I will take all of the credit, and none of the blame.
What is it about our culture today that makes that concept pretty much universally accepted? Recently, I was seriously injured in a surfing mishap. I can’t call it an accident, because I still don’t know whether or not the girl on the massive purple longboard meant to hit me in the spine. As a naturally charitable person, I assume she didn’t mean to plow into me like a runaway train, fracturing two vertebrae in my back and sending me to the hospital. I assume that the reason she paddled back out, rather than offering help, is that she genuinely believed that I was alright… even though she asked if I was OK, and I said “No.”
After that day at the beach, a lot of my friends- including the guys I was surfing with that day- thought I should sue Purple Longboard Girl. They thought she ought to shoulder the burden financially for the astronomical medical bills, and the six weeks of pain and suffering I endured while confined to a bed. They thought she should pay extra since I live on a sailboat, and the injury meant spending a month with my in-laws, who live forty five minutes inland, where there’s not trace of salt air, nor a glimpse of a breaking wave. From all sides, I was being lectured on how she should have taken the blame for a mishap that was so clearly her fault.
It made me stop and think about how we distribute blame. I chose to surf Churches on a Saturday afternoon in July, when it was only three feet high. I chose to paddle over to a peak that was dominated by long boarders, when I was surfing my fat boy fish. I chose to catch the first wave of the set. I chose to surf around the girl on the purple longboard, who was lying flat on her board, looking at the beach but not paddling anywhere. I chose to trust that people in the lineup know what they are doing, and have control of their boards. I chose to turn around to grab my board after I’d kicked off the wave. So whose fault was it for my spine getting smashed- hers, or mine?
Listen, Purple Longboard Girl, if you’re reading this: I forgive you. Everyone is a kook at one point- no, scratch that- everyone is a novice surfer at one point. It only makes you a kook if you hit someone hard enough to break their bones, and don’t even get out of the water to see if you can help. It makes you a super-kook if you see them loaded into an ambulance, and don’t paddle in to apologize. So, I forgive you, and only you know whether not you’re a kook. But if I may make one suggestion for the next time you paddle out into a crowd of a hundred?
Ride a soft-top. And for goodness sakes, open your eyes when you’re moving.