Once upon a time when I was young, I was attending a small community college outside Sacramento. I was trying desperately to be a ski racer. At the beginning of the season we did a time trial to determine everybody’s position on the team which would determine starting position at races. I was second fastest on the team and our team was known for having pretty competitive racers. While I never had a chance to make international competition, I felt regional success was within my grasp. As the season went on I had a lot of trouble finishing the races, when I finished I was usually in the top four, but I had only finished two out of seven races and I had moved down to an alternate position on the team. So here we are at the last race of the regular season. The team has already qualified to nationals for our conference, and I’m thinking it’s time to redeem myself and get things back on the right track. I think I started somewhere in the seventies, because of my low position on the team, and I moved up to twelfth after the first run. So here I am at the starting gate for the second run, thinking redemption is mine. With one run I could right everything that was important to me and get my ski career back on track.
The Gods, God , the universe, karma–whatever you subscribe to usually have a funny way of giving you what you need and not what you want. Well I certainly didn’t get what I wanted. I wanted to redeem myself and get back on track to a career in ski racing, what I got was a stunning slap in the face. A wake up from the dream of ski racing. Somehow I managed to blow out on the second gate. There was hardly a turn at the first gate, but I got off line, and right at that very moment I received my toughest lesson in life: Dreams don’t always come true.
It was clear to me it was time to throw in the towel, so without even falling at the gate, I skied down to the ski coach, handed him my pass, and said ” I’m done coach, I’ll see ya later”. I put my skis on my buddies car, walked out to i-80 and hitchhiked back down to Sacramento. I couldn’t even wait till the race was over. I knew I had to get away from it. When I get into things, it’s hard for me to kind of just do them. It’s all or nothing and I had just crossed over to nothing.
Although the reality of this decision was completely crushing, I knew deep down it was right, I just didn’t know how right it would be.
After settling back into the average college student’s routine of doing just enough work to appease professors and parents. And far too much hanging with your friends and partying. I had officially become lost. I was circling around–pointless on the hike of life. About two weeks into my recovery process from being run over by reality I received a phone call from my mom, who was on Kauai, saying that my dad was getting bored just sitting on the beach and wanted a buddy to do stuff with. So she said they would buy me a ticket to come to Kauai if I wanted. She didn’t need to ask twice, the following day I boarded a plane for Kauai.
At the beginning of the school year I had met a guy who also was into windsurfing. W e would go down to Rio Vista and windsurf together. I learned how to water start and if I could get my fins a couple feet out of the water, I was killing it. On the non-windy days I would read windsurf magazine and dream about windsurfing Ho’okipa like the rest of the windsurfing world. I must have watched “Tradewinds” a hundred times thinking how lucky the guys in the video were to be windsurfing in those warm blue waters of Maui. I came to idolize guys like Matt Schweitzer, Mike Waltze, and Robby Naish. About five hours into the flight the captain came over the intercom to announce we would be stopping first on Maui to let some passengers off, before continuing on to Kauai. On approach into Maui I had a window seat so I could peer out the window to see what was happening down below. I felt like a little school girl seeing Justin Beiber when I spotted Ho’okipa and could actually see the sailors going in and out through the surf. My eyes had actually seen the mecca of windsurfing, never mind even dreaming of going out there someday.
We bounced our way down the run way from the strength of the trade winds, like a basketball going in for a lay up. We rolled up to what used to be the baggage claim. Just a fenced in area with a slanted stainless steel table to hold the luggage. At the corner of the enclosure was a flag pole doing it’s level best to keep the American flag from blowing away.
Just like in a car accident where time seems to slow, I remember looking at that flag standing fully at attention and the frayed trailing edge whipping back and forth, and BAM! it hit me like a ton of bricks:
I need to be here.
That little internal voice that every once in a while, speaks to you, and it said loud and clear, ” this is where you belong ” . It was one of the most clear moments I’ve ever had in my life, where I didn’t need to waffle back and forth, or weigh all my options, I knew where I belonged. There have been many times since, with big, life changing decisions on the line, that I wished I had that perfect clarity.
When I arrived on Kauai and met my parents, I announced my new found destiny. They both laughed, but over the course of the next few hours when all I could say was ” I’m moving to Maui ” they started to realize I was dead serious. I told them I would stay in school, because like any good parent that was their first concern, and I did for a semester.
After a great week in Kauai I headed back to finish the last month of school. One of the first calls I made, was to my good friend Steve, telling him that I was moving to Maui. He said “I’ll do it if you do it”, so I announced “then you’re moving to Maui too”. I called my adopted uncle Pete to see if he could help, since he had been coming to Maui to windsurf for the last few years at that point. So after selling everything I owned ,including my prized Beatles record collection, I landed on Maui at 12:30 pm, July 2, 1985, and by 2:00 o’clock I was windsurfing off the beautiful coast of Sprecklesville.
When I moved to Maui I made one of those little deals that you make with yourself , like if you try this you get to have this, but in this case it was, stay for at least a year or until you stop having fun It’s twenty five years later and I’m still having fun. I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes a devastating failure can be the gateway to better things,. In my case it’s been good fortune beyond my wildest dreams, though unfortunately not the kind you can pay bills with, but the far rarer kind that fills life’s treasure chest with gold pieces of adventure that no amount of money can buy.
I hope you’re having that kind of fun. If you’re not, do something.