So I’ve been struggling.  I’ve participated in a surf culture for the last 4 years that has dominated my social life.  All of my ‘close friends’ in BC are kitesurfers.  Most of them I would classify as good people – friendly, outgoing, and easy to be around.  It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life to be part of a culture that is so unique and vibrant.  We kite in incredible places, nestled in nature, doing saunas, laughing and playing.  It’s fun.

My struggle is that I find all of the conversation centres around kitesurfing and the equipment associated with the sport.  While the conversation is interesting and relevant, I find myself stagnating and wanting something more. I know it is because of the amazing learning I have done through my job as a facilitator with SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program. I find that a lot of the interactions focus on competition (who has the best move) and who has travelled where to kitesurf and what these experiences have been like.  Trouble is I need more.  I need more from my social interactions than just surface interactions, centering around kitesurfing.  What I believe many men and women are most longing for is connection — a departure from competition.

Last weekend I went to my favourite spot to kite, and bumped into one of my favourite kitesurfing friends.  He and I usually hang out (often just the two of us) and the conversations with us seem to steer into some different and highly interesting areas, though frequently they come back to kitesurfing — which is ok.  He is one of the few people I can spend an extensive amount of time with and feel as though I am connecting on a deep and meaningful level.  At the campfire that night was another fellow who has been known to say some hugely sexist things.  Now I’ve been coming to a place where I can openly admit that I’m uncomfortable with sexism, find it offensive and call someone out for their behavior.  But as I pulled up a chair that night to the campfire, and settled into the conversation about kiteboarding I realized that I just couldn’t pull off sitting around all night listening to the same old, same old.  I knew in that moment more than any other that I yearn for something more, and I’m not getting it.  Luckily I hadn’t spoken to anyone there about whether or not I was staying overnight or not, and so I decided that I would leave, excused myself and drove home.  I tried to process it on the drive that night, but didn’t have much luck, and as per usual find that now that I am putting it into writing, I understand the situation with a new lens.

Often I find that the sexist behavior I’ve seen in the surf culture is brought out by consumption of alcohol, which I haven’t consumed in four years now.  I will admit that it does make me somewhat uncomfortable to be in situations where there is a lot of alcohol being consumed, and this did slightly factor into my decision to leave, but it wasn’t all there was to my decision.  I knew though that the sexist behavior would likely rear its’ head that night, and although I’m ready to confront it, I realized what pushed me away that night to drive the logging roads in the dark to make the last ferry back home to the island.

I want to surround myself with people who nourish my soul in a peaceful way, and I’m not sure that there is always going to be room for that within my current social circles.  Kitesurfing nourishes my soul and of course I want the social aspect that comes with the soul journey that kitesurfing has been for me. I want my friends to still be my friends and I’m sure that on some level they will be, but I also know I feel a sadness because I’m moving on from them being the center of my social life, to growing into a member of the Salt Spring Island community, where I know instinctively that I will find more of what I need.  As with any departure from the familiar, or more specifically loss, there is a discomfort, and sadness which ensues.  It is a loss, but there is also something gained, and that is me surrounding myself with people who I know will inspire me to grow into the man I’m becoming.  There’s always an upside of a shift in a different direction.

To read more about kitesurfing: www.kevinvowles.wordpress.com

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