No Fear: Surfing, God and America’s Playground

It only takes a few minutes of listening to Richard Brueckner talk about surfing until you realize Brueckner explains so much more than surfing. He talks about America’s optimism. He rejoices in what really matters to the human soul.

It describes the greatness of God.

“The nature of a surfer is a spiritually connected person,” says Brueckner. Surfers “are people based on faith and experience rather than people based on fear. If they were fear-based people, they wouldn’t do sports.

Cast off the fear

Brueckner, 49, sees surfing not just as something he’s done since he could walk, but also as a rejection of fear – especially the COVID panic that has gripped the world for the past two years locking. I talk to him in his law office on the second floor of a two-story building on 63rd Street in Ocean City, Maryland. On the wall opposite his desk is mounted a green surfboard, which he uses every morning before work.

Brueckner is not just a surfer, but a DWI lawyer. You read that right – when he’s not surfing, he spends his days defending people who got caught driving to Ocean City to party. He also teaches a surf and life class at a local college. He’s one of the few people you meet who you can tell really cares about helping others. Which does not mean that Brueckner is a monk. His immaculate white Porsche is parked in the driveway just outside his office.

Fauci’s reign of error (T)

We met because I’m on the DelMarVa Peninsula on the east coast of the Mid-Atlantic region writing an article about surf gear sales during the pandemic. Unlike everything that has been shut down – except maybe skateboarding – surfing flourished during Fauci’s reign of terror. When people felt trapped inside, they found a safe escape into the ocean. Sales of surfboards have exploded. I wanted to write a story about a fun activity that became popular during a shutdown.

I had more than that. Brueckner is a smart and charismatic speaker, not just a surfer, but an evangelist. He preaches about surfing as a way of seeing the world that contradicts not just COVID paranoia, but the other trends that have made America’s culture war such a cheap, mean, and superficial place. He’s the anti-resentment revivalist a country enslaved by Twitter and petty politics needs.

Faith-Based Water Sports

“If you like surfing, you tend to be addicted to or connected to the spiritual world,” says Brueckner. “You are connected to nature. You are a faith-based person. Most surfers have no fear in life. We do not collect information from the news. We gather information from experience.

Then he offers this: “When you are there in the morning waiting for a wave, the sun comes up and a dolphin passes by, it is impossible not to know that they are connected to the universe. and that there are things that come out there much bigger than you.

Dressed in a crisp white shirt and orange tie – his court attire – Brueckner comes to my side of the desk. He swivels his computer so I can see the screen. It calls a website, magic seaweed, which gives local weather conditions and how they affect surfing. It’s windy and rainy today, but that will mean better conditions tomorrow when it clears up. “We spend our time looking forward to what’s to come,” he says. “You are still waiting for the excellent conditions ahead.”

A natural anti-depressant

Brueckner’s healthy mental outlook is common among surfers. There have been articles in newspapers, medical journals, and surf magazines about how sport is a natural antidepressant. “That natural feeling of euphoria after catching a wave comes from high levels of dopamine and adrenaline,” the surfer wrote. Nio Poniatowski recently. “Adrenaline increases our heart rate and causes our body to produce ‘positive stress’. This positive stress will condition us to deal with the stresses of everyday life. The chemical neurotransmitter, dopamine, is triggered when we do something we enjoy. It’s this natural high that gets you back in the water.

Surfers are unique in that, as the world has become a slave to the digital realm, they are decidedly old school. Several years ago, Peggy Noonan (I know, she’s too, too precious, but still) wrote a column in which she referred to “America’s playground.” Noonan meant that until very recently, Americans young and old had playgrounds that they used to stay balanced.

The children had real playgrounds, as well as parks, dirt roads, mountain bikes and long winding paths in the woods. Adults had dance halls, cocktail parties and, in the case of things like surfing and skateboarding, a shared area of ​​spiritual connection and fun with the younger generations. Nolan lamented the loss of these essential places years before COVID.

Banned from the beaches

For guys like Richard Brueckner, that playground has never gone away. The only time in our conversation where he looks exasperated is when he remembers the height of the pandemic. This is when various beaches banned people from surfing. “It was ridiculous,” Brueckner says.

The next morning, I get up early and walk down 35th Street, where Brueckner said there would be surfers. Yesterday’s wind and rain created perfect waves. Indeed, I see them, small dark silhouettes floating on their boards. As the sun breaks through the clouds, I wade in and begin to swim. I can taste freedom.

Mark Judge is a writer and filmmaker in Washington, D.C.

Harold B. McConnell