I wasn't quite up the proverbial creek without a paddle, but I was sitting in the lineup at Queen's Surf in Waikiki—sitting being the operative word as I was in Hawaii on business, of a sort, and on this particular afternoon found myself riding what now amounts to a tiny conventional surfboard: 9'x22"x3". It was late in the evening and most of the tourists had long since returned their rentals; from Kalakaua's crowded beachfront watering holes echoed the din of a dozen Happy Hours. It was just me in the peak, along with an older local gentlemen and two Island girls, still chatting through their after work session. But then, right before I was to head on in, a guy paddled up next to me on a standup. He was no local—the lack of tan lines showed me that—but he did seem to know what he was doing, balancing deftly on what appeared to be a pretty short board. I looked up at him.
"How long's your board?" I asked.
"C'mon, don't hold it against me," he said defensively, in accented English. Aussie, maybe.
"No problem here, brother," I told him, nodding toward his craft. "I'm in the Brotherhood of the Paddle. Just that I usually ride a bigger board than that."
We began to share opinions on board design and technique and as we talked the lineup cleared, leaving just us two. We both rode waves by the light of the rising moon and hotel neon and then paddled back out to continue our conversation, strangers no more.
"So what are you doing in Hawaii?" I asked. "Vacation?"
He answered without a moment's hesitation.
"I'm undergoing a major life change."
He spoke like a man who needed to. Mid-30s, ran a successful advertising and marketing agency in Sydney (I was right about the accent) married, with a young daughter. Woke up one day to ask: "Is this all there is? Am I really doing what I want to be doing, am I all the man I really want to be?" Rethinking his whole plan, convincing a very accommodating wife that instead of a red Ferarri he needed to go on a Walkabout, ride some distant waves, clear his head. A week in Hawaii, then on to California, looking forward to paddling new waves; new experiences..
"New?" I asked. "How long have you been riding standup?"
"Not very," he said.
"Tell me," I asked. "How long after you started did you begin getting that restless feeling about your career?"
"Funny," he said. "It was right about the same time."
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Editors Note: editor-at-large Sam George writes the Pure Stroke column for every issue of SUP magazine. In the spring issue, he examines the beauty of being a beginner.