THERE IS ONE PARTICULAR SHOP OWNER who American Windsurfer Magazine always manages to offend. He is a likable guy, high ethics, family man with a devoted religious conviction, but this magazine always seems to find a way to ruffle the man’s moral feathers.
From the infant days of the magazine, this highly-respected shop owner made it clear to the editor that he would never advertise in the magazine if we published a photo of a scantily-clad woman he saw in our early prototype. We published the photo and never pursued him for advertisements. When we put the photo of a naked North Sails president on the cover, the retailer returned all of the magazines; when we interviewed a former world champion male windsurfer who lives now as a woman, he returned the magazines and cancelled the shop’s subscription.
But time heals all and in time, his shop renewed its subscription only to be offended again. One more time, the magazine was thrown out of the shop and we sat on the sidewalk scratching our heads.
We respect the convictions of this particular shop owner and understand that he has an ethical position he feels he must enforce. Cynically, we can’t help but welcome his reactions against us as a red badge of courage earned.
Since we saw the writing on the wall from the very first issue. We had the foresight not to play into his realm of my way or no way by becoming dependant on his shop’s advertising budget. Thus, our freedom to express and his ability to restrict has never been an issue. Nor do we expect that our freedom to express our reality will truly impose or falter his belief system. Even though our hope was to inspire, complement, even strengthen his beliefs.
Ultimately, the challenge is to recognize that there are many ways in life; many tastes, many belief systems, and we must respect the ways of others. The act of imposing one’s way onto another is a restrictive act that must be carefully scrutinized and guarded against if freedom of choice is to be championed.
Recently, a friend took me to Waddell Creek, the famous wave sailing site in Northern California. Though I knew he was no expert, I was horrified to learn that this windsurfer had never learned how to sail in footstraps. (For those who are unfamiliar, a windsurfing board has a set of footstraps that allows the sailor to hook their feet into the board for stability and control at high speed.)
He sailed all afternoon and by the end of the day, during our drive back to Santa Cruz, this friend was ecstatic. To him, this had been the most exciting windsurfing day of his life. He felt not only proud for having the experience of sailing at Waddell Creek but was totally convinced that every windsurfer should take a lesson in surfing before sailing in waves, just like he did. I agreed with him, even though, I thought to myself, he did not know how to use the footstraps!
Later that week, I described the senario to some other friends who are more accomplished windsurfers and they concluded that the man was crazy. “How could he possibly go wave sailing without first learning to sail in footstraps?” they wondered. “And how could he have enjoyed it?” After further discussion, a sobering realization came to us. The man had had the best time of his life and that was what counted. It didn’t matter how fast, or with what equipment, or how proficent he was. What truly mattered was that he loved it!
Who are we to judge?
— John Chao