April 26, 2012

Cris

I checked my watch.  Ten minutes to the T since the last time I looked and still 45 minutes to mid tide.  Closing my eyes,  I pushed off the ground with my right foot using the same attitude as if addressing a stray dog.  The hammock creaked violently.

“I can’t take this any more,”  I said sitting up in the midday heat.  ”I’m getting in the water.”

“Patience, patience.  Give it another hour or so,” Cris responded from a chair some 10 feet away.  Keeping his attention transfixed on cleaning the sand from a small sea shell with a pliers and needle, he continued, “the tide’s still too high,  it will be all closeouts.”

“I know, but this is killing me.  I can hear them breaking,”  I said grabbing my Fish from the rack and haphazardly wrapping the leash around the board’s keel fins.

“I’ll see you out there then.”  Cris looked up from his afternoon work with a sheepish grin, conveying at the same time both his disapproval and support of my eagerness.

I first met Cris in the spring of my senior year at the very same beach in Nicaragua. Escaping the cold New England winter, two close friends and I cut class for a week and headed down for some surfing.  Cris introduced himself within 10 minutes of us arriving at the beach.   Over the next week and a half,  we made fast friends.

Cris’s path to happiness contrasted with the one presented to me from elementary school on.  After serving in the Navy during the Vietnam war,  he worked for 35 years as the custodian of the Watsonville Post Office in central California.  During his time at the Post Office,  he took one class per semester at the local community college, studying topics from math to dance.  He surfed when he could and used his vacations for backpacking trips exploring the mountains of California.  Taking advantage of an early offer for retirement,  Cris had recently focused his energy back towards surfing and creating art in various mediums.  On a whim, Cris headed to Nicaragua for a month long trip by himself after seeing a show about the break on Fuel TV.

I grew up in a world where the path to happiness was an impatient focus on achieving financial and creative success.  At my college,  a small liberal arts school in Maine, my peers groomed themselves for careers as doctors, lawyers and investment bankers.  I wasn’t above this pressure, and before I stepped foot on campus my senior year,  I already had a design job lined up at Ralph Lauren in NYC.  
Cris’s patience and appreciation of surfing, meeting new people and enjoying the outdoors forced me to reevaluate my expectations.  It didn’t happen overnight, nothing worthwhile does.
The following winter,  I took off a week from work and flew down from New York with my younger brother to meet up with Cris and catch some waves.  Once again, Cris’s perspective was an eye opener compared to the cut-throat culture I was surrounded by in New York.  Two months after returning back to New York,  I started the process to leave my job.
Mark Twain once said that, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…”  I’m not sure if Cris knows this quote or not, but he certainly embodies the ethos behind it.

By the time Cris made his way down the beach with his fins and body board and paddled out,  I was worn out from battling closeouts, just as he had predicted.  His timing couldn’t have been better.  The waves shaped up and started breaking off the sandbars.   For the next three hours we took turns catching waves.  Cris did most of the wave riding and I did most of the paddling.  Maybe next year I’ll wait the extra 45 minutes.

Here are some more links,

Last Minute (Facebook).

 Phil took these water flicks.

9 Comments



  • April 26 , 2012

    Chris the Legend.


  • April 26 , 2012

    He sure is man. I look forward to us all hanging again.

    foster


  • Tim
    April 26 , 2012

    Beautiful.


  • Jason
    April 26 , 2012

    I was just down at Santanas last week. I noticed Chris in the water. Have never met him, but this is a great story. Thanks for sharing.


  • April 27 , 2012

    It’s always an honor to get a glimpse into a beautiful life you would never even know existed otherwise. Thanks for that.


  • April 27 , 2012

    Tim,
    Thanks for the kind words,

    Jason,
    How did you like Santanas? its a fun wave isnt it? Cris has that thing dialed. If your ever there again, say hello.

    Carissa,
    Cris is someone worth knowing about. Youre very welcome.

    foster


  • matt
    April 27 , 2012

    i eat tacos across the street from where Cris worked almost every weekend. awesome story.


  • April 29 , 2012

    You’ve summed it up really well Foster. Especially that anything worthwhile takes time to settle in. You are an inspiration mate.


  • April 30 , 2012

    Matt,
    ive driven by that place a few times. ITs wild to hear his stories about that place,

    Rohan,
    thanks man. youre a big inspiration to me too.

    foster