My dad sold his last surfboard this week. Running his own business hasn’t left him as much time to chase the waves, and he’s switching to a paddleboard. With the flat waters of the Mississippi Sound and the bayou near the house, he can go anytime he wants and spend more time on the water than driving to the waves.
However, if you know my family, you know that the selling of the last surfboard is kind of a big deal. In fact, Dad e-mailed us all a beautiful message to close out our surfing decades. I actually teared up reading his words. It may sound silly – it’s just surfing, what’s the big deal? But it’s less about the boards and more about what surfing gave our family growing up.
My mind knows that my whole childhood wasn’t spent on a surfboard, but my heart seems to wrap most of my memories around surfing. My brother and I both learned to surf at Pawley’s Island, SC – the same place where my dad started. When I was little, Dad would hold his old Dewey Weber Pig still on the flat water so I could practice standing up. When I got older, he’d leave his own board on the beach to push me into waves. In middle school, we started taking spring break trips to Cocoa Beach, boards and best friends in tow. We even got 6 people on one wave at midnight to ring in the millennium.
We’d leave the house at 4:30 a.m. on Sundays to catch waves at dawn before making it back for church. I learned one of the best feelings in the world is a dog-tired nap on a sunny beach and the worst is peeling off a wetsuit in the rain under your friend’s house on Dauphin Island in December.
Surfing was a major way my family took joy in being together. We’d be driving down the interstate with four boards on the roof, singing Weezer’s blue album at the top of our lungs. Dad would drum the beat of a Rancid song on the dashboard while my mom smiled from the passenger seat. It was how my parents passed down their love for the early morning. The peace they find at the water’s edge is ingrained in the DNA Will and I inherited.
Surfing was how my dad taught me that perseverance is more important than success. He never cared if we wiped out – he cared that we paddled out.
Surfing was a way we shared joy with our friends. I can’t tell you how many of my favorite memories involve picking up one friend or another for a surf trip. It’s how a 21-year-old kid managing a surf store in Mobile came to be one of my dad’s closest friends 15 years later.
Surfing gave me an identity during those awkward school years. Growing up may be tough, but it’s a little easier to deal with in boardshorts and sand-encrusted flip flops.
I could go on and on.
For most of my childhood, surfing was the background of my family life. It didn’t make my family special, but it gave us a forum in which to experience that specialness.
Even though Will and I moved away from the water and haven’t surfed in a few years, it really feels like the door closes with Dad. Luckily, now that we’re older, we’re are as much friends as we are family and so many more doors have opened. I am so grateful for the closeness the Lord has blessed us Faircloths with.
I just wish I could be there in South Carolina next week, sipping a cup of coffee on the porch overlooking the marsh and watching Dad paddle by in the early morning light.