Paddle Out Before You Tap Out
By: G.P. Scheppler
Images by Nick Betts
It’s that time of year again, when no matter how many buddy phone calls we make, how many push-ups we do, some of us still choose to tap out early. I get it, life during the holidays is stressful under normal conditions. Sandwich a pandemic in an election year with the second wave of shutdowns and it has never been easier to slip off the radar by losing touch with your peers, oftentimes with deadly consequences.
If what I am putting down is making you nod your head right now, consider paddling out with the tribe at One More Wave before tapping out. What’s the worst that could happen?
The principles of the 501-(c)(3) charity organization are pretty simple; Stay in the boat, surf with the tribe, stay accountable, stay active, always stick around for one more wave.
Every third Saturday a motley crew of veterans paddle-out together into surf breaks from San Diego to Cape Cod sporting go-pros and custom surf access solutions. There are even chapters popping up thousands of miles from the sea that surf with tow ropes behind boats. Paddling out with them is the ultimate rush, nothing comes close to it, it’s 100% pure adrenaline.
It starts with the asymmetrical rhythm of waves kind of like a Tool song fused with salt-rich waters clouded by sand and bits of chopped seaweed. It makes for a nurturing soul-soothing bath after a brief period of getting beat down by the white water. Then you learn to fly along the physical expression of surface tension; that’s writer-surfer talk for a wave.
Once the momentum takes you, physical limitations get overshadowed by the rush. Add in a dash of supportive people with a common experience and you got yourself a One More Wave meet-up.
Let’s face it, the seeds were sown for the Mattis generation to love surfing as a pack decades ago.
Remember watching baddies rip off banks across Southern California led by the Bodhisattva, aka the late great Patrick Swayze, and spending the next three weeks hopping over imaginary teller counters and doing kick turns on an Ocean Pacific skateboard? Or was that just me, a kid living on a farm hours away from the nearest surf break in northern California?
I couldn’t have been the only one inspired by the Ex-President’s sporting shotguns, fiberglass, and Sex Wax as evidenced by the generation of heavies who rushed out of schools when doom came to 200 Greenwich St.
Two decades later with the wars shutting down, allegedly, a wild & weary generation of vets seem to find themselves on the outside looking in. For those of us with untreated physical and mental issues, this makes us “great at parties”’ or just not invited. No one wakes up aspiring to ruin a family gathering, but listening to people complain about first world problems when you spent last Christmas in the third world makes anyone feel like Johnny Utah in an FBI office.
Don’t get me wrong, I have made enough scenes to fill a Netflix series in my day, but how many times can you watch the joy get sucked out of the room when you speak before a change has to be made. They don’t make chest seals for those kinds of wounds, though they should.
So when I tell you that joining this merry group of pranksters could save your life, know that I speak from personal experience.
You see, I enlisted in 2009 after working in the entertainment industry which is a fancy way of saying I edited digital content, crewed commercials, drove around MMA fighters, dated women of ill repute, and generally sold my soul for success—or at least the illusion of it. While some of you were kicking doors and catching rounds, I was getting lap dances at work events and working the reverse shift cloistered in editing bays from 2100-0500.
The experience left me a husk filled with guilt for not enlisting sooner; the Towers never stopped falling for me.
Two years after my discharge in 2013, my life was a dumpster fire that I thought could only be doused by swimming out to sea and never coming back. A real Watermans’ way to go, or so I told myself stumbling down a sand dune at the tip of the Red Triangle.
Going from active duty directly into the California state school system was some Win Hoff hot/cold shit, which eventually made me stronger but almost killed me in the process. I left a country in love with war culture and returned to one jaded by it.
Fueled by booze, self-loathing, trauma and a death wish I tumbled to the water’s edge on a night the full moon hung high over Monterey Bay. I was ready to leave but the tribe that brought me back.
A burnt-out log made the perfect seat for one last joint, and as I scanned a couple of websites looking for any reason to stay alive, I came across Grifter’s words on suffering.
My eyes worthless from the tears, booze, and wind-whipped sand made it a struggle forcing me to make a second attempt to complete the masterpiece that is Long Division when my phone rang.
It was Joe Jackson from One More Wave, just checking in and asking me when I went surfing last.
The power of fellowship kept me ashore that night, but it has been the community of accepting wild children who have made me feel ready to rejoin the world since then. Seeing men and women at different stages of the journey, learning and growing with them, and meeting vets who are where I want to get to inspires me to keep coming back.
So before you tap out this holiday season, paddle out with one more wave first. At this point, what do you have to lose?
A note on the application form. Disregard the section asking why you need custom surf equipment if that doesn’t apply to you, we are looking to grow our fellowship not just our rider team.
“You haven’t figured out what riding waves is all about, have you? It’s a state of mind, it’s where you lose yourself and find yourself, and you don’t know it but you got it. I saw it in your eyes.”
Written By G.P. Scheppler
December 21, 2021