The surfing world once again finds itself grieving the loss of yet another of the many who have left us way too soon. John Shimooka’s recent passing was a surprise to many but perhaps not to those who were actually close to him. Apparently, ”Shmoo,” as he was affectionately known, had been dealing with some emotional issues over the years, and for those who’ve been through that dark place then you know just how lonely it can become.
The part that shouldn’t surprise us however is that we as surfers aren’t immune to the same life challenges that most humans are subject to. Emotional issues, substance abuse, stress, whatever, but for some reason, in the past, the surfing world at large has looked away when these things confronted us. Sometimes even glorifying the behaviors of which were often huge red flags waving in our faces.
Simply, some of surfing’s brightest talents have faced significant personal challenges to which we were all witness. Surely there are some waking up today wondering what they could or might have done to help a friend get through their struggles.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simply.
The list of those affected is long and has left behind a sad trail of grief simply because in our world things like therapy, rehab, or other forms of self-help are often still seen as a sign of weakness. Some kind of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” brand of heavily distorted machismo.
“Tough Guy” being the general vibe surfers seem to extol.
But surfers are no more than just another slice of humanity with all the ills and challenges that the people of this planet face. Yet, for some reason, and as in other sports as well, we are supposed to be able to deal with these things because we are somehow superior, stronger, or invincible in some way.
Well, how’s that working out?
You can call it a certain “wokeness” we suppose, but of late the myriad issues that face us as humans – regardless of our surfing, skating, or other specific pedigree – are finally being addressed openly as some among us have begun to face their own demons more publically. Surely there is a long way to go, but it’s a start.
John Shimooka was a bit before our time in relation to his moment in the surfing limelight but his impact on many young Hawaiians, as well as others later in life, was very significant in his unique way.
He will be missed.
We wish John a safe journey and our deepest condolences to his family and close friends.
Let’s keep an eye on each other.
US National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255