For most surfers, travel is the sole constant in their lives. But let’s be honest — to many of us, particularly those in their 30s and 40s, the importance of adventure takes a back seat to more pressing issues. Like starting a family. Or juggling a work schedule. Or paying a mortgage. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. They’re all critical steps in human development. In my case, I put surf travel up on the shelf for a few years to concentrate on building a career and being a father. Sure, I took assignments in iconic East Coast destinations, managed to wring a five-star trip to Costa Rica out of their tourism board, and spent quality time in some of America’s best cities. In the last five years, I’ve flown all over the country for conventions, funerals, birthdays, and weddings, and I’ve logged a few thousand miles driving home for the holidays.
But lately, I’ve been thinking more about the month I spent in Central America at age 19 eating peanut butter, drinking dark rum, and living out of an atrociously dirty van. Or the post-college Spring Break when I roamed around Maui surfing three times a day and hiking jaw-dropping waterfalls. Or the time in high school when I went to Great Britain on a student ambassador trip and hugged the Welsh coastline watching waist-high gems peel off into nothingness before marveling at the surfboards stacked high on the ferry over to Cork, Ireland.
And it’s not just about surfing, either. As you’ll read in the pages that follow, travel is a state of mind — no matter how mundane your day is, all it takes is the smallest spark to make you start lusting after the road. In the last two weeks, I’ve encountered two different friends driving cross-country, for entirely different reasons: one to take a job in California and one to shake the confines of domestic tranquility and load his family into a Sprinter van for a true American adventure. As I waved and watched both of them drive off into the sunset, I had to suppress my impulsive desire to jump in for the rest of the trip — for no other reason than to just go. Which is the whole point, right? “It’s about the journey, not the destination,” “Enjoy the ride,” blah blah blah — there are a million clichés to express that feeling when we get off our asses and hop a plane or a train or a car or a boat or a motorcycle or whatever the hell’s readily available for somewhere other than home. But words very rarely do it justice. We know the sensation when it strikes us.
If there’s one common denominator that binds all surfers together, it’s the constant pursuit of new ways to recapture that sensation. Contrary to popular belief, it can’t be found in any substance or any person — you can only tap into it when the desire to set your body in motion overwhelms your rational brain, causing common side effects like plane ticket search obsession, Google Maps overload, and a disregard for dealing with the present in favor of dreaming about the future.
Surfers pride themselves on living in the here and now, man, but that’s actually a farce. What we’re really all doing is scheming a way to our next surf trip, whether it’s next month or next year or even next decade. Me, I’ve got my eyes on a few weeks working from the road in New England this June and July. Will I score hard? Probably not. Will it change my perspective on life? We’ll see. But will I get the chance to meet some of you beautiful readers and spend time with the surfers, shop owners, and local heroes who make up the beating heart of one of ESM’s most vibrant demographics? Absolutely.
That might not be anyone else’s version of the ideal surf trip. For most of you, a ramble through New England can’t compare with isolated Indo immersion. Or joining the North Shore circus. Or vegging out on consistent Central American beachbreaks. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 33 years on this planet, it’s that the definition of happiness is different for every person. You might never get your friends onboard with your backpacking bike trip down the Pan-American Highway. But guess what? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it — or waste your time trying to convince anyone why it matters. Instead, redirect that energy toward careful planning (particularly critical if you’re flying solo) and smart budgeting. Or, as I’ll be doing over the next two months, whipping your 1997 Toyota Avalon into tip-top shape for the long drive. Yes, New England friends, I will be looking to borrow your boards this summer.
As my homegirl Kacey Musgraves sings — and no, I’m not afraid to admit that I like Kacey Musgraves — “Follow your arrow, wherever it points.”