I Started surfing as a very young kid. Heck, I was on a board before I could even walk. I guess because my father is what we call around these parts, an old salty. Salt water literally drips out of his nose. He tells me a good day is when you find sand in your ear canals and salt water literally drips out of your nose even hours later getting out of the water. He got me into surfing very young and it hasn’t always been the best experience.
For whatever reason, my dad wanted me to surf so bad with him that I believe I was doomed from the start. I mean, growing up hearing his surf stories from close encounters with sharks and torn shoulders it just didn’t seem to appealing. Needless to say, I would go but I had a period of my youth that I often got caught in the break zone. If you don’t know what a break zone is, I will simply say, It’s the last place you want to hang out while surfing. But sometimes you really do not have a choice. I equate it to being hit by a small SUV. You see, we don’t have large waves here but when paddling out if you don’t time it right, you can get crushed by waves at the first sandbar. In the gulf coast this area is very shallow. Sometimes, less than waist deep. Dad always says you must get through this spot quickly and yet be patient. What does that even mean? Be quick and patient. Is he trying to confuse me or is this a big “dad” trick.
One time, paddling out, I was caught once again just as dad sneaked under the set and made it out. I on the other hand, got the biggest set on my head in the worst spot of the sandbar I could possibly be. I happen to have had on a white rash guard. When I came up for air, the rash guard was wrapped around my head. I only saw white and not having been to the surface for what seemed like over an hour, I was lightheaded. All this compiled to me thinking I had died, and this was heaven. Or at least I had died. I envious heaven to be less chaotic. I pulled the rash guard down and made my way to the beach. It seemed like it was miles away. I crawled to the edge of the shore and gasped for air. I was waving at “old salty”, trying to let him to know I may have died, and I was NEVER doing this again. He just waved back not realizing his only son was onshore slowly contemplating life and if he would ever go out again.
As I have gotten older, I realize, I didn’t just about die. I just got “worked” (surf term for being bashed around on the sand bar). Dad always says after a while you get to where you like getting worked and you stop fighting it. That’s about when all this surf stuff sort of came together for me. I realized how much life is like surfing. Sometimes you must move quick and other times you have to be patient and let the big sets pass. Or sometimes you just get stuck with waves breaking on your head. Like life, I have learned not to hang out long in those difficult areas. I try my best to push forward.
We went out recently and I had a great session. Don’t tell him this but I am slowly out surfing him. After a long session and on the way home I noticed salt water trickily out of my nose, and you know I had to check my ears. Yep, there was sand in my ears. As I sat back, I reflected on what a good day it was and maybe, “old salty” is onto something.
Author- Brody Johnson (Bobby J’s son).