I grew up body surfing local beaches near my childhood home in Seal Beach, California. I wasn’t very good, but I was decent in my late teens and came to really enjoy the exercise. Seal didn’t have the hollowed-out barrels of Huntington just down PCH, but it also didn’t have the congestion of territorial surfers proudly riding “Doc” Lausch or Harbour surfboards. I even owned a Jack’s longboard for a while, but never really mastered it. I simply preferred to swim out and ride the small stuff. It was a little more personal, just a more intimate relationship with the ocean. Living now in Tennessee, I sometimes miss it.
But in my 20’s, I met a man who was paralyzed from the neck down. Jack Rushton was confined to a mechanized wheelchair that regulated and monitored his breathing, whirring and wheezing like a wheeled Darth Vader. An accomplished waterman, one fateful day while body surfing, the wave flipped him vertical and he landed directly on his upper neck. Friends pulled his limp body from the water and performed CPR. He was quickly life flighted to Hoag Hospital (the same hospital where my first daughter was born, overlooking Newport Harbor), and put on life support. There his wife and children received the news that he would never surf, swim, walk or breathe on his own again.
Amazingly, he chose to convert his life into one of inspiration, and dedicated himself to professing hope in light of affliction. Unfortunately, my only takeaway was to give up body surfing (at least at Newport’s infamous “Wedge”). So when I spotted this video by Fred David, I immediately thought of Jack, wondering if only he was wearing one of these ridiculous Sumo Tubes would things have gone differently. Sure, this story is far more morose than the raucous fun these guys are having around Hossegor in south West of France, but that’s what came to mind. It’s the very last Friday of 2016 and I’m just phoning this one in today, anyways. Enjoy and have a safe and Happy New Year.