I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, more than 500 miles from the nearest ocean. I sometimes wonder what my life might have been like if my family had stayed there. Instead, my family relocated to the warmer climes of Southern California when I was the precocious young age of three. It would be the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the sea.
Of course, when I was very small the ocean waves terrified me. My parents bought a trailer home at the beach where we would spend every summer while I was growing up. I remember my father carrying me out into the waves when I was still just a little tyke. He was only waist deep, but I was sure he would drop me into that torpid water swirling around my feet. Somehow, I grew more comfortable and braver as I grew older.
By the time I was nine or ten, it was a matter of pride and honor among all of the children in the area to go out into the sea and prove ourselves, paddling out over the waves on our body boards. A green flag on the lifeguard tower meant small surf. Yellow flag meant medium size. Red flag meant that the surf was big and potentially dangerous. Body boarding under red-flag conditions was a source of major bragging rights. I’ll never forget the first time I did it and survived. I also remember the next time I tried, getting caught out all alone in a set of pounding waves twice as tall as I was, and was subsequently rescued by the lifeguard. I learned something about my boundaries that day. I also learned that I could get in over my head and survive. Even without the lifeguard’s help, I knew I would have found a way to make it back to the beach on my own.
When I reached my early teens, body boarding didn’t cut it anymore. That was kids’ stuff. The time had come to stand up. I was thirteen years old the summer I learned to surf, and it would become a lifelong pursuit. Unlike football, basketball, or other team sports, surfing is a more personal journey. It is a direct connection between the surfer and the sea. Surfers describe it sometimes in spiritual terms. This might seem hyperbolic to those who don’t surf themselves, but launching yourself into a rolling wave that has traveled thousands of miles across the open ocean puts one in tune with the rhythms of nature in a way that few other sports can match.
For any seasoned surfer, a big part of the experience comes from going on “surfari.” Not that anyone uses that term anymore, but still, surfers can be some of the most adventurous travelers on the planet, roving to distant locales far off the beaten path in search of that perfect wave.
By this point in my life I’ve surfed up and down the California coast and all the way down to the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. I’ve dodged sharks in Australia and New Zealand. I’ve nearly drowned in Tahiti and Portugal. I’ve relished the warm blue seas of Fiji. I’ve been chewed up and spat out by the maws of a giant Hawaiian barrel that sent me straight to the emergency room for stitches to mend a gaping gash in my knee. What I have come to realize over these many years is how deeply ingrained a part of me surfing really is. As I’ve pursued a career as a writer, I have spent extended periods of time in many parts of the world. Some of those, like Hawaii, Australia, Portugal, and even San Francisco have allowed me to pursue this passion. Others, like Tallinn in Estonia and currently Budapest in Hungary have not.
For a writer like myself, Budapest has a lot going for it. There are great cafes all over the place where I can settle in for an afternoon tapping away on my laptop. It’s a social city as well, with a great ex-pat community. And maybe most importantly, for me, it’s relatively cheap. Rents here are less than half what they would be back home in California, and most other living expenses are less as well. I started living in Budapest a little over three years ago, about the same time I began selling my novels online. My first book, the romance “No Cure for the Broken Hearted,” was a minor success, climbing all the way into the top ten on the overall Amazon UK bestseller list. It was enough to pay my expenses in a place like Budapest. I’ve lived here off and on ever since. I have definitely enjoyed my time in Hungary, but the one thing that makes living here hard for me, aside from missing my family from time to time, is the lack of surf. How could I have ended up coming to a landlocked country like this in the first place? I sometimes wonder. I meet plenty of ex-pats that came here for a year or two and stayed for a decade or more. As much as I do like it here, I just can’t see that happening to me. I certainly hope not anyway! The call of the sea is simply too strong.
Now as winter turns to spring I’m thinking ahead toward the summer. Will I stay here in Budapest and simply settle in to work on my latest writing project? Or perhaps move to southwest France, the surfing epicenter of Europe? Maybe go home for an extended trip to California? I don’t know quite yet, but I certainly hope that some nice, glassy, overhead waves are in my not-too-distant future. After all, I may be a writer, but even more than that, I am and always will be a surfer!
Kenneth Rosenberg is a California writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Surfer Magazine, and other publications. Kenneth attended UCLA where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. When he is not writing, he spends his time surfing, snowboarding, and traveling the world on a shoestring. Kenneth’s first novel, “No Cure for the Broken Hearted,” was a top 10 bestseller on Amazon UK. His second novel, “Tinseltown Blues,” was a bestselling romantic comedy. His third novel is the suspense-thriller, “Natalia.”
Visit Kenneth at his website: www.kennethrosenberg.com
Check out his blog: A Writer’s Life
Follow Kenneth on Twitter: @IndieNovelist