Rant & Rave

Tuesday, January 19, 1999

Competitive surfing
career no easy ride

By Fred Patacchia Jr.


LIKE most 16-year-olds, I am thinking about the future and what I'm going to do with my life. Unliked most kids my age, I'm already pursuing my career.

I've been in love with surfing since I was 7. I'm lucky because since then, surfing has taken me around the world, doing something most kids only dream about.

Some people say that I live an easy life, but I don't. I worked hard to get where I am. I can't imagine how it's going to be when I become a pro surfer, because as an amateur, keeping up with school, traveling and staying focused on responsibilities and obligations has been challenging.

Constant travel really puts a person behind in class. I also find myself missing out on the things my peers are doing. I've sacrificed parties, movies and concerts while playing catch-up with my school work.

At first, staff members at Waialua High School weren't too stoked on the amount of days I was absent. Conferences with the vice principal, counselor and countless parental excuse notes were the norm. Luckily, my parents are very supportive and the school has been understanding, or else I wouldn't have been able to go anywhere.

After the meetings were over, typing up notes to my teachers to remind them to "Please assign me homework for the days that I will be absent" became my job.

Getting the assignments was easy, but actually completing them is another story. Out of all the surfers I know, the only guy that brings his homework on trips is 16-year-old Dylan Slater from California. When I went to Puerto Escondido with Dylan and a couple of other friends, he and I were the only ones with school work. While everyone was cruising between surf sessions, he and I were up in our rooms doing our homework. Before, I never imagined I would one day find myself saying "no" to cruising and "yes" to homework, but that is the kind of sacrifice I have to make while on the road.

The road itself can also be difficult. The biggest responsibility of traveling is trying to avoid losing something important such as your I.D., passport, money or tickets. Organization is important. The worst experience I had was when I went to France with Rell Sunn and a group of up-and-coming Hawaii groms. We were on our way home from the best trip I had been on when I lost my passport.

I had a friend carry my ukulele but lost track of him in the crowded airport. My passport was in the ukulele case. The planes were overbooked that day and some of my friends had to board different flights. I ran around the whole airport looking for my friend, feeling lost and stupid. Luckily, my friend had left my ukulele case at the airline desk, and they called my name to collect it.

When you're on the road with no parents or chaperones, it's easy to get distracted. When there's no one there telling you what to do you start to wonder, "Why practice for the contest or do my homework when I can stay in my air-conditioned hotel room, order room service and watch MTV all day? If my dad finds out he'll be mad, but who's going to tell him?"

I think staying focused is one of the hardest things to do. A two-week trip can seem like a two-day trip when you're having fun. But I know I won't accomplish anything if I don't stay focused. I'd lose my passport again or I'd forget to ask my teachers for homework. I'd miss photo sessions. I'd be late for meetings. I could fly a couple thousand miles to find I'm not in a contest I thought I had entered. My surfing career could slip away.

Surfers don't have the worry-free life most people imagine. We work hard at what we do and take pride in our work, just like any other athlete trying to be the best.

Fred Patacchia Jr. is a junior at Waialua High
and Intermediate School.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
allowing those 12 to 22 to serve up fresh perspectives.
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