The Spiritual Surfer of Myrtle Beach
“I, the surfer, am—myself. The body with which I surf in the sea symbolizes the soul, with which I “surf” in God. The sea is God. The beach is the approach to God. Surfing is the experience of God, or the spiritual life.” From Peter Kreeft: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/surfing.htm
When my journey started out it was a pursuit of passion, and it still is to an extent, but the purpose of my trip has transformed into a more purposeful and meaningful adventure. The more miles I drive, experiences I have, and people I meet, I start to realize that this trip has been part of my destiny before I even knew it. The mistakes I have made, relationships lost, depression I have battled, cancer I have overcome have all led me to this exact trip. There is a meaning that I still don’t fully understand, but one that my soul can feel in a very strong way. I am still in a battle with my own self doubt and self image, but I can feel the energy shifting.
The most impactful part of my trip has been the contact I have made with some extraordinary people, often individuals where the interaction and the connection was unexpected. Nothing could be more true than my experience in Myrtle Beach with Jack Hannigan (the Spiritual Surfer of Myrtle Beach), his beautiful family, and the testimony of his life that he shared with me. The connection we made in just a few short days is one that has created a lifetime of a very special friendship. I called Jack’s Surf Lessons on a whim, last minute effort to get some surf lessons, and in return God placed someone in my path that has forever impacted who I am as a person.
I took the short trip from Charleston, S.C. to Myrtle Beach S.C. and headed straight for the beach. My intent was to go to the beach, meditate, listen to the waves, find some peace, and get some inspiration to write. When the sun went down I was going to grab a bite to eat and head out to Charlotte, N.C. As I was sitting on the beach trying to clear my mind, it is harder than you think when you have 3 people that are always running through your head, listening to the waves. I started to focus in on the waves that were crashing in to shore with faint hints of laughter as others were playfully running through the sand throwing a frisbee back and forth.
At that exact moment I thought, Surf Lessons. I have always wanted to surf, ever since I watched Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze rip up the ocean in Point Break (I didn’t want to rob banks though). I remembered back to my days trying to get on a skate board, it was comical. While my talent was in basketball, I have always struggled with extreme sports (ask Erik Jordal about our days riding bikes and creating ramps out at his farm, yeah it was painful). I then started to think of one of my teammates in Japan who loved to surf. He was 6’11” and probably the clumsiest guy I know. I thought to myself, if goofy Chris can do it I can do it (Chris, if you ever read this, I love you man, but you know you are a goofball).
I go to google on my phone and I look up “Surf Lessons Myrtle Beach.” The first name that popped up “Jack’s Surf Lessons. “Bingos” I thought and I gave him a call. The phone picked up and I heard a surfer on the other end. If you can imagine a surfer talking, that is what Jack sounded like.
“I am in town until tomorrow evening, If I can book some lessons, and I would love to get in a lesson tomorrow if you have something available,” I told him.
“Yeah Bro (in your mind do that as a surfer, it is fun). We have a large group tomorrow, but I can squeeze you in.”
We talked a few minutes about surfing and I felt compelled to tell him my story and what I was doing in town. His excitement went up, and the surf lingo got more intense. That is so awesome, bro (again, do the voice. I told you it was fun). We went on to talk some more and I asked him if I could interview him after our lesson about his passion for surfing. I was thinking I was going to do a story about how he got into surfing and why. Boy did I get a lot more than I bargained for. We hung up the phone and I was ecstatic about “shredding some waves,” as Jack put it, tomorrow.
Jack’s Surf Lesson’s was the number one rated activity in Myrtle Beach on Trip Advisor. This means that when looked up surf lessons his business was on the very top. I then selected the very first one, got a good feeling, and made that one phone call only. What I would later learn, and something that I don’t think is a coincidence, is that Jack didn’t understand how he jumped up to number one so quickly.
“We were doing well and we were having great reviews, but I don’t understand Trip Advisor’s algorithm. I have no clue how we jumped to number 1, but it has been great for business and it has helped us sky rocket.”
If he would have been number 2, 3, 4, even number 5 I would have probably called someone else and booked a lesson elsewhere. “If you ain’t first, you are last,”……now try that in your best North/South Carolina Accident like you are Ricky Bobby’s dad. It is fun to read in different voices, isn’t it)! I believe there was a reason that Jack’s Surf Lessons is the number 1 listed activity on Trip Advisor (besides for him being amazing at what he does). I also believe that the algorithm has nothing to do with Trip Advisors, but instead it was aligned for us to meet from a higher energy/power. The Universe wanted us to connect and connect we did!
I couldn’t sleep that night as I was very anxious about the lessons:
Are there sharks in the water?
I am an athlete, so the expectation is that I will be good, what If I suck.
- Kelleigh Bannen, please sing me a sweet song because my negative record is playing in my head again.
I headed down to the beach for my lesson and I am greeted by a surfer running out of the water with a massive smile. He comes up and gives me a surfer handshake (it is just like a regular handshake, but his hand was wet and he had some sand on it).
“I figured that I wouldn’t see very many 6’9″ guys coming to the beach today. You ready to go shred these waves?”
“You know it,” I responded with doubt in my voice.
He had a huge group in the water and they were preparing for there next lesson with another group of about 10.
“You know what. I can have my assistant, one of them his wife, take that group out. Why don’t you and I do a private 1 on 1 lessons and we can just hang and talk and surf.”
“That would be amazing.” Normally if you want a private lesson it is about double the cost and he was going to offer this up to me with no extra charge. The idea that I wouldn’t be in a big group and I would get some much needed one on one attention, calmed my nerves a bit and I was ready to go.
Jack went through a land lesson on how to hop up, paddle, positioning on the board, and more before we hit the waves. Once he thought I was ready we went into water where the hilariousness pursued. I was just awful. I would get going fall down, fall down again, and again, and again. I was either to far back, to far forward, my feet didn’t get up quick enough, I was up too soon, too late, not at all, etc. The entire time Jack was the most positive and motivating trainer/coach. I started to think about when I was coaching a kid that had never played basketball before. I would stay positive and energetic, but in my head I would be like “just put your foot there, it isn’t that hard.” I can imagine this was running through Jack’s mind at the time, but he would never let me see any frustration.
We spent about 90 minutes in the water, often times with 10 minutes or so in between rides as we were talking about life, God, spirituality, the peacefulness of the ocean, our kids, love life, sports, you name it. It felt like I had known this guy for years the way we were interacting and how we were sharing so much of our lives as the waves came crashing over us (FYI: Salt Water will not be a new flavored beverage – I drank a lot of it and it is not good).
“You got this one, I can feel it,” Jack stated as he held my Go Pro in his hand. ” I am going to videotape this one and since I proclaimed that you are going to get up all the way and shred this wave, it is going to happen.”
With doubt in my head, but honestly not really caring because just being out on the water with such an amazing soul was both peaceful and surreal. I paddled away from the wave as I could feel it’s energy take ahold of the surf board. I hopped up, rode the wave, and as I came up from drinking more of that delicious salt water beverage, I could hear Jack screaming and throwing up the Shaka hand gesture.
“yeah baby,” I yelled out as I pointed to Jack. “I am a pro, let’s go in now.”
(Me Trying to Surf, I know it is hilarious)
After the lesson I was hoping to take 15 minutes to interview Jack about his life and his love for surfing. His wife, Meg, came up and gave me a high five (she had to jump, because she is a shorty). They said something to each other and then asked me:
“Do you just want to come with us and get some lunch? We are going to the Nacho Hippo to get some tacos and nachos.”
“The fish tacos there will change your life,” Meg said.
“Nachos & Fish Tacos, ahhhhh….yeah,” I responded
I was excited because instead of just hanging for only 15 minutes after I was going to get to enjoy some dinner with two amazing people and talk about my journey and their journey and I had a strong feeling that it was going to be powerful. My intuition was on point!!!
We sit down to get some nachos and Meg was correct, the fish tacos were amazing. We started talking about our Journey and they both just opened up. They shared about their past, their life struggles, relationship issues, family, health issues, their faith, and more. I am not going to share much about the battles, because this is not what this post is about, but in a nut shell they have been through a lot individually and together that has brought them closer as a married couple and stronger in their relationship with Jesus Christ. As Jack started to share his struggles, I felt like it was me talking in the mirror. A lot of what he has struggled with is what I have struggled with. When he shared one of his biggest battles, my hunch for why we met was confirmed on an even deeper level. “I have that exact same issue,” I told him, “it is hard and it can take over your life.” We shared more about our personal experiences and battles with the issue and I could feel the stress coming off my shoulders, and his, as I was able to share with someone that has gone through the exact same thing as me.
As I sat there and watched Jack and Meg interact, I was inspired to see two people that have gone through so much together and instead of letting the negative win they have allowed the experiences to strengthen their marriage, grow their faith, and turn the negative into positive. As they continued to share:
- They have 3 beautiful little girls that are all miracles with Meg’s health issues.
- Meg started her own business working with Younique and is one of the top people in the company after just a year
- She has a following of thousands of people when she goes live on Facebook to give makeup tutorials
- Meg and Jack created Tribe5 (a mission based t-shirt company)
- awesome shirts and with a cause
- They recently purchased a beautiful home:
- After having a financial struggles with the hurricane and the fear of sharks which caused for a bad season a year or so ago
- Jack’s Surf Lesson’s has doubled in growth year over year for the past 4-5 years.
- Just like all marriages they have gone through issues, but they are more in love today than ever before.
As we finished up the food Jack goes:
“Do you just want to come over and spend the night at our house.”
Meg chimed in:
“You can sleep on a flat bed instead of your car, get a hot shower, and do some laundry.”
ahhhh…..a bed to sleep in. That sounds amazing I thought, but my response was:
“Are you sure, I don’t want to impose.”
“Are you serious? Yes; come….please.”
The plan was to hang out at their house, get some dinner, relax, watch a movie (either the Kindness Diaries or DropBox (both on Netflix and both documentaries you need to watch), do some laundry, take a shower, talk about life, and sleep on a beautiful comfortable bed. This seemed like HEAVEN after you spend weeks parking in hotel parking lots and sleeping in your car. The next day I was planning on getting up and heading to North Carolina.
We hung out with the kids for a while, put them to bed, and then grabbed some Chinese for dinner. Over dinner we continued to get deeper and deeper into the details about our life. Jack and Meg started to share some testimony from their Christian Faith and we talked a lot about spirituality and religion. Towards the end of the night jack goes:
“Why don’t you just stay until Sunday and come to church with me. Meg will be in Nashville for work so it will just be us and the kids hanging out all week.”
It was Wednesday. This person that I just met today, was inviting me into his home for the week. I was astonished at his generosity and I told him that I would think about it.
My entire trip I have decided that I don’t want to have a solid plan, because I don’t want to miss out on any amazing opportunities. I don’t want to live and die by a schedule based on where I need to be or when I need to be there. I want to be free to let the universe and energy guide me along this path. That night I prayed, which I have started to do again on a regular basis, and I decided that I would stay tomorrow, but I wasn’t sure about staying the entire week. I still have so many experiences ahead of me and I want to keep my flow going. The next day I wake up and tell Jack that I will stay today (Thursday), but that I would probably be leaving tomorrow morning. He was excited as he cooked up some steak and eggs for breakfast (ok, if he cooks this ever morning for me I am staying longer than just a week).
We spent Thursday hanging out with his kids and then I meet Jack’s mom, dad, sister, and sisters fiance for Meg’s birthday lunch at a great sushi restaurant in town. After meeting Jack’s mom and dad it was very apparent where Jack learned to be such a loving and caring soul with a massive heart. After dinner we headed back home, played with the kids some more, and then continued our conversation about life. We started getting into business ideas and concepts and made it unofficially official that we were going to partner on a project, because so much of what we were sharing was similar.
“I feel like you are my lost brother,” Jack said after spending 3 hours talking about entrepreneurial projects we wanted to pursue.”
“I strongly agreed,” as the bond we had built in two short days was definitely something that was not a common occurrence.
The next day I woke up and had every intention of heading out when Jack asked if I want to ride with him and ghe girls to take his oldest daughter to school and then grab breakfast at a local diner. Without even thinking about it, I hopped up and said lets do it. When we got back, Jack called in and got us tickets to go see the Pirates Voyage (which was a show in Myrtle Beach with gymnastics, theater, animals, and great food). His sister a former dancer/gymnast was one of the entertainers in the show and her fiance was one of the members of the cast as well. We got the kids ready and the 5 of us headed out and met his parents at the show. It was a great performance and Jack joked that it was a family affair, because everyone there was family. We laughed about how natural I fit into their family and how it seemed like we had been friends for years. I think you meet a lot of people along your journey, but sometimes there are people you are meant to meet and connect with.
We closed out the night talking, working on some online videos for his surfing company, and playing the guitar (I strummed on the chords with no clue what I was doing, but still it was fun). I crashed out that night feeling a mix of emotions. On one side of the spectrum I felt blessed to have crossed paths with Jack and his family and on the other side of the spectrum I was sad that our time together was ending and I would be leaving tomorrow. I again prayed before bed and I knew that while I was having an amazing time and there was an energy that brought me to this very spot, it was time for me to continue along my journey to the next phase, the next experience, the next person.
When I decided to take surf lessons I never expected the owner/instructor/surfer to be someone that was going to have such an impact on my journey and my life. I have struggled with my spirituality and even decision making in the past and being engulfed in the waves of Jack and his families love and energy was exactly what I needed to continue my growth. I have come to a realization and feeling that I need to have a personal relationship with God and to me this is the next phase of my spiritual journey. There are so many forms of religions and beliefs in the world and I have a belief that one religion is not better than the other religion, but they all lead to the creator of the universe. I am also coming into the belief that it might not be the religion itself that is the most important, but it is how it makes you feel and how it guides your journey in a loving and caring way. While hanging out with my new brother, I was in awe of the relationship that Jack and his family have with God and Jesus Christ. To non believers or even agnostics, Religion and Religious people sometimes get a bad reputation, but the Hannigan’s faith demonstrates everything that is right about religion and the Christian Faith that demonstrates Love. Watching his real honesty about his struggles, his imperfections, and who he really is as a person and then seeing how much strength he gains from his relationship with God and Jesus Christ is powerful. To see his actions of love and caring and compassion and how his faith has helped mold these amazing attributes gives me hope that through my spiritual growth I can continue to transform and ultimately be the person I have always dreamed about being.
I have always wanted to change the world. I have always wanted to do something that would impact others and my entire life I have felt like I have fallen short for many reasons. After my time with the Jack, I know that to reach the dreams I want to reach, I have to give up some of my own ego driven wants and let God guide me to where I need to be personally and professionally. I need to build that relationship with him, so I can rebuild myself, love myself and then only after that will I finally be able to really love others the way I feel like I was meant to do. Once I transform and continue to grow, I will be ready for my real mission in life, which sad to say was not being a basketball player. God and the universe put Jack, his surf lessons, and his love in my path for a reason and I am forever grateful for my experience in Myrtle Beach with the Spiritual Surfer.
If you are ever in Myrtle Beach, this is a must: