Reflections of a Surfing Cowboy

David - Redlands, California
Entered on September 4, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

This I believe, that two icons of the American West define the essence of my life—the surfer and the cowboy. I am a “Westerner” and I practice and preach the dogma of both lifestyles. I am increasingly convinced that surfing and cowboyin’ are strikingly similar. I feel fortunate to be living during a time that I can ride fiberglass and leather in the same day. My core values are grounded in the ways of the surfer and the cowboy. Both cultures allow me to live a distinctively Westerner way of life. From the two cultures I have developed my own commandments. The greatest of them are:

I. Thou shall persevere. Every surfer wipes out and every cowboy gets throw’d. As a surfer or a cowboy, I get back on and ride again.

II. Form shall follow function. Surfers and cowboys believe that “form follows function.” The shape of my surfboard determines its performance. Whether longboard or short board, “gun” or “nose rider,” single fin vs. tri-fin, each board has its own form and corresponding riding characteristics. Bright colors and radical graphic design may please the eye, but they have no bearing on the performance of my board. As a cowboy my tack follows the same rule. Every detail of my tack serves a purpose, i.e., spade bit vs. snaffle, Short lariat tied “hard and fast” vs. long reata “sliding leather,” Silver ornaments are secondary to function. As a surfer or a cowboy I prefer to get ‘er done rather than look the part.

III. Thou shall go with the flow. Surfers and cowboys ride with the forces of nature, not opposing them. As a surfer I “hang loose” when my own strength is no match for the power of a wave. I work with the wave, not against it. As a cowboy I “stay loose” when my own strength is no match for a bucking horse. I do not force my will on uncontrollable forces working against me.

IV. Thou shall enjoy the little things. To a surfer on his board or a cowboy on his horse, at any given moment, nothing else matters. I pause to enjoy the moment like when as a surfer I sit on my board and the smell of the ocean fills my lungs. I squint into a Pacific sunset and see dolphins swimming through the reflection of the sun on the water. As a cowboy on my morning ride, the smell of sage fills my lungs. I squint into the sunrise and discover a newborn foal still steaming from its birth. As a surfer or a cowboy I take the time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

V. Thou shall have hope. As a surfer, I hope for the perfect wave. As a cowboy, I search for greener pastures. Every day I have the courage to dream. I follow my dreams and enjoy the ride along the way.

This old surfing cowboy remains faithful to this dogma. If I am looking for answers, I search not for the man sitting with crossed legs. I look, instead, for a man with knobby knees or bowed legs. Perhaps I’ll discover the meaning of life.