No, that’s not Beach Bum & Sea Nymph in the picture. I’m no spring chicken but I’m not quite an old turkey - yet.
There's a venerable Irish saying wishing health, wealth and happiness for you that would be suitable to pass on (belatedly) as the year kicks off. Unfortunately, it is so old I can't remember it exactly. Pondering those three attributes, however, has me wondering if the traditional "sláinte" (health) wouldn't really just suffice? As Virgil said (in Latin presumably), "the greatest wealth is health" and certainly, without a body that more or less functions as you want it to, happiness is rarely, if ever, even close behind.
If all this sounds a little "heavy" as we get into 2010, it's because I've seen 2009 end with a series of friends & acquaintances - online and "off"- coming to terms with some serious health problems.
Jonny, my old surfing buddy back in Belfast - was finally diagnosed with MS – several years after developing a range of symptoms that were assigned to just about every other possible condition, except the one he actually had. It was only when he started shuffling round the corridors at work looking like man with a hangover from hell that he got referred to the neurologist he should have seen three years ago.
Then I’ve been following, first with alarm, and lately (since he got through his operation OK) with relief the bum health hand that Alex Wade at Surf Nation was dealt when he discovered that on top of the potentially paralyzing condition of “cervical myelopathy” – medical shorthand for “crumbly spine bits” – he’d picked up a dose of Lyme disease to boot. For a man who’s been told he may never surf again, he’s dealing with the pain, the recovery process and the need to dose himself with enough drugs to keep a small pharmacy in business with admirable stoicism and humour. I’ve not met Alex personally though I was about to paddle over and say “hi” when I spotted him sitting out the back at Sennen late last Summer. Weirdly enough, I got diverted into helping out when a holiday maker's head said "hi" to a surfboard and developed what’s referred to in beach lifeguard lingo as a “suspected spinal”. Surf Nation has moved from the Times, via a co-operative venture with A1 Surf and now carves it’s own solo spot - which rather suits it IMHO. Tune in and follow Alex’s mission to get back to surfing.
Lastly, just a few weeks before Christmas, one of our friends from the Surf Lifesaving Club was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even writing that sentence seems somehow trite as if words could contain what must be one of the hardest things a woman gets to hear from a physician. She’s already had surgery and starts her chemo treatment in a few weeks. But she’s courageous and fit and will get a ton of support from all of us.
Actually, the chap in the photo above is Dr. Dorian Paskowitz, of whom you can read more here. For Dr. Dorian, there’s no doubt that surfing has contributed to his health and longevity. “Surfing is a metaphor. And indeed that’s just what it is, a pillar, a post to tie health and lifestyle to.” For some of the people I mention above, the jury may remain out on that thought for a bit yet. Personally, I’ll resolve to whinge less about my minor ailments so I’ll settle for “sláinte” and hope it finds it’s way to you all this coming year. (And Dr. P - just to make it clear, I wasn't calling you an old turkey - honest!)