It’s a common question: what is a surfer? The answer varies, depending on your perspective. Here’s mine. To some it is an art, a sport, a religion, a profession, an addiction, something you do on vacation. Maybe it’s the biggest thing in your life, maybe it’s your entire life, or just an occasional joy.
Sydney Nelson Patton (1882-1976) was born into the world of another era. During his life he arguably witnessed the greatest change of any generation: when he was young he rode horses, trains and read by candles but during his life he saw the advent of electricity, radio, cars, airplanes, TV and he watched men walk on the moon. During his lifetime the world grew from 1.2 billion (1880) to 4 billion people (1975), he saw the US engage in five major wars, and he lived under 17 US presidents.
The year was 1987 and I was searching for a place where black abalone were largely undisturbed so I could complete my dissertation. The island was the perfect location: isolated, difficult to access, federally protected, and surrounded by seal- and shark- infested waters. During my first low tide on the island I was ecstatic: blacks were common and it was the perfect place to conduct a study but there were elephant seals everywhere.