So a little background: I’ve been on both sides of this “International Surfing Day” thing. Participant and now personal protester. While working at Surfing Magazine long ago, we were more or less the inventors of it, so I was very involved at one time. It was presented as an ocean awareness, beach cleanup, Surfrider Foundation thing back then. I would go on Fuel TV and talk about it and promote cleanups and it was all very green. Or blue, or whatever. While I knew there were ulterior marketing motives in there somewhere (always are) I tried to embrace the day. There are worse things than celebrating our lifestyle and picking up trash at your local beach, so I got behind it and surfed, cleaned beaches and attended events. At one point, I’d even take it a step further: I always tried to do something unique on that day. Add some new element to my surfing life.
One year, “ISD” fell on the first big south swell of the year in California. It was predicted to be like 200 fucking degrees or something and the waves were gonna be cooking too. And it was on a Friday. So everyone was ready to come into summer very hot. We had organized a beach cleanup at San Onofre that day and later that night Taylor Steele was in town to premiere Stranger Than Fiction and we had organized the after party and band for the night. It was gonna be a big day of surfing, socializing and celebrating. So, what the hell. I was all in.
So this particular year, I decided to dawn patrol and paddle in to this military base wave. I wanted to do something I’d never done to add to my surf experience and have a tale to tell, so this worked. My boss at the time was a surf massocist and loved to surf Mavericks and tell me when Blacks would be biggest and do other terrifying things like paddle into waves, like literally paddle into places you should really drive or Jet Ski to. I took the bait. So in the dark at 5 a.m. I started paddling through the open ocean on a Brock Little 9’0″ gun that I found hanging on the wall at the magazine (don’t tell anyone that part) with my brand new 5′ 8″Channel Islands Proton dragging behind me by my leash. The idea was to paddle the longer board then stash it on the beach and ride your shortboard. Kind of a grueling novelty but it sounded kinda rad.
That day it was like 8-foot and pumping. The sun started to rise and I was nailing it. Tranquility on a summer’s morning before the chaos of ISD and I would be tube wasted and psyched by 9 am, telling stories of my glory at San Onofre beach cleanups by noon. And I did the core way: by paddling in. It was all going to plan until a rogue 10-foot set came and broke on my head. It broke where waves are not supposed to break. There’s even a break wall and I still to this day do not know how waves could break where I was. But they did. Top to bottom. I’d never paddled a board that big either and it hadn’t been waxed since it’s last Waimea session in the ’90s so the board slipped through my hands immediately and dashed itself onto the rocks a few hundred yards in. Did not see any of this coming.
I gathered what was left attached to me and paddled up to the rocks of the jetty, dodging mounds of whitewater and attempted to climb up as waves hammered the jetty. I held on to my board and scaled the jetty and got to the Brock gun. I then get it off the rocks and jump off, scrambling back out way further than before so no wave could ever do that again. Couldn’t believe I pulled it. I paddled the rest of the way to the spot, arrived only to find my left fin completely torn off — mangled with glass ripped up all down the bottom of the board. Unsurfable. It was the saddest paddle back ever.
Later that day my leash broke at San O (perhaps the only time in the history of San O that this has happened) and I had to swim in no less than 2 miles to retrieve it (breaks far out there). And ever since this, I don’t surf on International Surfing Day, much the same way I don’t drink beer on St. Patricks Day. When you do something every day, there’s no need to do it on the day you’re supposed to. I now leave it to the marketers and the amateurs and the kids. Instead, I like to pick up some trash and think about all the great memories I have surfing on every day except this one. My day of fasting if you will. Because to me, surfing never really needed a day. It’s got my life. I’m cursed by it every single day and I wouldn’t change that for anything. —Travis