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December 24, 2011 / Wave Tribe

I Shot My Cousin

“Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.” ~Ernest Hemingway

Two things will change your life, the books you read and the people you meet. 

This email tells you about one friend (and surfboard) that changed my life, and also suggests one book that may impact your life positively. 

I wanted to let you know a little more about my journey and how you fit into it, give you something to think about, maybe even something to ‘feel’ about.

That’s what friends are for, right?

Friends share stuff with each other . . . dreams, sacrifices, challenges.

I also wanted to thank you for being part of Wave Tribe’s journey.

It’s my little present to you for hanging with Wave Tribe.

So here it is . . .

I have been traveling to Baja, Mexico, since I was five years old.

My family used to have this ranch high in the mountains of the Sierra San Pedro, about eight hours from the US border.

My great grandmother came over from Norway with her sister Bernie Johnson, one sister went to Long Beach (where I grew up) and Bernie landed in the mountains of Baja, Mexico.

I am not sure about the details of her story but she must have been one wild woman to make a go of it in those rugged Mexican mountains. I do know that she originally went to Mexico looking for gold in the late 1800’s.

Ironically, generations later I would travel to Mexico looking for a different kind of gold, liquid gold.

But before my own internal gold rush, I’d spend my summers riding horses and shooting stuff on the Meling ranch in Baja and getting into trouble as young boys do. One summer, while hiking with two of my cousins, one of them said something that pissed me off. So I shot him in the leg with my pellet gun.

I think he still has that pellet in his leg to this day, sorry bro.

I spent many years in those mountains, but something would soon take place that would change the course of my life.

Back in Long Beach I was just a punk kid growing up playing football and baseball. One afternoon while chilling at the casa I got this call from my friend Dave and he said come over right now, you got to see this. He was super excited and stoked.

We used to call Dave Captain America because he wore this red, white, and blue wetsuit. Remember those in the 80s?

Anyway, I rode my bike over to Captain America’s house and there, perched up against the wall, was this 7’10” single fin surfboard called Crazy Horse.

People talk about love at first sight, dude, I experienced it right then and there.

It had this big-ass wild looking horse logo and I wanted it like nothing else.

Some how I got the money to pay for that board and it became my first.

I googled Crazy Horse while writing this and couldn’t find any trace of the shaper, if anybody has any information please email me.

I was still too young to drive, so on those summer trips to Baja my dad would drop me off at the beach, usually at San Miguel just north of Ensenada. Sometimes he stayed with me and other times he would leave me a tent and food while he went on to the ranch in the mountains.

I’d surf morning to night.

Nothing else mattered.

After I discovered the sea, those mountains where a forgotten memory—I traded a saddle for a surfboard.

First Baja Trip

Years later I turned 16, I got my driving license on a Thursday and that Friday we packed the VW van, my first car, and drove to San Miguel in Baja—the inaugural surf trip was born on that weekend and it would become a focal point in my life—Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Central America and Europe—I have surfed them all.

I have even surfed Cuba, Jamaica, the Galapagos and Azores Islands. Yea, places the tour does not go. Hit me up if you ever need advice.

What did I learn from all that travel?

Well, traveling takes you out of your comfort zone, it teaches you about yourself in ways that staying at home cannot—-surfing does that too.

What I love most about surfing (and traveling) is that it exposes your fears, it brings your character to the surface and, if you pay attention, it will help you understand yourself and others and you’ll gain a clearer perspective on life.

Yea this sounds esoteric but it’s a fact, and heck, I am allowed to be a little esoteric at Christmas, no?

I guess what I wanted to say is that you should get out there and travel, experiment with life. But don’t just do it haphazardly, be aware of what you are feeling and seeing and take note of how you move through life. In Zen and other Eastern teachings they call it awareness or one-mindedness. Check out Zen Mind, The Beginner’s Mind for a great read on this.

Surfing is a great time to practice awareness. When you are surfing, on that wave, driving down the line, in a way you disappear into yourself. Dancing with the ocean while riding the Earth’s energy is sublime and it’s that connection to something greater than us that makes us feel so alive.

Now that this year is coming to an end, you might be thinking about 2012, and I encourage you is to make plans to travel this coming year, you’ll be stoked you did. Also take some time to learn something new about yourself, become aware of that rogue set on the horizon of your life.

Thanks for listening, thanks for sharing the love for waves, and thanks for being part of Wave Tribe.

Oh, and Dave thanks for helping me get that first board, bro. Your friendship and that board changed my life.

Happy holidays.

Derek and Wave Tribe Crew

PS. If you do travel next year we’d be stoked if you took some of our eco surf gear along. (Now available in Europe & Australia direct.)


Leave a Comment
  1. David Miller / Dec 28 2011 12:42 am

    You are truly a life friend. I was driving down the line on a left from the outside all the way to the beach just yesturday! You know how good that feels. Good NW combo swell in our backyard right now, go get some!
    Dave. (Captain America)

    • Green Surfer / Dec 29 2011 4:07 pm

      The OG Captain America, thanks bro, see you soon in the water!

  2. Terry Fitzsimmons / Dec 29 2011 9:16 am

    Wonderful story Derek. Really enjoyed it and appreciate you. Telling those original stories is so revealing. Terry

    • Green Surfer / Dec 29 2011 4:06 pm

      Thanks Terry, I am glad you have been part of my journey.

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