"So which do you like better, surfing or video games?"
He paused, lost in thought. Seven years old and battered by the blizzard of distractions that make up 21st century life. iPad games, desktop games, YouTube videos about games. My nephew's attempts at conversation frequently start with elaborate stories about things that happen in virtual space, and I never have the slightest idea what he is talking about.
Earlier we had gotten a nice hour of ocean time, just down the block. We had brought our $8 boogie boards and a surf mat. The authoritative surf website called it flat. But it wasn't. We were getting sweet little early morning shorebreak, I was even getting some down the line rides. I could see by the huge grin on his face that he wasn't thinking about video games. After a good bit of this I noticed two friends were logging sweet lil peeling rights a little further out. I couldn't take it any more.
I threw down the Chinese boogie and ran. I ran across the street and hit up a neighbor for a log. By the time I got back no one was out. I must have caught 12 waves in less than 20 minutes. My nephew, in between whitewater rides, watched. On the way back the questions began. This is more or less how the interview went.
When did you start surfing? Oh, when I was 30. If I start when I'm 10, do you think one day I'll be even better than you? Most likely, yes. Did you start stand up surfing first, or boogie boarding? Stand up. Do you like stand up surfing better? I do, but the most important thing is the waves, what you use to enjoy them is up to you.
We get inside and have a bite to eat. Sitting at the table, he blurts out: I feel like I'm still surfing. What do you mean? It feels like I'm still on the waves. Ah, I tell him, you know what that is, that's a sign you're a real surfer inside.
Later, when he starts in on the god damned computer game babble again, I pop the question. He answers. R and I look at each other. I do a private little touchdown dance in my mind. Maybe I haven't saved his soul, but now he knows. I think.