The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: “Surf’s up!”

May 14, 2012
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      Ever do anything really risky?   Really daring?   Really dangerous?

     As in really stupid?

     I myself have always kept my many million mistakes in the small-to-medium range.   And that includes sports mistakes.   I never did push the injury envelope while playing life’s games.   Never been bungee jumping or skydiving or drag racing.   Never liked motorcycles.   Never swam two miles in ice-cold sea water.   Never saw much point in mountain climbing.gmac1

     One time in 2005, in Mazatlan, I did walk with my then-9-year-old son up the steep steps to the little stone platform where the local teenage Mexican boys dive 50 feet into the Gulf of California.   I didn’t think anything about it at first.   They way those kids scampered up those steps in their slippery wet bare feet for two or three measly bucks per dive made it seem safe enough.   But when I got up there I realized—much to my horror—that it was a 50-foot drop on either side of that platform to the jagged rocks below.   And that there were no safely railings to hold onto.   My kid and I had to crawl back down those steps.   Backwards.   Slowly.   So that was pretty scary.

     And the other really scary thing I did was surf.   Just once.   It was in Hawaii, way back in 1970.   I was 14 years old.    I didn’t think much about that at the time either.   I couldn’t wait!   A kid grows up watching young men not much older than him, in 60s “beach” movies on TV, hangin’ ten, impressing all the cute chicks with their balance and skill, he doesn’t give it a second thought; I mean it looked so easy.   Well, seeing myself as a real-life Moondoggie in search of his own Gidget, I rented a board on Waikiki Beach, paddled out, timed the first little wave that came my way, stood up….looked down….and there were all these big fat rocks right below the water’s surface!   Y’see, nobody told me about that.   My surfing career lasted all of six or seven seconds.   I paddled meekly back to shore.

     So now, 42 years later, when a guy recently set the world record for surfing the biggest wave ever successfully surfed, the Sports Philosopher took notice.

     Check out this video.   It’s beyond ridiculous:

     The name of the 44-year-old surfer in the video is Garrett McNamara.   And the gigantic wave holding his very life in escrow is SEVENTY-EIGHT FEET HIGH.

     Doesn’t it look exactly like the monster tidal wave in The Poseidon Adventure that swamped and flipped over the big luxury liner, wherein Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, and Red Buttons were trying to enjoy a relaxing New Year’s Eve cruise???

     McNamara’s wave, off the coast of Portugal, bettered the previous record of 77 feet by one foot.   It’s official.   They determined the exact height of the wave (allegedly) by using the length of McNamara’s shin bone and applying some fancy mathematics.   That’s what they said, anyway.   And in the end they decided it beat the previous world record surfing wave by 12 inches.   Give or take.   hmmm….seems like a far-fetched way to measure a wave, huh….

     But who am I to argue?   Let’s see.   Based on the length of my shin bone, I estimate the height of the wave I refused to ride back into Waikiki Beach at about, oh, three feet.   Give or take.

     Anyway, surfing never was and never will be among my favorite sports or favorite anything.   But when a guy has the cojones to even try something so singular and spectacular and stupid, much less succeed, attention must be paid…..  

     So that’s why have I spun this little parable about the history of surfing, from Brad Eastland and Waikiki to Garrett McNamara and Portugal.   A strange column to be sure.   They can’t all be about football, baseball or basketball, or about Kobe, Tiger, Phil, or Favre, or even about the proud and non-repentant and always amusing Mr. Metta World Peace.   It’s a good change of pace for we writers and you readers to step outside of our mutually-shared sports comfort zone.   How else are we going to learn anything about the rest of the world?   Variety may or may not be the spice of Life, but it is most assuredly Kryptonite to Boredom.

     Well done, Garrett.   Well done, you heroic chowderhead you.   Next week maybe we’ll go back to writing about conventional heroes like Josh Hamilton, assuming his absurdly tattooed arms are still belting out home runs at a video game pace….

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0011

Brad Eastland is an author, an historian, a film buff, an undiscovered literary savant, and a big fan of guys who try to surf the big waves …. as long as he’s not one of those guys.   Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.   His columns on very old and very underappreciated movies can be found by clicking Arts & Entertainment, then clicking ’Upon Further Review’.   Brad has also written 4 fine novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack, of triumph, and of utter despair, entitled WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for that title on,, or   And then order it.   And then READ it.   And then tell everyone about it.   And then read it again.   He thanks you.   





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