Young, Dumb and Tan

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I don’t know when it all started, but sometime over the past ten years people have come to know me as a young, dumb and tan surfer kid who is going to spend the rest of his life doing nothing but drinking beers, catching waves and wasting his days away at the beach. Although this is the dream most all surfers have, it is not the reality in which we live, but simply a stereotype that all surfers have to face. Stereotypes wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have some truth to them, but the down side is, once you fit into a group that has a stereotype, people start to label you with those characteristics. For example, just because I enjoy the sport and lifestyle of surfing, people classify me as an uneducated rebel who is lazy and spends every second of every day in the ocean surfing. I am here to tell everyone this is false. I have attended school my whole life, have always been very respectful, have always followed the rules and worked hard. I am as much of a law-abiding citizen as everyone else. Just because I find peace from the pressures of the outside world through surfing, doesn’t mean I’m some kind of beach bum. The truth of the matter is that somewhere along the road, someone decided that all surfers will be known as sun bleached low life’s who don’t have stable jobs, have low education and won’t amount to anything in life. I am here to defend the good name of surfers everywhere and show that the “Surfer Stereotype” doesn’t fit the description for all surfers, including myself.

People have placed me under this stereotype ever since I could surf, but I never thought about it or even noticed that people thought this way about me until half way through my junior year in high school. I guess it all started when I first found my love for the sport. It was in third grade and I had just moved to San Diego; everything was new to me including the favorite sport of the popular kids at my elementary, which was surfing. I had never surfed before, but the second I rode my first wave I knew that surfing was going to be my kind of thing. It took a board and a lot of practice before I was accepted into the surfing community and things really kicked into full gear. Once it did, I had built such a love for the surfing lifestyle that nothing was going to ever turn me away from it. Surfing had everything I needed. It was an escape from the stress and pressures of school and parents, it was a place all my friends and I could play and have fun, it provided a way to get physical exercise, it had athletes to look up to and inspire you to progress and even allowed us to get some free products and discounts on boards from local surf shops. Surfing provided me with the perfect lifestyle; sunny beaches, cute girls, good waves, good vibes and no stress, everything a kid could ask for.

I have always been fairly good at school; I was no honor student but I always knew I was capable of doing the work and getting the grades. I might have goofed off here and there and got in a little trouble, but I never did anything extreme. I was what you might call “the average student.” During elementary and middle school, people always asked me what I wanted to be when I was older, and I would answer with “I don’t know.” What little kid could know what they wanted his or her adult profession to be with all the thousands of possibilities? I might not have known what I wanted to be, but I always knew when I was older I would go to college, find a job and have a good life. Sitting drunk on the beach my whole life and working a minimum wage job at a surf shop was never a part of my adult plan, and I never thought anyone would view me as that type of person until a few weeks ago.

Recently, in school, each junior has been asked to take on the role of finding and working at an internship of their choice. The teachers said “These internships are a chance to look into a future career, so find one that your really interested in.” I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was older so I just picked the first thing that came to my mind, surfing. I picked an internship at a local surfboard-shaping factory, called Plus One Surfboards, where I would be hanging around the factory and help manage the company’s Facebook and Website. It was a perfect fit. Although working in the surfing industry probably isn’t what im going to do for a career, I still found a way to have fun during school by working with something I love. One day, before school, I ran into one of my mom’s good friends whose son also attends the school I go to. She had known me for a long time and knew my history and love for surfing. We began a normal conversation exchanging your average “hello” and “how are you” as we walked. The talk quickly changed to the subject of school and grades, then she asked me “So any idea where you’re going to college?” I told her I was looking at a few schools but didn’t really have a set goal. With a strange look on her face she then asked me, “Well have you at least found an internship?” I then told her about the surf company and what I was going to be doing. When I was finished she smiled and replied, “A surf company, that’s perfect for you! Especially if you don’t get the grade to get into a good school, a surf company would be an easy way for you to make some money and spend the rest of your life surfing all day.” My mood instantly changed from good to bad, we reached the front door and said our good byes, and I stepped into school with her words repeating in my head over and over again.

Why would she assume that I couldn’t get the grades to get into a good college? Why did she assume I would take the easy way out and work at a surf company my whole life? Why would she think I was going to spend the rest of my life surfing all day? I was mad and confused at the same time. Did she think I wasn’t good enough to get into a good school? Or wasn’t good enough to get a better profession just because I loved surfing? That’s like saying every person who likes hip-hop music will grow up to be a gangster, it’s not true. I never thought that I would fit into the stereotype of a beach bum, but I guess other people did. Just because I loved a sport, people judged me for something I wasn’t, and in fact, something I tried my hardest not to be. I spent the rest of my day thinking about the false assumptions and the stereotype my mom’s friend had placed me under, it grinded down my bones until I finally found a way to get over it. There was only one thing I could do, I couldn’t change what other people thought of me but I could change what I thought of my self. Why should I care what someone else thinks about me, when I get to decide in the end? I spent my whole day worrying what she thought of me, when I should have been focusing on how I was going to prove her wrong. I guess stereotypes are something all people have to deal with, even if you don’t fit with them you have to deal with one some day. And so when you do, just remember, you decide who you get to be and don’t let anyone tell you who you are.





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