I want to introduce you to one of the bravest and selfless people I know. It’s not because he was a paramedic and involved in saving multiple lives, which he was. Or a volunteer firefighter who gave up his free time to help others, which he did. Or that when his family members battled several cases of cancer and other deadly disease, he never wavered and was always there to lend support, no matter how much he himself was hurting. You see, Dave has his own hurtles and challenges to navigate. His lottery ticket wasn’t punched with endless riches, instead it drew the number .0002, which is the percentage of Americans living with Parkinson’s Disease.
Shaky Dave is a surfer. In the truest sense of what that means, he represents everything good about paddling out. I have known him for many years and shared several fun sessions with him. He is a fixture at the surf shop and loves to tell stories about waves he’s caught or rock concerts he has seen. His story is one that should be told and I asked him to write a blog about himself. Here is what he wrote:
“I didn’t start surfing until I was 38 years old and was surprised how hard it grabbed me. Before that, I was into all the typical sports. I played in both adult baseball and basketball leagues, I loved football and even wrestled. When I started surfing all that stopped. Surfing seemed to give me everything I was looking for and more. Competition, adrenaline, but also a peace and relaxation I could never find in those other sports. Once I started, I knew I would never stop.
At the age of 45, I was sitting in my recliner and the small toe on my left foot started to twitch. That was the first sign. Shortly after that, my whole foot started shaking. This was followed by my right hand and eventually all my extremities. In April of 2008, I was diagnosed with Parkinson ’s disease.
I knew eventually I would lose my job as a paramedic and have to go on disability. Life was going to take an extreme turn and not just for me, but for my family. I was concerned how we were going to make it financially. I was worried I would become a burden on them. As time passed, I also started to worry about having to quit surfing.
Surfing keeps me calm and in the moment. When I paddle out, I forget about life’s worries. I stop thinking about my disease. All I worry about is catching the next wave. That’s been getting more and more difficult as I get deeper into my condition. I can no longer catch as many waves as I use to. I’ve learned to be more selective on the one’s I go for. It’s now more about quality rather than quantity. In the end I don’t ride as many, but it still allows me to stay in the ocean for as long as I can. That’s all I really want to do.
I have also started to find the joy in watching someone else surf. Listening to the hoots and hollers when they get a good one. Watching people’s faces light up and the joy everyone is having out in the water. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people from all over the world through surfing. Eventually, we always talk about my Parkinson’s. Everyone is super supportive and encourages me to keep surfing for as long as I can. I don’t know when I won’t be able to paddle out. Right now, when I get done with a session I am so exhausted I usually have to go lay down in my van to catch my breath before I take off my wetsuit. My sessions are getting shorter and my wave count decreasing, but I still want to surf as much as I can.”
The beauty of surfing is that even though Dave’s time in the water is limited, the ride is so good it doesn’t discourage him from paddling out and believing he will catch the best wave of his life. There are only so many set waves left in all of our lives, his just happens to be less than most people. This doesn’t upset him or change his mood, ever! He is always smiling and ready to tell or listen to a joke. He tackles his disease head on and owns it. That’s why his nickname is Shaky, he knows his hands shake and doesn’t try to pretend they don’t. It’s who he is. We can all learn a lot from Dave, and that’s why I look up to him so much. He is fearless and an inspiration for anybody who meets him. Thanks Dave and let’s go catch a couple waves soon!