Life Is Swells
A writer turned surfer finds well-being in the waves
Peter Heller checks out his new ride.
stage of your life. It’s about being
willing to learn something new—
to make a fool of yourself and just
go for it. So in that sense, I guess
I still have a kook attitude.
Q: There’s a great scene where
you ask your surfing buddy,
Andy, “Are we having a midlife
crisis?” Was surfing the anti-
dote for whatever ailed you?
A: In my mind, yes. The ocean is
without mercy but forgiving—she
will accept you however you show
up, yet she demands the best of
you. To dance with her, you’ve
got to fully commit. You have to
have faith, and you have to give
yourself over to something great-
er than you are. All of those things
are hugely helpful for the rest of your life.
Q: So surfing changed you?
A: Nothing’s more fulfilling than taking a
big risk and going after a long-held dream.
That’s a touchstone from my Baja trip.
Q: I’m a big fan of surfing’s simplicity.
A: Yeah, I love that, too. If the weather’s
right, you can walk barefoot to the ocean
with nothing but trunks and a surfboard
and the great wide sea. Nothing can make
you happier. —Daniel Duane
BY JAMES KING.
Aware his lucid days
are numbered, Bill
his 15-year-old grand-
April—and the two light out for San
Francisco to reunite their fractured
family. King gets the intergeneration-
al dynamics just right, and his recog-
nizable characters linger with you.
LET’S TAKE THE
LONG WAY HOME
BY GAIL CALDWELL.
Bonding at first over
dogs, writing, and
sports, Caldwell and
fellow author Caroline
Knapp find a deeper connection in
past struggles with loneliness and
alcoholism. Savor this hard-hitting
portrait of a friendship: “I had a friend
and we shared everything, and then
she died and so we shared that, too.”
In Kook: What Surfing Taught Me
about Love, Life, and Catching the
Perfect Wave, Peter Heller describes
learning to surf at age 47, then briefly
embracing a surfer lifestyle in Baja.
We asked fellow surfing writer Daniel
Duane (Caught Inside) to sound out
Heller on getting stoked at midlife.
Q: I struggled to learn surfing in my
early 20s. Is it reasonable for people
to learn it in their 40s, 50s, or 60s?
A: One of the guys I met surfing on the
coast of Mexico was picking it up at
67, and he was having a blast—so it is
one of those things we can learn in our
60s. It’s not like skateboarding, where
if you hit the ground, it really hurts!
Q: The term kook—an unskilled
outsider—is the ultimate surfing
putdown, but you wear it proudly.
A: Being a kook is a way of life at any
SPEN T BY AVIS
writer Cardella details
her compulsive shop-
ping habit amid an eco-
nomic crisis in which
consumers have been
tacitly urged to keep spending. As
her closet filled with unopened bags,
Cardella admits, her bills ballooned
and her rent went unpaid. “How
can a woman with a closet so full,”
she wonders, “feel so empty inside?”
dren—“the reward you get for not killing your children.” ;
You’re Old, I’m Old…Get Used to It! BY VIRGINIA IRONSIDE.
Comfy—no, make that contented—in her 65-year-old
skin, Ironside riffs here to comedically irrefutable effect
on “ 20 Reasons Why Growing Old Is Great.” Readers may
wonder how “Funerals” and “Recession” made the list, but
they will relish her tart takes on wisdom and grandchil-
TOP LEFT: COURTESY OF PETER HELLER