SUMMER ARRIVED this morning, inching quietly toward me from the East. I watched as the dawn of the solstice spread her pink light on the glassy Columbia below. It was a beautiful sunrise. Catch that? Months ago I would have seen the previous sentences as a windsurfing blaspheme. A true windsurfer cannot describe water as “glassy” and “beautiful” at the same time. But this summer is different. For me this is a summer without windsurfing, and I am missing it.
I will remember this as the summer of my discontent. I received the dismal forecast back in April: it was delivered by a distinct “pop” from my left knee. My aging anterior cruciate ligament finally quit after too many years of abuse from my sporting lifestyle. It happened quite unexpectedly: mid-turn, halfway down a steep, untracked powderfield in the Chugach Mountain back-country. I was up in Alaska, chasing a lifelong dream of skiing those world-famous peaks. The realization came even before I fell that I would not be windsurfing this summer. No jibes or loops for me; I was headed for surgery and months of physical therapy. In the blink of an eye I was beached, and, because of my location and profession, I knew I would be forced all summer to watch others enjoy what I could not—a beggar at a perpetual banquet. I think that was the true source of my howls as I lay crumpled on the side of that cold and lonely mountain. My pain was not physical, it was the pain of loss.
“Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone!” I belted along with the Counting Crows so prophetically last summer, as their hit single cover version of Joanie Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” blasted from my stereo. I remember driving to the Hatchery, the tune cranking away while I tried to pick out the guitar parts. I always listen for the riffs and solos because David Bryson, one of the guitarists in the band, is a former customer of mine [from the Berkeley Windsurfing days] and a great sailor. I remember ripping it up with him years ago at sunset in the Sacramento Delta, killing it on 4.0s at Powerlines and high-fiving each other as we came off the water. “Dude, we gotta do this again tomorrow!” I exclaimed. His face fell. “Aw, I gotta go on tour first thing in the morning,” was his dejected reply. Up until this point I only knew that Dave was some kind of musician, I had never asked, and he never offered, anything more. “What band are you with again?” I asked, thinking nothing could be so important as to miss tomorrow’s ebb-tide. When he told me he was in the Counting Crows I blushed. “Oh wow, I have all your records, that’s so weird I didn’t know.” The part that struck me, though, was that here this guy was, about to go and live the dream of being a major rock star, and all he could think about was missing the killer session we were going to have sailing the next day.
Windsurfing has that mysteriously powerful effect on people. Every wave, every jump—every turn of the board is different. And if you’re not there to experience it, you are missing it. Any time you are not sailing, any time there is wind and you have to work or be responsible in some way—you could be missing it. Missing it. Those two words cause panic and desperation in the heart of any addicted windsurfer, and they were all I could think of as I lay on the side of that mountain in Alaska, waiting to be carted off. I was going to be missing it for a long time. A summer in the Gorge without sailing is forever, and who knows how many forevers we have left?
It’s June, and the Crows have another smash-hit on the pop radio—“Accidentally in Love.” I’m sure that David’s sustained success has continued to cause him to miss it on the water more than he would like. It’s so cliche to feel sorry for the rich and famous, but in this case I do. I know now for the first time what it is like not to be able to windsurf whenever I want, not to let it become my whole life. Which brings me to my current dilemma. There is a man running for President who has the fire within him for windsurfing. As a US Senator and national leader he already has far too little time for windsurfing. If he becomes President, he will probably have to give up the sport almost completely—at least for his term. Although I believe in my heart that this is the right man for the job, can I, by casting my vote for him, in good conscience contribute to this man’s misery? To put him through what I am going through now on a daily basis? Four years is a long time to be missing it, but what if he gets re-elected? Eight years of hell. Although it would undoubtedly make the world a better place to have a windsurfer in the White House, the personal sacrifice Mr. Kerry would have to make to his windsurfing passion is enormous. I wonder if the Senator knows what he is getting himself into—all that he will miss, by not sailing all those moments he could have, had he chosen not to run. I wonder, when he wins, if he wins, if he will feel a hint of sadness; like that sadness I saw in David’s face when he realized that his success was going to take him off the water indefinitely. Like what I felt sitting in a hotel room in Anchorage waiting to fly home, knowing that my summer was already over. Missing it sure can be a heavy price to pay for chasing life’s dreams.