Last week, a crowdfunding campaign surfaced purportedly raising funds for a man who was being divorced by his wife for being a surfer.
What began as a well-intentioned attempt by a bloke looking to help out his mate has turned into a strange dystopian-digital-age-debacle, where the entire internet has been invited to weigh in on the intimate details of a total strangers relationship breakdown.
The campaign page told of a hardworking and dedicated family man, who, after moving to the UK from NZ to be with his wife, worked tirelessly to provide for her and their daughters. After recovering from a neck injury that had kept him out of the water for almost a decade the husband was reportedly encouraged to join a group of mates for regular floodlit surf sessions at Bournemouth Pier. It was a perfect way, the group figured, to fit surfing in around his busy family and work schedule.
Unfortunately, that’s not how his wife saw it and photocopies of the divorce papers- included in the original Crowdfunder page- claim that he became ‘obsessed with night surfing’ and often stayed out until the early hours, only returning home to eat and shower before work.
The page goes on to detail how the husband has subsequently faced high divorce costs, for which he’d have to take out a loan, unless the surf community were able to offer adequate financial support for one of their own.
After the link was shared widely on social media, a furious debate ensued, prompting the instigator of the campaign, who often responded directly to comments deriding his efforts, to take it down. “Just a lot of jealous hateful people out there,” he lamented of the backlash, “think it touched a nerve for those with failed relationships and those who don’t get the time in the water they desire.”
Although the campaign page was gone, the debate continued on social media. People took sides, with some decrying the wife’s decision to leave her husband because of his surfing passion and others expressing annoyance at being asked to put their hands in their pockets for what sounded like a neglectful husband.
Buried beneath the layers of commentariat vitriol was an interesting discussion about the surf life balance, that every married surfer will have tussled with at some time or another. Juggling the commitments of life takes sacrifices and trying to find that equilibrium, especially when an obsession with playing in the brine is on one side of the scales, is always a challenge.
The abiding take away from the discussions was just how many surfers saw their own lives mirrored in the plight of the husband, bringing an under-discussed issue to the fore.
There were also some interesting suggestions for how the husband could have avoided the issues. Teach the kids to surf for example, or invite the wife along for a lovely chilly night surf under Bournemouth pier (obviously offered by someone who’s never been to Bournemouth pier).
Perhaps the most interesting contribution though came not in the form of words bashed angrily into a keyboard, but rather as a real-world anecdote told to us regarding a French surf journalist. In France it’s customary to have a pre-marriage contract, and this guy has it written into his that he can go on two surf trips with his mates every year and it can never be a point of contention. He usually takes a couple of trips with his family too apparently, making sure he attends adequately to all the things that matter to him. And ain’t that both overly-judicial and oddly heart-warming all at the same time.
I bet you didn’t think you’d be learning an important life lesson from a French surf journo today now did you?