There are Ground Zeroes and Pearl Harbors and Dresdens, places where we collectively bow our heads and gasp at just how unfathomably barbaric life can be. And then there are our own private versions of these.
In 1987 I was traveling the world as a professional surfer, reveling in the heady buzz that comes from weekly contests, supreme physical fitness, fratboy-like camaraderie with my heroes, heart-thumping gropes with radiant 19-year-old girls in Capetown night clubs, when I received the news.
“Your brother’s dead.”
These words delivered by a kid I barely knew on the sand at Malibu Third Point in a moment when I was peacocking after a career-best finish in the Stubbies Pro not 24 hours earlier.
I ran to the pay phones, called Mom.
Yes, it was true.
Four years later I was profoundly in love, career nosediving, trying desperately to shake off LA, family, my own skin. I’d been in Brazil for a make-or-break pair of contests in which I choked.
Jetlagged, cocaine-deluded, I called my chocolate-hued baby after a long hiatus and—well, let’s just say that it would spell the end of my first love, the end of my career, the end of all I’d been dreaming about since I was 14.
It was not only the same pay phones but the same actual receiver that delivered me these life-changing blows.