But I surfed Instead…Part 3

img_4458Mark Cunningham and his salty mistress. Photo: Sherm

Regrets…I've had a few…Sinatra crooned. But when traded to go surfing instead…have I really? And did I do it my way, or the ocean's? I'm not making excuses. I swear this isn't a cop-out. But if I had a nickel for every time a girlfriend called me selfish…I'm positive I'd spend it on a trip to Bali.

Indeed, relationships can be tough because people can be insteads, too. Or at least feel like it.

"I believe my marriage of 18 years bailed because of my love of the ocean," says Mark Cunningham, former lifeguard and legendary waterman. "I've just been in love with surfing my whole life. I fell in love with it as a kid and then being a lifeguard put me right where I wanted to be, then after 18 years of marriage, my wife needed more of a sense of security than I was providing. And I think losing that marriage was the price I paid for my obsession with the ocean."

"The ex always said there was another woman and that woman was the ocean. She was kidding…but she also wasn't. There wasn't another woman…but there was the ocean. Would I change things? I dunno, that's just how it happened — that's my body of work. But there's a price to pay for all that enjoyment I received."

And the regrets thing? "Oh God, no. I mean, we all have regrets, I'll give you a laundry list, but I've been pretty damn lucky. I think a term that's pretty relevant here is 'balance.' All of life is trying to find that balance between keeping yourself happy and everything else. The physical, the spiritual, the sexual, the financial — life is just a balancing act and you do your best."

*Part 3 of 5 from the "I Surfed Instead" cover feature essay
Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here