Not long ago I was going through some travel journals from the time I spent in Central America when I bumped into a couple of sand-scratched pages, full of scattered notes, taken somewhere along the Pacific coast of Mexico. They were reflections – probably written between surf sessions, when I had nothing better to do than swing on a hammock –about my [now deceased] boardbag and our endeavors. Among scribbles and coffee stains, there were words of nostalgia, drenched with incoherence and disorder, which nevertheless conveyed something sincere about those months on the road chasing waves.
I disregarded the fact it was 2 am, brewed a cup of coffee, found a comfortable position on the couch, and began to intermesh my written memories in the form of a letter:
I hope this letter finds you well, wherever you may be.
How long has it been?
I can’t remember the exact date we met, but I sure recall the moment when I first saw you, laying on the corner of a local surf shop in Bocas del Toro, Panama, abandoned. I don’t think I will ever comprehend how the shop owner agreed to swap you for an old set of fins, a leash, and a fifty-dollar bill – it was one of those “too good to be true” occasions. I looked for holes and tested your zippers, trying to find a problem that justified the price. But you were in great shape, flawless. I thought that I was ripping a fellow surfer off...and indeed, I was.
Since then it has been one heck of a ride.
We have covered long stretches of coastlines together, while I switched you from shoulder to shoulder as the tropical heat made each step more wretched than the other. You have probably seen more airport treadmills, bus station floors, roof-racks, rough asphalt, and sandy beaches than your manufacturer would have recommended. You have served as everything from mattress to chopping board; umbrella to sleeping bag. There have been times when you were tapped-up, stitched, tied from nose to tail. Your metal zipper has gone beyond the stages of oxidation; your straps have been switched countless times and now consist of shoelaces chained together. You have been a motive of stress and hassle as much as you have provided moments of security and comfort. Regardless of weather condition or swell direction, you have always persevered.
Even though your label said you were meant to carry two surfboards, you surely, at least once, carried three. None of your inner pockets were actually put to use; things were just carelessly – yet lovingly – thrown inside to serve as padding against unwanted, transportation-induced dings. You never had wheels, nor handy handles, only a central hand grip that continuously reminded me of the burden of gravity and therefore was rarely considered for long-distance routes. Your purpose has always been to protect my surfboards from the hazards of travel, yet you invariably ended up carrying all my paraphernalia; a mobile-home away from home. Surfers are wired to love surfboards – those fragile, attention-seeking, maintenance-needing, pieces of foam – and often overlook the full spectrum of factors that allow the exploration of newfound shores.
Every stain, scratch, and rip on your surface is a trace of your bravery. Many were the times I opened your zipper after a long flight or bus ride, to find my surfboards intact. Now, as I go through my journals and recall the beaches I dragged you to and the beatings you had to endure, a feeling of gratitude flushes through me. It was a tough call to let you go, but our paths had naturally diverted – I was moving away from the coast.
I hope that when I’m old and gray my memory doesn’t let me down and I’m still able to vividly remember our adventures together. But even if my memory does fail, these words shall serve as a reminder that there’s so much more to surfing than just gliding on a wave. Every little detail matters, and by becoming ever so sensible of each and every particle around us, it’s possible to achieve everlasting bliss. I feel fortunate to have found such a loyal partner to share all those rides with, and I truly appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and my quiver. You were worth a whole lot more than that Panamanian shop owner valued; you far exceed my expectations.
Stay well, stay salty.