We promise this won’t (really) hurt.

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Close READER POLL 2017
We promise this won't (really) hurt.

Wanna win a new surfboard? We have a custom Chilli ‘Black Vulture’ to gift (plus all the trim you’d expect from a premium dealer). To be in the running, just answer a few questions for us. It won’t take long.

Advice For A Good Life With Sage Erickson

“Oh, my goshhh! Are you a professional surfer?” rings out from the across the parking lot on a dreary day in the Ventura Harbor.

The noise is shrill and excited; it has the rasp of a middle-aged woman living out her days in an optimistic fever, one whose past live(s) ran deep, dark and full of grief. She sprints over to Sage Erickson (and us) with an old, patchy Golden Retriever in tow.

Sage greets her with a smile, the surrounding crew and I follow suit. Confused, we drown in silence.

“Dear, can I give you a hug?" 

"Of course," Sage replies.

"That’s so awesome! You’re just freakin’ awesome, girl” the woman says.

A glance down her legs revealed smooth and cratered skin, burnt to the third degree some years ago. The scars run up her arms, her neck. Her eyes are glistening. They’re tearful, but none run down her cheek. Her smile radiates across a face that was once young, full of life, love, beauty, and, in a way, still very much is. Her energy is euphoric, the kind that’s longing for human contact, yearning for love, friendship and a second, third or even a fourth chance.

We mutter our modern niceties.

Sage breaks into conversation. She’s kind and sincere. Unprovoked, the woman explains her past.

She explains the sexual abuse, drug abuse. She points to a sedan, covered in rhinestones and jewels, where she lives with her “baby”–that same patchy, exhausted and adorable rug of a Golden Retriever panting at our feet. She pulls up her dress and reveals the burns; her skin, pale, smooth and rugged as the moon’s craters viewed through a telescope. She points to where her favorite tattoo of a pinup hula dancer once lived on her calf. She says she fell asleep with a cigarette in hand, spun out on a cocktail of substances she fails to name.

SAGE ERICKSON Steve Morissette 11

Interactions like these are how you become one of surfing's perennial sweethearts.

Photography Steve Morissette

It looks as if she suffered through a chemical explosion; but beyond the burns, and the ball of life happy as ever to be having the current conversation, anything else is speculation.

Miss Erickson professes snippets of her personal life. She speaks with candor and the whole scene revels in the bittersweetness of this transient bonding. It's that intimate connection with the sort of person who makes you feel human; the kind of person most wouldn't invite over for dinner.

She gives Sage another hug. The woman holds on tight, gripping onto her back for fifteen seconds too long and tells Sage she loves her. “Awh, you’re so sweet,” Sage responds and wishes her the best of luck–that if they crossed paths again, she’d love to chat.

We proceed into the shoot we came here for. It’s meaningless compared to the touch of reality which just occurred. But, Sage is here to work, she puts on her wetsuit, paddles out and surfs a few waves that are just short of non-existent. We photograph and film the Health-Ade product. We shoot the Kombucha bottle in hand, on a towel, in the sand — the usual brand logo hits that come with the content you see above.

When we return to the car, we’re greeted by the woman, again. The engine is running and the car's in park. She approaches the window.

Sage rolls it down. The woman hands her a piece of jewelry. It’s a ring, and it’s beautiful. It’s steampunk meets the ocean breeze with shells and pieces of sea glass cast together with metal and studs. The woman gleams and slides the piece onto Miss Erickson. It’s large and covers the back of Sage’s hand, wrapping around her wrist and connecting below the veins. The piece must’ve taken a week to make, and it is stunning, in a Pirates of the Caribbean way.

The woman's name has been forgotten (at least by the author). The memory remains.

Photography Eric Tomlinson

She wants Sage to have it. Sage explains she can’t take it. And the woman tells the importance of Sage having it, that she couldn’t give it to anyone else. The woman’s big, full brown eyes are wet–again, not a drop spills. Sage accepts and asks the woman if she’ll be around the Harbor over the next week or so. She says, likely.

Eric Tomlinson, who was with us on the shoot, rolls down the back window of the car. He thanks the woman and hands her a $20.

“I didn’t want any money for this,” she tells us. “I want her to have it, she’s such a beautiful soul and it looks perfect on her. But thank you. I will take it. We could really use this right about now.”

She gives Sage another long hug. She smells Sage’s hair and tells her she’s beautiful.

The woman thanks and thanks and thanks her...and us.

Before we part, she asks if we’d like to see her dance. “The kids call it flossing,” she says.

As the car backs from the lot, the woman gets in front of us and gyrates her hips through her arms, flossing her body in a way the Caucasian hip-hop kids admire.

Her smile is contagious; her shirt lifts, exposing her scarred midriff.

She dances. 

Then, with two hands, she blows us a kiss and waves goodbye.

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Click the triangle above for some cheeky life advice courtesy of Sage Erickson. However, in filming, interviewing and producing this short film, the above anecdote spoke the loudest about one of surfing's most genuine sweethearts.

Photography Steve Morissette

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