Letter’s To Myself.
By Levente Laczko.
On the first day of high school, my year coordinator asked my humble 13-year-old self to write her a letter on what I wanted to be when I grew up.
“Simple”, I said to myself.
I wanted to be a professional bodyboarder with a university
I think at the time there was an article in a Riptide about how Dallas Singer was able to juggle a blooming bodyboard career alongside a university life. Surely it couldn’t be
Being brought up in a less well-off family, it was drummed into me from an early age that a good education meant financial freedom. In my mind however, this was nothing when
compared to the freedom of being a bodyboarder.
In that moment, I figured let’s compromise and do both.
I have been bodyboarding since the age of 10 and if you ask anyone in my high school year, they’d likely tell you that I was consumed by bodyboarding to the point of obsession.
For the 6 years of my high school life, my identity was defined by being a bodyboarder and Riptide, Leboogie, Vimeo and the Bodyboard King shop became my daily avenues to experience every last drop of stoke available to me. 4am wake ups just to catch 3 buses to surf an obscure reef? I’m there. Stay up until 2am to watch an IBA comp at Fronton? Saturday night sorted.
Hell, I remember when I discovered the school library had a subscription to Riptide, I didn’t leave for a week!
I’d surf before school, after school, on the weekends. Whenever. If
there was a breaking wave, I was there trying to cross my legs on it. Bodyboarding had consumed me to my core, and I was smitten.
Fast forward to year 11 and it’s as bad as ever. Posters of Rawlins, Stewart and Player line my walls and I’m watching every video of Robbo, Jono and Benno I can get my hands on,
slowing each video down to almost a standstill, playing it frame by frame to analyse their technique. Every slight nuance in their posture, their approach to the wave, their flair on
spins, I wanted to emulate every aspect.
My vocabulary is defined by the word style and I’m hell bent on having the tightest X across my legs when I spin.
It is at this time that we were asked to write a letter to our future selves as part of an exercise on year 11 camp; this letter would be sent to us later in life as a way to track our progress on
the goals and ambitions we had our eyes on, at least at that point in our lives.
I received this second letter today at age 25, 8 years after having written it and all but completely forgotten about it. I opened it, utterly bewildered, and desperately tried to
remember what smart arse me must have written all those moons ago.
Did I want to have worked towards a house?
Have a girlfriend?
Be done with university?
Whilst these topics had
at most one line dedicated to them, it was clear I still only cared about one thing:
“I hope the local reef is firing soon and I hope you’re still surfing and that you’re sponsored!
Never stop being a frothing grom. Levi 2013”.
25-year-old me read that line and nearly burst out crying. It was innocence intertwined with
naivety and transported me back to when my only responsibility was punctually showing up
to a class that had no bearing on future. A time where I could surf all weekend and not have to answer to anyone for a lack of real-world progress.
As I sat here with that letter in my hands, all I could think of was where did it all go wrong;
when did I lose sight of what I’d wanted for more than half my life and why wasn’t I angry that it hadn’t come to fruition?
I never rode as well as I’d like to think I did. Sure, I did get on flow for a specific company for a number of years, I got some boards and fins but nothing ever eventuated past that. The reality of it was, that I wasn’t good enough and I felt this during my time riding on the team.
I was miserable because I couldn’t meet my team obligations, the surf was bad, no one would film. The list went on.
Not everyone is going to be the next Mike or Ben or Mitch and that’s
the same in any sport. By my early 20s I’d realised that my skills lay elsewhere, and despite having gotten my dream job packing orders and selling boogs at Bodyboard King alongside Toby Player, I’d been investing a heavy portion of my time into the second part of the goal I
set myself when I was in year 7; my tertiary education.
For the last 6 years, I’ve been
working towards my undergraduate and masters Science degrees at university, the latter of which I completed at the start of this year. I missed many swells, many local competitions and many good times but it feels good knowing I at least held up one side of my bargain.
I endured many trials and tribulations during this time but there was always a constant I could
count on when the chips were down: a 42-inch slab of PP foam and the local.
It is often said that your 20s are characterised by a lot of reality checks and personal growth.
In my instance it was coming to the conclusion that my dream of being a professional bodyboarder had sailed. This seems to be a pretty common theme with older guys that come
in the shop too. They undertake jobs, careers, turn into family men. Surfing gets pushed to the periphery and once incredibly talented bodyboarders now surf only once in a blue moon.
I don’t surf anywhere near as much as I wish I did these days, my 17-year-old self might
interpret this as having lost the “froth” from all those years ago.
The truth is, I love the sport
more now than I ever have. The “froth” is still here, the fire still burning. I’ll still surf irrespective of the conditions. I still watch videos frame by frame. Nothing’s changed except instead of being in my room with nothing to do, I’m at work with a handful of orders and a
deadline to meet.
I’m not 17 anymore. Bills are real and dreams are free.
Cliche? Maybe. Reality? Yes
Am I happy about it? No.
But it’s a part of growing up. And as I stare down the barrel of a full-time job in a government sector, I realise I am at the cusp of letting go.
I wonder if 17-year-old me would be disappointed with where I’m at in my life currently. I never made it as a bodyboarder, but I found strength as an environmental scientist; I upheld
50% of my dream. I know he’ll be disappointed; he was always harsh on himself.
Maybe if he saw it from my perspective, I know he always wanted to sign autographs for frothing
groms, and in a way I do. The only difference is the autograph I sign isn’t on a beach after having won a prestigious competition. The autograph I sign is for Australia Post to make sure his board arrives on time.
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