Summer in Tofino is a strange place to be. The local industry is heavily dependant on tourism, infusing surf schools and local businesses with dollars, which people are thankful for. Yet, the warm summer days and easier paddles out draw the same beginners out to sit side by side with people who live and die by the shortboard. I was out in the back lineup two weekends ago, waiting for the next set to come in. There was another guy in the lineup, a face I have seen over the years, but didn’t know by name. We’ll call him Steve, and the next wave was his.
As Steve and I sat there, chatting about day jobs, girls, and travel, four younger guys made their way out. These fellows were barely able to stay on their boards, laughing, giggling, and generally having the time of their lives. Who could blame them? They were out here for the same reasons we were: waves, splendid waves. The sun was shining, beautiful women were about, seafood was in plenty, and the waves were decent, by summer break standards.
One young fellow was the appointed cameraman, snapping shots of his friends as they all sat there bobbing around, falling, laughing, and waiting. Now our young cameraman friend was not exactly paying attention to what was going on around him, focused instead on how his friends would turn out in the shot, and himself trying not to slide off of his board.
As a decent swell started to take shape, my compadre from years past, Steve, swerved into position and started paddling. At the same moment, our cameraman, who was about 10 feet further in, looked up just in time to see that he was going to be shot sideways, totally unprepared. His mouth dropped, and he clutched his camera tightly. (I was watching all this happen from just outside the point, safe and sound).
As he decided to ditch his board and swim into the wave, his board flung out towards shore. Now, that’s bad enough from etiquette standards, but to top if off (and I’ve never actually seen this happen in real life) his leash broke, allowing the board to head off, alone and dangerously uncontrolled. As his board launched out with the velocity of a small jet airplane, it flew directly across Steve’s path, which caused him to jump backwards off his board, and drop off the wave he had just caught.
Now this is where things can go sideways. Some would even say: Teach Jeff a lesson! What right does he have to be out here? He doesn’t even know the surf etiquette, and he’s dangerous to others!
Yes. He is dangerous. Yes, he isn’t aware. Yes, he should be taught lesson. But what kind of lesson?
So Steve grabbed his board, and paddled towards our cameraman, who was sitting there, yelling and laughing to his friends that his board has gone. As Steve got close, our man with a lost board turned and made eye contact with him. Steve stopped, looked him in the eye and said: “Hey, you need to be careful and pay attention.” Our lone hero nodded, and that was it. As Steve paddled back towards me, he just smiled and kept his eye on the ocean.
Not exactly Aloha spirit, but compared to anger, aggression, and lack of patience, not too bad at all. In the world today where “surf rage” is so prevalent that, in some cities, there are actually police units patrolling the beach to make sure violent outbreaks don’t happen, Steve’s calm response and gentle lesson to our aspiring surfer is a beacon of compassion. An example of compassion I have taken home and thought of frequently when my impatience towards others starts to rear its head.
Thanks Steve and cameraman for allowing me to observe this and learn from it.