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Columns

High Tide

By Mitsu Kume

Surfers and Farmers

2011
ISSUE
41

HIGH TIDE
Mitsu Kume

Surfers and Farmers


“Only surfers enjoy a typhoon.”

When a bunch of surfers get together, they like to talk things such as their ability to sense the coming a typhoon before everyone else, or about when the swells will arrive. A farmer, sitting nearby hearing a similar conversation, made the statement above, pronouncing the word “surfer” in Japanese as sa-ha- instead of sa-fa- as is normally the case.

But he is correct. Every surfer thinks of himself as a weather forecaster and tends to go around giving his “professional” opinion about typhoons. They are adults that act like kids; over-anticipating good waves and unable to sleep the night before a surf trip. Land sports just can’t compare to the natural thrill you get from surfing.

On the other hand, a person who works the land, raising crops by his own hand also confronts the danger of crop damage. Surfing can be seen as recreation, just playing around, so I think there was a bit of cynicism in what the farmer said. But I sure understand where he’s coming from.

There are a lot of people who deep down want to try surfing, but they explain it away by saying they are too old, or that they just don’t haven’t had the chance. If they’d just throw away the pretense, there’s a fun world waiting for them. Our cynical farmer, too, actually went with me out into the ocean once. After a little coaching, I gave him the longboard, and, with a frantic expression, he began to paddle.

At first he lost his balance and couldn’t make much progress paddling, but the farmer was stronger than I expected. His works is much different than that of a salary man; farming every day tests one’s physical strength.

Many farmers are also people who stubbornly hate to lose. Although he didn’t stand up, all of the sudden, with the white waves pushing him, he rode in to shore.

He then repeated this several times, and finally was able to stand up on the board. I saw what had happened, and from a distance threw up my hands and yelled “Yatta!” He answered by throwing both hands into the air, a middle-aged man smiling like a kid.

“Only surfers enjoy the arrival of a typhoon.”

The words themselves might seem cynical to surfers, but if you knew that the person saying the words was a farmer who had also been surfing, you’d probably understand that it was a very gentle cynicism.

After a typhoon passed, I asked, “Did you have any damage from the typhoon?” “No, nothing serious,” he responded, “but, more importantly, did you get any waves?”

“Age shio ja, age shio ja,” is the old saying that things are moving in the right direction. Understanding another person’s point of view, I believe, helps our spirits do the same.

The swells fade. The farmer heads out to clear the weeds around his field.