Harness The Momentum
I recently watched the HBO documentary series 100 Foot Wave that follows surfer Garrett McNamara on his quest to find and ride the largest waves on the planet. I’ve seen plenty of footage over the years of big wave surfers at legendary spots like Jaws, Teahupoo and Mavericks but this documentary brings the viewer behind the curtain and provides the opportunity to understand the mindset of this unique group of people that literally put their lives on the line for a rush that’s gone in a flash.
After criss-crossing the globe several times, following swells and storm surges, McNamara stumbles upon a hidden gem in Portugal. A small town along the coast, Nazare, is home to one of the rowdiest surf breaks known to man. Gigantic waves created by a huge underwater shelf that creates an unpredictable and inconsistent beach break.
The waves are intensely powerful and shake the ground - causing doors and windows on local residents homes to rattle and creak. McNamara looks at these waves and although he is aware of the dangers he sees through it to the opportunity. He’s a VISIONARY. He knew that this break was special and it was going to become one of the world’s most famous surf spots.
He works with the locals and invites a few other big wave riders to come help tow him into these monstrous waves. For McNamara, surfing is just as important as breath. He doesn’t view it as a simple leisure activity - it is absolutely, 100% his lifeblood. And he’s not alone. Surfers from around the world start to arrive in Nazare and eventually it becomes exactly what McNamara knew it would be.
In a lot of ways he reminds me of my Brother Casey who has dedicated his life to lacrosse. Casey eats, sleeps and breathes lacrosse. He loves thinking about it, talking about it and most of all playing it. Again, he doesn’t view it as a game - to him it's his identity and his one true passion.
A small example from over the weekend:
For Memorial Day this year our family got together at my parents house for a cook out. I pulled into the driveway and noticed that Casey had set up a SPEED lacrosse field in the side yard, complete with a score board and sound system. We played lacrosse until dark. The guy remains wildly in love with it in the same way that Garett McNamara does with surfing. He views the game totally differently.
I’ve always been fascinated with surfing. I think part of it is because I grew up in the woods, surrounded by pine trees and trout streams. I was hundreds of miles away from any ocean break so for me surfing felt otherworldly. As a young kid I’d watch these clips of people riding giant waves and it just felt so far away - may as well have been aliens on the moon. At the time I felt no connection to it at all - that would soon change.
After college I started to travel and see the world. Most of my travel was centered around lacrosse. I would find myself in beautiful parts of the world playing in tournaments, visiting retail stores, teaching the game, etc… For five straight years I lived out of a suitcase and spent most of my time in airports and hotels. It was a lot of fun for me to cruise into a new place like Western Australia, Mexico or Malibu and immerse myself in the local culture for a day or two and then push off. It was almost like I was on a miniature Bourdain-esque adventure.
Several of these locations were located near the ocean and quite often I was invited to go surfing. So I’d go. Admittedly, I was never comfortable in the big water and therefore never any good at surfing at all but I found out something on these surf trips. Surfers were my people. I would sit and listen to surfers talk about surfing and I could relate. It was almost exactly the way that I looked at lacrosse. They talked about it less as a sport and more like an art form. Using words like visualization, style, spontaneity, creativity and imagination. That is how I have always thought about the game of lacrosse - through that lens.
Surfing culture is communal and the activity is just as physical as it is spiritual. In my personal opinion, surfing is the most closely related activity to lacrosse in terms of it’s origin, it’s approach, it’s lifestyle and it’s equipment. It’s much more than a sport and to define it as such simply falls short.
I’d like to further explain these similarities…
Like lacrosse, surfing has some seriously deep roots. Cave drawings dating back to as early as the 12th century clearly depict Polynesians riding on waves. In Hawaiian culture the sea is viewed as a deity and the ancient Polynesians were most certainly comfortable in the water. Surfing was and still is a major part of Polynesian life and religion. Many believe that the early Polynesian warriors used the activity to train the mind and the body.
It’s meditative and mind clearing. Most surfers choose not to participate in competition and instead enjoy the simple purity of finding peace riding inside the momentum of the sea. Surfing is less of a battle against others and more of an inner challenge within one’s self. This is certainly true with my personal approach to lacrosse. I know there are lacrosse players out there that will do anything to win and beat someone else, but that is never what drove me to play with heart. It was the challenge I had with myself to play better and experiment with more wide open creativity. The night before games I would lay in bed and visualize certain plays and situations.
There were certain moments in games - like when I’m waiting for the whistle to blow on an in bound at X or when I carry the ball way up to the midline to initiate a dodge - those are moments that I’ve envisioned and already played out in my head. Those moments, for me, are the lacrosse equivalent of a surfer paddling into a wave. You go in with a plan and then you react to what nature throws at you.
I’m certain this has to do with the strong historical aspects of the two activities, but surfing and lacrosse both have the ability to creep into the way that a person lives their lives. It doesn’t stay on the water or the field, it stretches far beyond into a person psyche and effects the way in which they conduct themselves in everyday life. There is a deep connection surfers share with other surfers and the same can be said about lacrosse players. The family and communal vibe found in both cultures creates a bond like no other. There are certainly some players and surfers out there that are exceptions to the rule but a majority of lacrosse players and surfers are well wishers and root for one another. They just want to see good runs.
You may be a bit confused on this one but for me this similarity is undeniable. Of course no lacrosse players wear a leash or carry a board on the field. No surfers come out of a barrel with a stick, but there is an area that shares a strong connection. That area is in the art of board shaping and stick stringing. Both show personality and preference. The board is the most necessary and personalized part of surfing. The same can be said about the stick in lacrosse. Wood selection and shaping of the earliest surfboards was ceremonial and spiritual. It was full of soul. It’s not just a plank of wood to a Polynesian. Sound familiar?
Hand shaped boards, although now a different and more modern medium, still have that soul and connection to the way it used to be. Shapers are still celebrated in a big way. The same is true of the stick makers.
*MUCH MORE ON THIS TOPIC TO COME
Some of my closest friends are surfers and I’ve talked a great deal with them on the above topics. One of those friends has a unique perspective because he just so happens to be a lacrosse player and a surfer - I’d like you to meet Billy Kelly.
Born and raised in Bayshore, New York, the Long Islander has a strong relationship with both lifestyles which I find truly fascinating. BK and I became fast friends when I first met him many moons ago at the AB Bowl (Oceanside Rotary Skate Park) in Atlantic Beach, Florida. I was shooting a short segment about the connection between action sports and lacrosse (apparently I’m still thinking about that connection!).
That night we sat and chatted about lacrosse and surfing. It was evident right off the jump that he and I shared strong similarities when it came to our appreciation of style and inventiveness. We talked about our favorite lacrosse players and surfers. Never once did any stats enter the talk - it was purely a conversation related to those unique people that we admired for their commitment to pushing the envelope and fearlessly chasing innovation. The Originals - the Visionaries.
Billy along with his wife Linda have owned and operated Stitches & Screens, the prominent full service screen printing and embroidery shop located right in Rat Town. BK is totally blue-collar, bad ass and has a real passion for creation. Stitches & Screens has handled nearly all of our screen printing and embroidery needs since the start of this brand. If you’ve got a Powell shirt, it was printed by BK, Linda and their squad down in Jax Beach.
I have a lot of love for the ancient art of silk screen printing and really admire the work of the folks that do it right. I have picked BK’s brain over the years and he has walked me through the process several times. It is one of those things that seems very simple on the surface but becomes incredibly technical and detailed once you really understand the craft.
When I designed the Visionary print I knew I wanted to try printing it on flat stock - make it into a poster. It’s a very simple and straight forward design that’s a bit abstract. It’s not your typical lacrosse tee shirt. It was made to work with perspective as the text suggests.
This print is a salute to the innovators. The envelope pushers. The time travelers that have the ability to not only see into the future, but possess the ability to arrive there before anyone else.
For a limited time only, every Visionary Tee sold will ship with a hand pulled poster on 100lbs French Paper. Only while supplies last.