THESE are the people I come from. My father, Bruce, (Far left, 1968) recently had his DNA tested. I don’t need to; I look at this photo, and I understand myself. Completely.
Yes, that’s my mom on top of the board. Being held up by my dad, his brothers, cousins and friends like the goddess that she is. She’ll roll her eyes and laugh at my saying that, but it’s true, my father and all of those men for that matter, have always held my mother in the highest regard, and for good reason. More on that later, this one is more about Dad and his, well, for lack of better terms: hobbies.
My folks came from, relatively speaking, or at least compared to how they raised us, ‘nothing.’ Mom always takes issue with me when I say that. She counter claims that they had everything. And I’ve, through the fullness of time, come to genuinely appreciate the truth in that statement; she’s right, they did and still do, have everything.
We are Philly people. We ‘summer’ (giggle-because that’s not a word any of us would actually ever use) ’down the shore.’ To make that happen in 1950’s and 1960’s, Josie (my paternal Grandmother) and her sister Delores would take their combined 17 kids (no joke, my dad is the eldest of 9, and the Deckers are 8 kids) to a beach rental house they called John’s Mansion. How those families scraped together the cash to do that and to let their kids grow up jumping piers in Atlantic City is beyond me as I try to pull together cash for a week long rental ‘down the shore,’ but I digress. By the time they were teenagers, the boys worked on the Wildwood boardwalk at night and ‘summered’ there. And during the day, all day, every day: they surfed.
They called themselves and their buddies the Mag (nificent) 7+. Bruce, Andy, Al, Rich (my Godfather), Jack, Wayne (and their brothers, cousins, and friends as they came of age, hence the +.) Josie and Delores apparently had no problem raising confident/magnificent kids. I look at these pictures and my heart warms in so many ways. First of all, these people are ALL still friends, yes many of them are related by blood, but they are friends first. And they still act like teenagers when they all get together now; this crazy group of 50 and 60 going on 70 year olds (yes I said that and it’s true…you all do the math!!!) are ALL forever young at heart. Their love for one another is true, deep, long, and inspiring. And they STILL have this much FUN together, always!
My father has always had hobbies/sports/a garage full of toys, a heart full of love and an awesome attitude. He was an extreme skier (he is refusing the replacement knees that are more than a decade overdue-he’s also fiercely stubborn and the worst patient ever), a rescue diver, he skateboarded, rode a motor cycle (my folks raise their eyebrows at that inclusion of the moped in this list of ‘sports’ and claim they couldn’t afford a car…, right, but what about the street legal dirt bike in your 40s?) My Dad always played: basketball, wall ball, halfies, whiffle ball, frisbee, water guns, nerf guns, pin ball, ping pong, whatever it was, when my mom came home from the toy store, it was always with 4 of everything (she had 3 kids and my dad made 4.) He could make a game for a whole neighbor worth of kids of washing a car or piling wood or even just moving dirt, mulch, rocks, or snow. Words he would literally say out loud, but he also lives by: Daughter: Work Hard; Play Harder. We should probably get the man a t-shirt with those words for goodness sake, he’s earned it.
I don’t remember a day of my life the man didn’t get up well before the sun and work-out. He regularly worked 12-15 hour days, so that’s just when you squeeze that in as we’ve all come to terms with by our 40s. Dad’s exercise routine has taken many forms over my life: push-ups with 3 kids on his back when we were littles, he wore straight through 3 Nordictrack machines in the 80s. And now it’s a 6am tee time that he heads out to in retirement. He’s a high energy mover and shaker for sure, who wakes up with a smile and is READY TO GO. My father’s resting position is in motion. He’s still the only person I know that walks as fast as I do-for no reason. And that, has also, gigantically shaped me. It just took me many years to learn how to naturally be the part of me that shares that particular set of genes-the get up and go and exercise for health, for sanity, for life, but mostly because you can’t not part. It’s no question where that comes from. Part of it is DNA, but for sure, part of how/why I am healthy as an adult is what my father modeled, consistently, about health and exercise. And it’s super important to me to do the same for my kids.
My dad was also a surfer. He’s a true, long-boarding, ten-hanging, dawn-patrolling, East Coast, summer surfer.
While we find plenty of ways to have tons of sporty exercise all year long, we are absolutely SUMMER PEOPLE. My grandma Josie believed a dip in the Atlantic Ocean could cure us of anything up to and including the hee-bee-gee-bees (her name for every skin rash any of us every had.) I’m not sure about my skin, but for sure, the salt water cures my soul, every summer.
My kids are freshly turned 5, 7, and 9. And I am one adult. While I have no doubt that they will all surf (one of them already has it if you push her into the wave) we are a few years out from everyone surfing independently, without me worrying that everyone will drown. In the meantime our FAVORITE way to start our summer mornings, and to end long hot days, whether we’re on a lake, river, bay, gulf, or ocean, and without needing the tides and wind to cooperate is Stand Up Paddle boarding!!!
The 9 and 7 year old have their own boards (the most amazing sports gifts we’ve ever received!!!) And one of the three of us takes the 5 year old as a passenger. Watching my 7 year old fire-starter, super-coordinated and crazy-strong daughter give other kids ‘lessons’ in how to SUP is one of the things I stand in the Mom lifeguard/on patrol stance and be gigantically proud of every year. Especially because she’s been doling out these lessons since she was 5.
We SUP (Stand Up Paddle) for exercise, we go out for salt water and salt air or fresh water and fresh air, we go out to be together to have fun and to discover all sorts of amazingness in our waters.
My favorite sports are ones that the whole family and our friends can do together, and this, by far, is my current favorite summer sport! And one, I’m fairly certain, my dad is proud of us for.
It’s not hard. There’s plenty of room for error. There are plenty of ‘safe’ ways to do it. And below is everything you need. Boards are easy to rent but once you are hooked, they are well worth the investment!
Grab your gang and get out there and play in the water!!!! My dad and his mom are right: it’ll cure almost everything. Happy SUMMER!!!
My Essentials for SUP