Friday, October 31, 2008

Oceans and Human Health

Yesterday I attended a symposium at Monmouth
University sponsored by the Urban Coast Institute
entitled Oceans and Human Health.  It's a yearly event
and one that always gets me thinking. The presenters, 
mostly eminent oceanographers and marine scientists,
talked about things like sediment flow,
toxic chemicals, the great values and uses of chemicals from
the ocean and its creatures.  They focused on physical sciences.

Being a social scientist I began thinking along a different track.
What is the impact of our Oceans and our psychological/emotional
health and well-being?  We all know how being at or in the
ocean makes us feel but what do we know about the impact of
an ocean in trouble?  What is the impact on us of an ocean that
itself is not healthy? Might our psychological and emotional well-
being be linked to the the health of the ocean?  I know how upset
I get when I see trash in the water, brown or red algae blooms,
dead fish floating, or sewage.  I know how bummed I get when, after
a rain, the beach is strewn with plastic.  I know I feel different
looking at clear, clean blue green water than I do looking at
water that looks brown.  How about you?

Guess I'll have to look for a research grant.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Two days of great surf.  Offshore winds, beautiful warm late 
October weather with the sun shining and the water still a bit
above 60 degrees.  How nice.  After a pair of 3 hour sessions
on Sunday and a 2 hour session this morning I feel great or as
a friend in the line up put it "contented".

That same friend and I had a long talk after we got out of the
water today about contentment.  Too many people are not really
happy with what they have, with where they are in their lives, with their
jobs or their marriages.  So many folks fool themselves into thinking
that contentment comes from something they don't have, that it
comes from "stuff", from things outside of themselves.  We talked 
about a friend whose marriage is failing because of the lack of satisfaction
because of lack of contentment.  One of the partners has a "bucket list" of
things the feel they must do to be happy.  That list includes places to see,
trips to take, stuff to get.  Too bad it doesn't include the really important
things.  The ones that truly lead to contentment like friends, family,
health, something you believe in, something and someone you love and
who you know loves you.

Sure the economy is bad, my house hasn't sold, my retirement investments
have taken a nose dive, but you know what today put me in touch with?
My own contentment.  I've got a job I love, a great wife and family. my health,
and I've surfed 8 hours in 2 days...I'm a happy man.  What about you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The surf girls get wetsuits

In the continuing fun of watching and reporting on my 2 
friends who've taken up surfing this past summer I'm pleased
to announce that they are now prepared for colder water. 
Their wetsuits have arrived!  

It's so much fun to watch stoke as it grows.  The simple act of
buying a wetsuit, so commonplace to many of us, when seen through
the eyes of the "surf girls" was an exciting adventure that helped them
get through the early October flat spell.  Here on the east coast surf shops
don't stock a lot of women's suits.   Styles and sizes are limited at
even the best shop.  Our girls solved this problem by hitting the road.
They stopped at virtually every surf shop in a 25 mile radius checking
out different styles and sizes, making shopping fun.  In the process they
discovered that trying on wetsuits can be difficult and sweaty job!

After the shopping road trip they hit the internet.  I've learned a thing or 2 
from their research.  They found a shop willing to ship a number of
suits of varying sizes and from different manufacturers for free!  All they
had to do was try the suits on, pick the one they wanted and send the others
back.  How cool is that?  Oh I forgot to mention the 20% discount they got.

Seeing the familiar through the eyes of others can be fun, helpful, and
even therapeutic.  Try to see the world through the eyes of someone
you're having problems with.  It may take away some of the anger.

Now if only I can get certain talk radio hosts, tv political commentators,
and candidates to learn this lesson we'd all be better off.  We could move
from the antagonistic, venomous, hatred that has become such a toxic
part of this presidential election process.  

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Seasons change

Yesterday and today clearly signaled a change.
The high temperatures won't get out of the 50's
and the brisk NE wind is making it feel a little too
chilly.  True dawn patrols, the ones at first light
before the sun actually comes up, 
while most of the neighbors are still in bed,
and the only others around are a few fisherman, won't
be happening (at least not in NJ).  Those pleasant
twilight sessions with the lingering conversations as we stroll
back to our cars are done for a while.  Now folks will be
scurrying to turn on the heat and quickly peel
off  their wetsuits.

Seasons change.  Surfers are often more acutely dialed in to the
small and subtle changes.  Each season brings its' own unique qualities,
each helps us enjoy the others. A quiet weekday session with a few
friends watching the geese fly south is special.  A hot cup of coffee being
sipped while checking the surf,  a knit cap pulled over your ears, 
UGG boots warming your toes are all part of what makes fall different, special
in its' own way.

Enjoy each season of your year...each season of your life.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Different tools for different jobs

Some things are really hard to believe.  I live 2 blocks
from the ocean.  Thanks to both a love of the ocean and
a waist line that hasn't really changes in decades I've got
quite a collection of boardshorts.  I don't think I'm unique
in that respect.

One of my neighbors, a hyperactive home
renovation/construction guy, is going to take a trip to
Puerto Rico in  few weeks.  Those of us who know him
are all wondering what he'll do as he's not the type to fish,
swim, snorkel, surf, or see the sights, although he does enjoy
rum.  What's so odd is that, although he lives 2 blocks from
the ocean he does not own a bathing suit.  He has a truck and
garage filled with any and every tool needed to build or fix
anything related to a house, but not one pair of boardshorts!
Nothing to wear to go into the ocean.

Each of us gather the tools of our trade or passions.  We are
all different.  I gathered together a few pairs for him to have for
his trip.  Oh yes, the lawnmower and edge trimmer in my garage
are from him.  Embrace the difference, laugh and learn from
those who are different.  Laughing and learning are better than
judging and being critical.
all different

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Reflection and introspection

Surfing isn't all about action.  For those who are
not surfers that might come  as a bit of a surprise.
As surfers we often check out the ocean from the shore
starring, watching, waiting, thinking.  Out in the lineup 
we really spend a fair amount of time quietly watching
and thoughts frequently wander beyond the next set.  
We've all sat in the ocean looking around, enjoying the
perspective from that vantage point.  We've all found
our thoughts wandering away from the waves.  Sometimes
those thoughts are meditative and reflective.

Today is Yom Kippur the holiest day in the Jewish year.
It is a day for introspection, and atonement, a chance
to mindfully look and account for our actions and thoughts.
The day also includes time to remember and honor those
who are no longer here.

As I walked the beach today checking the surf I had, what is
not an uncommon experience for a surfer.  I had a chance
to be quiet, to look around, to reflect and atone.  It's not all
about catching waves!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Simplicity and Happiness

I've been surfing the waves of Puerto Rico for over
30 years.  I love the proximity, the warm water, the
waves, and most of all, the people.  Whenever I spend
time at my place in Rincon I am reminded why, in a recent,
study the people of Puerto Rico were rated amongst the happiest
in the world.  I'm also reminded of just how far from simple
many people have made their lives.

It's a just another Sunday here in PR.  I spent an hour sitting 
talking to a friend on his porch in front of his gallery.  A few
customers stopped in,  a few other friends stopped by
to chat,  and quite a few more beeped and exchanged pleasantries
as they drove by.  Under a big tree my neighbors have begun
playing dominos.  My wife is feeding leftovers to some neighborhood
dogs.  A mother, father, two kids, and their dog are strolling up
the hill after a walk along the beach road.

What are you busy doing?  Is it really that important?  What are you
 in a hurry to do today?  Her in Rincon it seems that simplicity and happiness
go hand in hand.  Maybe we all can learn that lesson.