One More Wave changed my life.
In September earlier this year, I found myself staring at a blue boogie board in a wooden glass frame at an exhibit inside the California Surf Museum. The boogie board belonged to Tom Morey, a restless California surfer, and mathematician, who envisioned a better, more modern way to catch waves.
He took materials he found lying around his garage, macgyvered a rideable contraption, and brought it to his favorite surf spot in Kona, Hawaii.
“I could actually feel the wave through the board,” Morey later reflected. “On a surfboard, you’re not feeling every nuance on the wave, but with my creation, I could feel everything.”
He called it the Morey Boogie. This concept of belly-riding waves originated in Polynesian times, yet it took some ingenuity on his part one summer day on July 7, 1971, to reintroduce an acceptable but inventive bodyboard.
My first boogie board looked very similar. It became my favorite addition to weekend beach trips in Massachusetts. My blue foam boogie board had priority while my older brother and our friends piled Wiffle ball bats, nerf footballs, and plastic sandcastle molds into our parent’s back seats.
I’d spend the entire day in the ocean, riding small waves, always with a smile on my face. I’d scramble onto the beach to break for lunch for some sandwiches and sodas stashed in the cooler only to return to the ocean, eager to do it all again.
The connection to the ocean never ceased, though my proximity to it did. As we grew older, our family trips to the beach lessened. We went to lazy rivers in New Hampshire and the flowing sound of the water never felt uninviting. Swimming pools, ponds, and lakes were more frequent visits, yet the calmness of these bodies of water provided the relaxed mind state I searched for.
In college, I swam every weekday. Sometimes at 5 a.m. with the old ladies and early risers in our university’s Olympic-sized pool. Other times I’d swim twice a day. The workout was great, but the peace of mind I acquired entering and upon leaving the pool is why I returned so often.
When I graduated, swimming too lessened. My connection to the water nearly disappeared. Some life-changing events happened, my focus shifted to a career I had no experience in, and any sense of being present evaporated.
I started writing about everything. An attempt to find my niche, find my way without knowing a single professional writer. I had no guidance, mentorship, or training, except for a few high school and college creative writing classes to my name. I self-isolated and cut-off lifelong friendships. I drank too much, stopped exercising, and developed an unhealthy lack of purpose that began to spiral.
Then I stumbled across this non-profit that provided military veterans customized surfing equipment, unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Surfboards with handles, personalized graphic design artwork, tailblocks with .50 caliber brass inside, and other surprising flair. Starbucks had released a video feature on them, describing how three Navy SEALs combined their passions of surfing to meet the needs of their community. They called their non-profit One More Wave.
I browsed their website. I knew a little about the Navy SEAL founders from the Starbucks program, but there wasn’t anything available on the veterans they served. I sent an email. I received a response.
In early 2018 I was offered a chance to volunteer. An opportunity to interview military veterans who spilled their heartstrings out to me over the phone about why One More Wave has saved them. Teeming with the responsibility to tell their story honorably with respect and compassion, I finally felt a purpose again. A revival.
Our conversations were real and had an impact. We often explored discussions about the magic of reaching the flow state — a term associated with a completely focused mind where all other distractions vanish. I wanted to experience that focus again.
I felt a connection to this community even despite my lack of military service. All connected through the shared love of the water and the challenge of swimming, paddling out, and riding a wave. A community where the individualized aspect of style, either in equipment or just goofing out in the surf, is celebrated. A community where I can send a text or dial my iPhone and have a place to stay anywhere around the country, if not the world.
In fact, I’ll be in Hawaii for the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. When I received the news of this assignment, I was ecstatic. A military history writer in the presence of World War II veterans who had lived through the most defining moments in American history? Count me in.
When the phone call ended, among the first things I did was hit up the One More Wave surf chapter in Oahu. The excitement that builds up inside just on the possibility of hanging out with some old friends and meeting new ones is a feeling I hope others too can cherish.
It dawns on me that I will have the opportunity to prone-surf a boogie board in the same waves as Morey once did five decades ago. Doing so beside veterans and civilians fulfilling their purpose, finding their happiness, and expressing gratitude in the beloved community founded by One More Wave.
Some spend their entire lives trying to find that unique sense of belonging.
I have found mine.