Why We'll Always Catch One Down The Beach - Stab Mag
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Art by Noa Emberson/Joystain

Why We’ll Always Catch One Down The Beach

The Misc: To the left of the stand.

Words by Brendan Buckley

I grew up with dogs, but Levon was “my” first dog. 

Briefly, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that many of you don’t care about dogs. You might think they’re slobbery, dirty, costly, time-demanding. That they destroy your belongings. That they smell. None of these things are necessarily untrue, and their sum could leave you struggling to comprehend why a person might welcome such a thing into their life, let alone share a bed with them. 

But for some of us, it feels natural. And I promise this email will meander towards surfing at some point. 

Anyway, it’s nice to have another being outrageously happy to see you every time you pop in the door. Likewise, it’s fun to witness them extract such great pleasure out of something as simple as a neighborhood walk.

Better, though, is the sense of companionship you develop. The kinship. The feeling that you’re in it — whatever it is — together. You develop a set of customs, rules, boundaries, practices. And like any good relationship, it doesn’t have to make sense to anybody but those involved. 

I’ll never forget the first time Levon sat on the beach while I surfed. He was a few months old, and we were camping on a stretch of Californian coastline where fog seems like a permanent feature. I left a towel on the beach for him, which he used as a home base. He’d check some shit out on the beach, chase some birds, do whatever, then return to the towel and stare out into the ocean. I was surfing a wave close to shore, and he’d run down the beach and chase me down the line every time I stood up. Lee wouldn’t budge for other surfers. He somehow knew it was me. 

Even as a puppy, he had this calming presence. I felt like he knew when I’d hit a rough patch. I felt so deeply that we were a team.

One day, Levon and I met a woman and we all got along well. We continued to take trips up the coast, into the fog. He seemed happy to have some company while I surfed and she became my wife. Five years ago, an opportunity for us to live in France emerged. We decided to take it, and decided that Levon would be better off staying with my parents. He’d have a yard, another dog to play with, a semi-retired father, a beach. An exceptional life, really. Much better than cramming into a third-story, one-bedroom apartment with two people who work full-time jobs and travel frequently. 

A few weeks ago, my parents called with bad news. Levon hadn’t been eating much, so they took him to the vet and learned he had cancer. It was bad. Treatment options were more or less non-existent. The writing was on the wall. 

A night or two later, I had the most vivid dream I’ve had in years. My senses felt awake and the details jumped out at me. The dream progressed in a linear fashion instead of chaotically jumping around. 

In my dream, Levon and I walked from my parents’ house to the beach. That wouldn’t be abnormal, except it was summertime and there were people everywhere. In New Jersey, where my parents live, you have to pay to go to the beach in the summer — and there are people who sit at every access point to make sure you’ve done so. Dogs are very much forbidden, and I feel certain that a part-time cop high off the fumes of power would try to cuff you for even looking at the sand with a dog in tow. In the dream, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we would be stopped. But we just kept going. And when we got to the beach, we did something strange. 

I’ve entered the beach here thousands of times in my life. Every time, I walk to the right — there’s a jetty over that way, which creates a great wave, which is still to this day my favorite place in the world to surf. But in the dream, we went to the left. We walked through throngs of beachgoers — still, nobody stopped us — and ended up meeting the ocean on a foreign stretch of sand to the left side of a lifeguard stand, which goes in the same place every summer. 

Levon and I played in the water and I developed a tingly sensation of warmth throughout my entire body. It also felt like there was a golden light shining above/into the top of my head. It was fucking weird. Never in my life have I experienced anything like it. The dream ended there, in the water. I woke up, and it was the middle of the night. I didn’t feel sad or anxious. I felt a strange, deep calm. 

Levon passed away a few days later. 

Some people think that dreams grant us access to some mystical realm, one that’s always there but normally unseen because our minds are so caught up in the ongoing task of survival. Others think they’re a consequence of our brains’ bizarre way of processing and storing information we’ve been exposed to. I don’t know. 

What I do know is that every time I surf my favorite wave, I’m going to paddle down the beach and get a wave to the left side of the stand. 

Surfing is a thing that we do. But somehow, accidentally, inexplicably, it becomes so much more than that. It becomes a lens through which we view the world, even a tool we use to chip away at the unknowable. 

And now that I’m crying, here are the Stab Premium stories of the week.

Stab Highway Presented By Monster Energy, Episode 2 
In case you missed it, Episode 1 of Stab Highway aired on our YouTube last week. The rest of the 8-part series will be exclusively on Stab Premium. To refresh, 16 surfers formed 4 teams and are given 10 days to complete 30 challenges between a potential 892 beaches on a 1590 kilometer stretch of coastline. But you’re not here for the math. You’re here to watch surfers do some really fun shit. 

A Chance Encounter With One Of Surfing’s Greatest Minds: Derek Hynd
Leave your fin keys at the door for this one, folks. Stab’s youngest writer, Ethan Davis, randomly ran into Derek — who is 40 years older than him — at The Pass in Byron Bay. E watched as D got the wave of the day, which left him curious. So, he tracked him down at the place where you can find most 60-something-year-olds these days (Facebook) and requested an interview. A fascinating chat ensued. 

Prepare Yourselves For Another WSL Wildcard Fiasco
We all know that every single surfer on the planet agrees with every single decision the WSL makes on both a micro and macro scale — in the eyes of the fans, the League can do no wrong! Sarcasm aside (for now), the rules award wildcard delegation have recently been changed. Instead of going off the rankings, the WSL now makes the call based on whatever the hell they feel like doing. Click above for a full breakdown. 

When (And Why) Did Booties And Hoods Become Cool?
Sports journalist BDPS is currently researching a piece that will dissect the correlation between wearing less neoprene and being more of an alpha. Until then, mull on the fact that wetsuit accessories (see: booties and hoods) sales are growing at a rate faster than wetsuit sales themselves. Hmm. This is an interesting read for any rubber enthusiast.   

Did You Know The WSL Has A Pension Fund?
Did you know that a wealthy English philanthropist pumped two million dollars into the ASP just for kicks and kept it alive many years ago? Did you know that pro surfers own 10% of the WSL? Did you know that they have a union? Did you know that gaseous emissions from volcanos formed the earth’s atmosphere? Come, friends, and learn. 

Comment of the week: 

Just imagine the reaction this would receive. 

One last thing: 

Trusting that you’re at the best possible option and suspecting that you’re at a less-than-ideal option are two equal but opposite forces that exert their influence on you at different times.

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