Most people have a vivid recollection of the first time they went surfing—paddling until you felt yourself being picked up by the wave and the exhilaration of standing up for the very first time, followed by a smile from ear-to-ear that can’t be wiped from your face. Instantly you understand what it means to be ‘stoked’ and perhaps without realising it, you’ve just become part of a tribe that you’ll continue to thrive in for years to come. For those who have ever had the honour of passing on the joy of surfing to anyone else and seeing them catch their first wave, the stoke is infectious and it takes you back to when you were a fledgling surfer. This passing on the legacy of surfing is what has inspired Joseph Tomarchio to put together a collection of stories of people around the globe who can recall their initiation into surfing and what it means to be able to pass this on to somebody else.
Joseph is currently calling for submissions to this awesome project, inviting anyone from around their globe to share their story, that will be compiled into a professionally edited and printed publication around March 2015. If you think you’ve got a story anywhere worth sharing, get typing and send it over here.
Tell me a bit about yourself: where do you currently reside and where did you grow up?
I grew up in South Florida and started surfing when I was 11 years old. Later, I moved to California to attend college and surf the west coast and now I reside in Charleston, SC with my wife and son. I married my high-school sweetheart almost 18 years ago and we have an 8 year-old son who started surfing with me three years ago. Outside of these two, I have surfing, traveling, books and photography, all which make my life very full.
What is your background?
I work for a publishing subsidiary of Amazon.com so, this type of project allows me to bring together two of my passions with writing and surfing. I first published 2 children’s books with my best friend called “My Daddy Taught Me to Surf” and “My Mommy Taught Me to Surf”. We are currently working on our 3rd title in the series which is tentatively titled “My Daddy Taught Me to SUP”. The “Legacy of Stoke” felt like a natural progression that will allow me to share the love of surfing from another’s perspective and to a larger audience.
Tell us a little bit about this “Legacy of Stoke” project…
The “Legacy of Stoke” is a project that will allow me to gather all of the great stories that we as surfers share with one another in the line-up or in the car or over a beer with your friends. The plan is to select a subject for each volume, gather the best and most inspiring entries and then share them with everyone that we possibly we can. We can give some writers a chance to see their favorite stories published and pass along our love of surfing.
What was the catalyst for the project?
Surgery… I ruptured a disc several years ago surfing an epic swell in Costa Rica two of my best friends in the world. This past summer, the disc finally gave out and had to be replaced. This laid me up for a few weeks and while I was out of the water, it gave me a chance to read or reread some of my favorite titles about surfing. And in doing so, I wanted more… More stories and more tales and more anecdotes about this passion that we all share. A passion that can be so hard to put into words at times.
What does the word ‘stoke’ me to you?
It means love. It means gratitude. Is means being reminded of the magic in something you’ve looked at a million times.
Storytelling is a great way to document and pass down history for generations to come. Why do you feel it is important for these stories to be heard and shared?
It is so easy to find stories of pain and darkness and despair these days. I think that we have so much to be grateful for as a race and even more so as surfers. I think a life is defined by the experiences and stories we choose to remember and how we choose to remember them. I am so thankful for every person that has ever shared a positive moment with me, passed along an encouraging tale and made me a better person because of their shared words. Why not pass along what we love the most, share our greatest passions with someone, anyone who might need it or, might just cherish the reminder.
Who was it in your life that taught you to surf or injected the love of the ocean into you?
Well for me, the ocean injected the love of itself into me. Every wave I owned and every wave that owned me has injected me with gratitude and respect and longing. No matter what, I always long for more. I have smiled after an amazing barrel and I have smiled on the way to the hospital for stitches from surfing. I have laughed after landing an air and laughed under the bluest sky I’ve ever seen after nearly drowning.
From the moment I started I was also surrounded by surfers. The juxtaposition for us is we always want our waves uncrowded and our time on land surrounded by other surfers. We all share this commonality of stoke and love and it just moves and moves through us and around us and reminds us over and over again of how fortunate we are.
Throughout your life, I imagine you have passed this stoke onto others. Who has been the most significant recipient of this legacy of stoke?
Me. I’ve gained the most. As far as I am concerned, I have always been the biggest recipient in the equation. When I get the opportunity to take something that means so much to me, share it with someone else and then see them ‘get it’. To see a type of all-knowing, understanding smile spread across their face and light up their eyes is magic, truly magic. For me it’s like walking up to a christian and saying “Oh, you’ve been looking for Jesus? Well, come on, he’s right over here… I’ll introduce you.”
What are you looking for exactly and how can people jump on board and be a part of the Legacy of Stoke?
For the first volume, we want to start where you started. How did you learn to surf, who taught you and who have you taught. When did you get that knowing smile? When did you really become part of this tribe? Then, we will move on to other topics for future volumes.
What are some general guidelines for submissions?
We want 1,500 to 7,500 words of inspiration, of uncovering the mystery, of finding ‘stoke’ through passing on the heritage of surfing. From there, we will select the best stories and have them professionally edited. Every author whose work is selected will have their name and city/state or country put below the title of their work and receive two copies of the book when it is published.
Do you have an eta for the project?
I would like to get all submissions in by January so we can begin the selection and editing process. Then, with luck we can publish by March and help everyone get excited for the warmer Spring swells.
And finally, what gets you supremely stoked?
Simplicity and gratitude and the fact that I get to be who I am and do what I do and, that I get to know and love the people in my life.
In simplicity, I believe that I am one man who needs one board to ride one wave. I have one wife and one child. When you reduce your life and center it, focus it as finely as possible, what you have left is more precious than having 10 or 100 or 1,000 of anything.
Secondly is gratitude. I’m learning that so much of my life is about being aware of what I ‘do’ have. I am stumbling on a path to be more and more grateful for everything. Whether is it getting to paddle out or realizing that you just missed a car accident. If I didn’t get decimated by a wave in Costa Rica, I would not have had surgery this past summer. If I didn’t have surgery this past summer, I might not have thought of this project. If I didn’t think of this project, I would not have had the chance to try it. I’m learning to be grateful for every pebble in the path that I tripped on as well as where the path has led me.
To learn more about the Legacy of Stoke project, head over here.
All photos courtesy of Joseph Tomarchio.