Monday, December 31, 2007

The Savior's Love and the Sissy-Stick

Though I live in AZ now, I was born and raised in Southern California. The following is a true account of one of my experiences growing up. Dan Olsen

Kevin and I drove to the surf shop anxious to see the custom surfboard just finished for me. The workshop smelled of resin and fine Styrofoam particles, illuminated by light streaming in through the window, hung in the air like lazy snowflakes refusing to hit the ground. The surfboard was gorgeous in every respect except one.

The tip of the surfboard was covered with rubber, making an otherwise stylish surfboard look like a sissy-stick. “No worries,” I told myself, “I’ll take it off later.”

A massive swell beat down on the Southern California coastline the following Saturday. Spray flew off the back of the waves as they crashed one after another, and salt air assaulted our nostrils. Donning our wetsuits, we looked at each other with a sense of anticipation, and started to paddle out into the violent surf.

My arms felt like spaghetti as I crested the last wave and passed through the kill zone, that area right in front of the crashing waves, where you don’t want to get caught as you paddle out. Unable to rest long, the entire horizon rose up letting me know that a wave fast approached. Exerting every ounce of energy, I paddled into position.

I turned my surfboard toward the shore and thrust my arms deep into the cool, blue water. I paddled hard, fueled by adrenaline as the swell picked me up. My board slid up to the top of the wave, paddling furiously, my board started to slide down. I placed my hands towards the top of my board and shoved hard, attempting to pop up to my feet. Too late, I recognized my folly.

My energy spent and my strength gone, my arms slipped off my board. I fell headlong in front of it; my momentum turning my body so that as I sunk below the water’s surface, the nose of my board walloped me right below my eye.

My head exploded in pain. Death’s long tentacles reached out to claim me and for a moment I thought I would slip into oblivion and its cold embrace.

Breaking the surface of the water, my lungs screamed for air and my head felt like someone pounded on a drum inside of it. Placing my hand over the right side of my face, a crimson stain covered my palm and ran down my wrist. I uttered a silent prayer as I began to panic. Seeing another surfer about twenty feet away, I called out to him. He glanced in my direction, but was unwilling to come to my aid.

Comprehension dawned on me that I floated in the kill zone as three more waves broke in rapid succession before me, each one, putting me through the spin cycle of the ocean’s massive laundry machine.

Disoriented and unsure of what to do, but knowing I couldn’t stay there, I cried out to my oldest brother, Kevin. If he heard my voice, I knew he’d paddle right into the kill zone for me. He was my brother, and I knew he loved me. Then I swam towards the shore. A few more waves pounded me without mercy until I finally realized that my leash, still strapped to my ankle, meant that my surfboard floated nearby. Pulling myself onto it, I held on for dear life and waited for the next wave. Whitewater enveloped me, but I refused to let go. My board sprung out in front of the wave and I rode it, defeated, on my stomach. Reaching the shore, I lay on my back hoping that Kevin had heard my plea. Soon he appeared, and relief washed over me.
He told me later that he hadn’t heard my call but felt impressed, that he needed to find me. My short but sincere prayer had been both heard and answered.

I called the surf shop about a month later. I let the builder know that I hadn’t wanted the rubber tip on my surfboard, being more concerned with image than safety. I thanked him for not asking my opinion. He explained that he no longer attached rubber tips, too many customers felt like I used to.

To this day, I believe that the tip was an answer to a prayer that I hadn’t even offered yet. Words can not adequately express my gratitude for the presence of the Savior, and my oldest brother; The One hearing my plea for help and letting the other know to come find me. I’m so grateful for God’s love; it is everywhere present. Without the rubber tip, the nose of my board would’ve driven itself deep into my eye and skull. The rubber tip on my sissy-stick saved my life. Each new day is a wondrous blessing and gift from a loving Father in Heaven, who patiently waits for us to call out to him in our times of need. He is ready and anxious to speak with us.


Candace E. Salima said...

Isn't it amazing how the Lord prepares us for the upcoming events we have no knowledge of . . . I feel His hand is in far more than many in the world give Him credit for. I'm glad you survived that incident to be writing this blog today.

Dan and Wendy said...

I am sure that when the final tally is made, it will be obvious to everyone that the Lord saved as many people as possible, because like you say, His hand is more involved than anyone gives him credit for.

I'm lucky to be alive, but grateful that I am, because I think that there are still positive contributions I can make. I get great mileage out of the surfing experience in Sacrament talks...