Mar 23, 2013

Surfing Nostalgia

A beautiful and heartfelt article written by a man to whom I can relate.  Many dream of being a surf writer, and many of us surfers define ourselves by our sport.  This article shows an interesting evolution of this concept by writer Roy Harrell.

Almost 10 years ago to the day, I began to write this weekly column I called the Surf Report. At the time I had recently rediscovered the joys of surfing after a sabbatical of quite a few years, and rather naively reasoned that everyone shared my enthusiasm and would appreciate a weekly newspaper column dedicated to the sport of surfing. Some 520 columns later, I find myself looking back on a paper trail of a big section of my life. My children grew up in this column. My son, Roy, was 12 years old when I started. He’s 22 today.

During that decade of writing I bared my soul. I sent dispatches from every surf trip, every surf contest, every week, no matter where I was. I got up in the middle of the night in Hawaii to get my article in before the 8 a.m. deadline in order to compensate for the five-hour time zone difference. I tapped out my stories in Internet cafes in strange cities long before the days of WiFi. I’ve written from the Bahamas, from Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, California, and just about every state on the Eastern Seaboard.

I don’t know what drove me to do it. It certainly wasn’t the money. I got paid the same ridiculous pittance for 10 years without an increase. I guess you would have to say I did it for the love of surfing. I never was really that good at it, but boy, did I love it.

At one time the column was printed in as many as five different papers, reaching from Assateague to Salisbury, to Seaford to Milford. And thanks to the Internet edition, I heard from critics and readers from all over the world.

Back when I first started, the Delaware buoy was our only forecast and reporting tool. Nowadays, there are multiple sites that offer hourly forecasts, updates, and several surf cams strategically positioned around Delmarva. My article posted a week after I wrote it with generally no pictures. It was hard to compete. So I didn’t. I wrote about what interested me and hoped that it was interesting to others as well. Funny thing is, I think a lot of people that never surfed a day in their life found it more interesting than many surfers ever did. Little old ladies I met in the grocery store loved it.

But today is going to be my last Surf Report. Oh, I still love surfing, but maybe not quite the way I used to. Once upon a time, even though I wasn’t a very good surfer, I defined myself first and foremost as a surfer. I would have to say that isn’t the case anymore. Today, surfing is something that I do, it’s not who I am.

In fact, incongruous as it may sound to some of you, who I am today is a pastor of a small church called The Beach Fellowship, which I started here in Bethany several years ago. I worked a number of side jobs to support myself in that, and the surf column helped some in that regard. I still surf on a regular basis, and hope to continue for another 10 years at least. But I write a to a different tune nowadays. And I can only hope that I write better sermons than I did surf columns. I imagine they are just as confrontational at times though. I invite you to visit my church, which meets on the beach in Bethany during the warmer months at the end of Ocean View Parkway, 8 a.m. Sundays or you can visit online at

There is an old adage popularized by General MacArthur which says “old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” Undoubtedly, you will still see my old red Suburban parked at North Side or down around 36th Street from time to time. But hopefully I will be surfing with a sense of relief, a bliss of anonymity that escaped me all those years when I was writing. And maybe, from a surfing point of view at least, I can finally just fade away.

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