Author hopes his book 'The Average Surfer's Guide' will help others who battle depression
Simon Short sat at the end of a Newport Beach rock jetty in the darkness, clutching a gun and ready to end his life as his depression hit an all-time low.
For years, Short thought he was on the right track. The surfer from England moved to California after visiting for a surf trip in his early 20s, met a girl who became his wife and had a career as a police officer in Palm Springs.
This was what he was supposed to do, right?
When it all came crashing down a few years later, he found himself staring out into the ocean, the place that had been his one constant source of solace since he was a teen.
“That night was complete hopelessness,” he recounts on a recent sunny day in Huntington Beach, a place he now calls home.
“I didn’t have the courage to be a coward,” Short said of ending his life, a pivotal moment he shares in his newly published book, “The Average Surfer’s Guide.”
No instant fix
Short grew up in England in a rural coastal town where, despite the frigid weather and chilly waves, he picked up surfing as a teen. He found himself sucked into a dark depression in his 20s, far from his native country and two hours away from the ocean in Palm Springs.
He was surfing once, maybe twice a year. He put on weight and was out of shape. His marriage and career crumbled. “Everything fell apart,” he said.
He moved to Huntington Beach, drawn to the one thing he knew made him happy: surfing.
“It wasn’t an instant fix,” he said. He tried therapy, reading books about depression, listening to podcasts. His main takeaway was that he shouldn’t ignore his emotions, but rather listen to those negative thoughts so he would know what he’s doing wrong.
The main lesson I learned is about balance. I’m not saying neglect responsibility and career, all those thing are important. But we treat things like surfing as a luxury fringe thing, or almost a childish thing,” said Short, who now works as a security consultant for schools..
“But I prioritize that as much as I do my career and responsibilities, because it makes me so happy to surf every day.”
Short soon found another escape – writing.
“It’s like therapy,” he said. He put his thoughts of how surfing helped his depression into story form, first published on the surf website The Inertia and then making its way to websites that focus on mental health.
He then decided to write a book based on the same concept, “The Average Surfer’s Guide: To Travel, Waves and Progression,” which touches on his own life story, struggles with depression, and self-discovery, while giving a glimpse into the everyday surfer’s psyche and how the act of surfing and exploration relate to life’s ups and downs.
Short used the term “average” not as in mediocre, but to make it relatable to the masses of surfers who are not experts, or beginners, but the wave-riders in between.
“The average surfer is a life-long intermediate,” he said. “We love it as much as everyone else, we live for it. I can have moments of brilliance; moments of frustration … you’re just doing it because it’s your passion. You go out when it’s windy, when it’s big, when it’s small.”
And with every session, there are the life lessons. You can be scared, intimidated, proud and brave, all in one session. “It’s just about perseverance, getting out there and not giving up,” said Short, who just turned 34 and is fresh off a surf trip in Sri Lanka. “It’s a metaphor for life, constantly getting out there and improving. Sometimes you plateau, but you keep going.”
(This article is taken from The Orange County Register. Words are by Laylan Connelly and pictures are by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)