Whenever I get my Sports Illustrated, I usually flip through to see the major articles, scan the little blips, read something if it is Celtic, Red Sox, or Cowboy related, and then I turn to the back page and read the “Point After”. Until the last year, Rick Reilly was the author, but now they have a hodge-podge of columnists take turns writing the column. Last week, Chris Ballard wrote an article entitled “Dale Webster’s Endless Summer”. Dale Webster is a 59 year old man that has surfed everyday for the last 32 years.
Ballard basically hails him as a hero for following his passion. Beginning on September 3, 1975, a day that produced some incredible waves, Webster began his streak. 1976 was a leap year and he thought, why not keep surfing everyday until 2004? When that date rolled around, there was ‘Guinness Book of World Records’
representative on hand, media personalities were there, and surfers showing their appreciation all witnessed Webster going out and surfing for his 10,000th consecutive day. And the next day, even though no one else showed up, he has still went down and has kept the streak alive. What a streak, right?
But what has this cost Webster? His ear canals have been narrowed by the cold water, his eyes are bloodshot and needing surgery, and postponed his marriage to his long time girlfriend for over 10 years because Guinness wouldn’t recognize her as a witness if she was related. He has never visited his in-laws, because they live in Utah. He’s never traveled more than a day’s drive inland. He has no retirement plan, owns no house. Within the last few years, Kaye, his wife began feeling pain in her ribs and an x-ray revealed that they had hollowed out and were basically, as Ballard puts it, “driftwood”. She has multiple myeloma, a severe form of blood cancer.
Dale Webster says, “It started out as a string, then a streak, then a quest. Now it’s almost like it’s become a toll- how much it’s taken of my life.” Ballard observes, “It is his burden and his salvation.” The article ends with Webster saying, “We have this short time on earth- what are we going to do with it?”
When I finished the article, all I could feel was an immense sadness because this man has wasted his life. Immediately, my mind was taken to John Piper’s series, “Don’t Waste Your Life”, and how this man was a living, walking example of how recreation and hobbies can become so consuming and idolatrous. It seems like Ballard doesn’t really know how to react to it. Our culture would tell us to say, “Wow! You’re following your passion! It’s so wonderful to see a man that just chases his dreams.”
But I think our common sense tells us to say, “Wow, that’s sad. This man has sacrificed his entire life for the pursuit of a pastime.” I just feel like Ballard recognizes that this man has wasted it, but can’t come out and say that its all a waste. What stuck out to me the most was the man calling him his salvation, but what has surfing delivered him from? Where will this get him? To me, the whole story is just a sad depiction of a waste of a life, but the good news is that real salvation can still be found after 32 years of wasted opportunities.