.
What compelled you to write The Drop?
When I started surfing, age 10, I was struck by the charisma of surfing compared to other things. I played several sports, I loved listening to music and reading, but surfing trumped all that, especially when the waves were good: it was impossible to think of anything else.
When I left the beach to go off to college, I felt that the only way I would be able to focus on my studies was to quit surfing, quit it like a drug. I was also deeply troubled by the prospect of surfing only occasionally, of being anything less than absolutely on my game. It was all or nothing. Which is itself a very addictive way of looking at things, one surf culture enforces with its contempt for dilettantes combined with the whole spirit of “go for it!”—of total commitment.
During the years when I wasn’t surfing, when I was living the life of a poet in the city, I became addicted to alcohol and drugs. I never imagined I would ever surf again and yet when I was at my lowest point I found myself at the beach in Far Rockaway. I bought a board, I went surfing, and it all came back to life, who I was and how it felt before the darkness crowded in.
Surfing was something other than drinking and drugging to feel excited about. It carried me back to when I was a child again — I was a happy, frothing grom when I was surfing. It was something to quit smoking for, to get fit for — and ultimately to get sober for.
But as soon as I started surfing again, I also felt its old power to eclipse everything else, and I had rein myself back in several times — not throw away everything I had worked for and move to Kauai, for instance.
Then there was the whole issue of surfer drug addicts — surfers I had known growing up, and famous ones —Michael Peterson, Jeff Hakman, Mike Hynson, Lynne Boyer, Tom Carroll, Kong, Buttons, Flea, Mel, Ruffo, And of course Andy Irons. But many others, of all levels and renown, known only to the surf world insiders and a few others.
So I had thought a lot about the connection between surfing and addiction, and lived it, and The Drop is the result.
What was the most surprising/unexpected thing you found in your research?
The existence of what neurologists call “opponent processes,” biochemicals that are produced in response to any experience that makes you tipsy, high, or drunk — a line of cocaine but also falling in love or violently grieving — or riding the wave of your life.
The theory that accounts for opponent processes is that at its most basic level the brain has evolved to be a contrast detector. The brain’s default setting is a clear-headed neutrality that keeps us ready to respond to our environment — to get food, sex and drink, mainly, and to respond to threats.
The upshot is that try as we might to get and stay high, or stoked, the wily brain is always bringing us back down to earth.
Did you have trouble getting surfer addicts to open up to you about this topic?
In some cases, for sure. And I respect and sympathize with the desire not to be publicly linked to addiction. It hasn’t exactly been easy for me to come out as an addict! Despite all the progress that’s been made since the 1980s, when researchers found compelling evidence that addiction is a chronic disorder of the brain, addiction still elicits a lot of knee-jerk disapproval and moralizing.
And in addition to the wider social stigma of addiction, there’s a tradition in surfing of circling the wagons and keeping mum on the darker aspects of the sport.
Luckily, I also passed muster with certain well-known surfers. Word then went out that I could be trusted and folks began to tell their stories. For addicts in recovery, it’s considered beneficial to be open about their addiction, because it teaches others the truth about it, and it helps establish self-acceptance and generosity. So in the case of surfers in recovery there was a pressure exerted by the recovery community to share and be open. Privacy can feel like secretiveness, and keeping secrets is not good for recovering addicts.
What’s the take-away of the book — what does surfing have to teach us about addiction?
Surfers often talk about getting “hooked” on surfing after their first real wave. There’s a pride and pleasure taken in being seized, a sense of specialness, of election. Surfers as the Chosen. Only a surfer knows the feeling.
And truly, surfing is a blessing, a good addiction. It’s one of the great blessings of my life, for sure.
But it won’t save you from meth and opioids and crack. If anything, surfing may prime you for addiction to stronger forms of intoxication, stronger rushes. The very best surfers in the world have fallen to hard drugs, after all. Their stories, along with the latest science on addiction, have a lot to tell us.
And oh how the pressure is ON. As you know well, surfing will make its official Olympic debut in mere weeks’ time. Many, save Jordy Smith, are very excited but will it be a grand coming out or a total fizzle?
Well, it depends on the waves I suppose.
And Gabriel Medina vs. Italo Ferriera.
But if the waves are good, and if Gab + Italo perform, then one of the oldest, largest news organizations in the world suggests that Olympic boogie, longboard, SUP may follow.
There are two gold medals up for grabs in Tokyo, one each for men and women using shortboards. Should these competitions provide the spectacular drama and visuals usually associated with the sport, other events such as longboards, bodyboards and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) may be included at future Games.
At approximately 1.8 metres in length, the shortboards usually have three small fins on the underside and a pointed nose, which gives skilled riders the freedom to carry out tight turns and dynamic changes of direction that are harder to pull off on larger boards.
Shortboard supremacy coming to an end?
That depends, again, on Brazil.
Inspired young hero plans to surf 301 straight days after horrific shark attack: “The lifeguard who came he was like, ‘yeah, I can see your lungs through your back!’”
We’ve all, at this point, imagined being out and getting hit by a shark and easy to say, “Oh, I wouldn’t let it affect me. I’d be right back out there as soon as I’m healed…” but much different to say than to do. The great Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face,” and getting big in the torso by a shark carries much more gravitas which is what makes Encinitas’s Keane Hayes much impressive.
The then thirteen almost fourteen year old was diving for lobster off Beacons beach when he was viciously mauled. According to San Diego’s local ABC affiliate, when he was brought to the beach, the lifeguard said, “Yeah, I can see your lungs through your back.”
A very chill lifeguard.
The boy was life-flighted to Rady’s Children’s Hospital and underwent multiple surgeries including getting over 1000 stitches but even that didn’t stop him. Now sixteen, he is committed to surfing 301 consecutive days.
“I think we’re on day 170. It’s also just a personal goal just to surf a ton and be in the water fishing or doing whatever. Honestly, it just kind of feels natural you know, like I’m not pushing it, I’m not scared,” he told the news outlet.
He is also committed to helping others overcome their own fears.
“Going with Bethany Hamilton and pushing girls without arms, like amputees, like that’s…. it’s, I can’t even describe it, it’s just so much fun and feels good to help them.”
Mike Tyson would be proud.
Eighties supermodel Cindy Crawford describes OG Tahitian surf-stud Raimana Van Bastolaer as human Viagra, “I call him the Big Blue Pill. He can get anyone up. Even me!”
In one of the loveliest rags to riches stories you could ever imagine, Tahitian Raimana Van Bastolaer, former Teahupoo ambassador turned smiling face of the Surf Ranch, has been described as human Viagra by eighties supermodel Cindy Crawford.
Viagra is a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction or to ramp up an already tumescent womb-duster. Side effects include deeply satisfied gal, a terrible chafing on shaft and a reputation as a pussy assassin.
On Instagram, the fifty-five-year-old whose career peaked in 1987 when she appeared alongside the other OG supermods Christy Turlington, Linda Evangalista and Naomi Campbell on British Vogue, writes,
And this is why I call @raimanaworld the Big Blue Pill — he can get anyone up—even me!
A roll call of celebs, including NY designer Donna Karan, supermodels Carolyn Murphy and Christine Brinkley, joined in in the comments, thrilling to the ride and to human hard-on Raimana Van Bastolaer.