Quiz: Skateboarding, Surfing, Snowboarding, and Fly Fishing – what is the common thread?

Questions posed by a friend this evening over beers at a local watering hole stirred the pools of my mind. I say pools because there are so many items I tend to think over and/or through in my mind that I start to fill shallow pockets therein and allow them to grow into ponds and lakes within the caverns of space not already occupied with other long-range concerns.

Postulate this: “So with your history of hardcore punk rock, skateboarding, surfing, drugs, and general debauchery – when did it happen? What occurred in your life that leads you to where you are today? How did that counter-culture, anti-establishment, tattooed, and a pierced guy who at that age, I would have not gotten within 10 feet of without backup – turn into this person?”

This question was posed to both myself and a dear friend of nearly 30 years who also happens to live here in Bend, tattooed and pierced, loves punk rock, holds a professional job, and grew up with me skateboarding/surfing lifestyle provided to us. We immediately responded that there was no “One Thing” that caused this change for both of us. In fact, we started noticing that our entire life experiences lead us here and that we don’t consider this a “Final Point” but rather a continuing journey.

While others we traveled along that road has passed away, ended up in prison, or disappeared without a trace – it really is this simple: we survived. This fact has given us a vision of how to consume the community we live in to show that that the only thing worth knowing is what is inside the hearts of those we bring into our lives. Not what they/we wear on the outside, display on our skin, or even poke through it – those are meaningless. What IS worth knowing and teaching is seeing past those frail superficial items and providing relevant help and friendship.

We learned that our uniqueness gives us cause to break the visual stereotype we represent. To pass on the lessons we have learned is the most important thing to us, and we do this because that is the true nature of being human. None of us make it out alive, and that’s a fact. We learned along the way, and the discipline it provides us has built the tools we now use and pass on. To that end, we slowly took on different means to “Pay It Forward” somehow.

For my dear friend, it began many years ago with teaching kids the way of being a true waterman in the Junior Guards program and continue now with activities that tend to be water recreation-oriented. The Junior Guard program teaches lifeguard training for youth with water safety and environmental awareness as its core principles. Learning to read water, to understand its awesome features, and its deadly nature proved this: slow down, calm your mind, be patient, and you will find the way to navigate its treachery and embrace its beauty. You learn that you are just one of many beings who have, and will, enjoy this experience forever. You should relish in that and respect your role in keeping it healthy for the future.

For me, I have found it within this group. In searching for a means to engage and foster the community in creating a better future for our local waters, I noticed many like me who did not have a larger voice and platform from which to speak. Of course, many groups perform this function locally, but none of them seemed to provide the flavor these users needed. Luckily for me, some of them have decided to support this same notion, and I am proud to call them my friends.

So this counter-culture, anti-establishment, punk rock, tattooed, long-hair, the bearded protagonist in the battle of what a “Fly-Fisher” should look or behave like has one more thing to add. Our tattoos will not disappear; our taste in music won’t change; we will not compromise what makes us who we are to fit in and play the game under your rules. We are here to change those rules, change your concept of what it means to bring value to the community, and share with you the wonder that is inside us – not what your failing eyes see outwardly. We will do this with patience, understanding, and, when needed, the passion of our conviction.

That is my nature. That is what I have learned by scarring my body while skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, and thrashing in the pit of the music that inspires me to swim upstream and travel against the grain. That is why I continue to fly fish and develop my own style and individual technique in this sport and occasionally reach into your home to talk about being a better steward of our waters by setting an example for future users. It also happens that this is the nature of the fish I chase throughout Central Oregon. I have chosen to protect, conserve, restore, and sustain for those same users.

Our individuality has and will help shape the world we live in to be the change we wish to see globally. As a wise man once said, “It is important to foster individuality, for only the individual can foster new ideas.” Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you out on the water!