Dale Webster's endless summer
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Why do all this? It began "as an incredible excuse to get stoked," as Webster puts it. A storm stirred up prodigious waves on Sept. 3, 1975, and Webster began surfing daily. In 1976, a leap year, it occurred to him: Why not keep going until Feb. 29 of another leap year, 2004? In a world in which diets are successful if they last six months, it was a preposterously ambitious goal. "People thought I was crazy," says Webster, and they were probably right.
But he just kept going, living his own waterlogged version of
Funny thing, though. That next morning Webster woke up, and all he could think about was the ocean. So he packed up his '93 Ford Escort and headed back to Doran Beach. Only this time he was alone. No reporters, no friends, no cameras, just a steady rain. He lugged his board into the water, and the tears started to fall. First in relief, then in loss. It was over, but then again,
That was four years ago. On Sunday, Webster clocked his 11,919th consecutive day. In June he'll hit 12,000, but for what?
A couple of years ago something happened that made him question whether even the Endless Summer eventually turns to fall. Kaye began feeling a dull pain in her ribs. When she finally got X-rays, they showed her bones were pitted, like old driftwood. She had multiple myeloma, a severe form of blood cancer. Chemo didn't help. Now, as Dale puts it, "she's reaching the end of her wave," and doctors think she might not make Christmas. So each morning he kisses her goodbye as she sleeps, slips in his three waves at the beach and returns to be with her before leaving for work at 2:30.
It's caused him to reevaluate his life, and his ritual. "It started out as a string, then a streak, then a quest," he says. "Now it's almost like it's become a toll -- how much it's taken of my life." Yet he doesn't stop. It is his burden and his salvation.
Tomorrow, as always, dawn will come, the waves will break and Dale Webster will surf. "For me it comes down to this," he says. "We have this short time on earth -- what are we going to do with it?"