Updated: Feb 9, 2020
John Shearer entered the World Bodysurf Championships for the first time in 1980 (and he made it to the semi finals).
He was a teacher who taught down low kids how to stand up and speak (and express themselves). And although he retired from that, he hasn't retired from facilitating learning or modelling appropriate behavior or acting as a moral and social guide.
He just doesn't do it for money anymore.
He now has dominion over his time.
And the world is a way better place because he's here.
Twas a privilege and an honor to share time with John Shearer.
We spoke once at my house and a whale jumped out of the water to salute him. A three quarter breach and a Fat Albert splash. A bit of magic was in the air.
"I'm going bodysurfing from 6:30 until about 7am on Wednesday. So I'll bodysurf Mexico and California in the same day. I've done it before with Australia and California."
He was bodysurfing the days in between, just not at Zicatela. True to time honored tradition, he only said he was "going South." I didn't ask where and he didn't tell.
Four days later I sat on the curb in the dark and said, "Buenos dias" to the trashmen who were following the truck up the hill.
And although John said 6:30, I figured he meant first light. He popped out the door with his back to me and let gravity pull him down the hill. With feet bare and fins in hand, he was hustling and didn't see me step in behind him.
So I followed him down the hill.
And when we got to the plaza and he turned around he said, "I heard you but..." And he shrugged his shoulders.
Light comes in under a minute. It was dark when we left and two minutes later there was enough light. John Shear, 65, first person in the water on 5 February 2020, Playa Zicatela.
There's something special,
the first person
in the water.
First and last.
All the other moments
with all the other people
The night before I'd sent out a message to the Puerto Escondido Bodysurf Club informing that John Shearer would be in the water.
So at 6:30am I wasn't surprised to see David Dillon make his way into knee deep surf. He swam out and I introduced him to John and although they'd never met, they're probably more alike than dissimilar (in all ways that matter most).
John says, "I'm sixty five."
And David says, "Well... You look good for 55."
We laugh at the truth and pelicans pass and the light comes and the old unicorns share stories in the water.
Dave and John have both been married for over thirty years (but not to each other).
I can't speak to the love stories or the personal lives of the two men in water.
What I can say is that they both sounded like they genuinely like their wives.
And that's enough.
(It's mostly a slight change in their tone of voice when they pronounce their wife's name.)
And then it wasn't time to talk. They each took a wave a set and maybe doubled up and got two per set.
You can't fake experience in the water. Twas a show for half an hour in the morn.
"You rumblin'? I'm ridin'," was a phrase used by urban school kids (don't know if they still say it.)
Hell's Angels have a similar code: If one fights, they all fight (at least they used to). Bedouins too, if one don't like you, they all don't like you.
Seeing John Shear's fins on this last photo and where David was and where John was going.
Bodysurf, as metaphor for life, is a matter of managing the glory amid the other stuff.
There is also a shared sense of community.
6:30 Bodysurfing session?
You rumblin'? I'm ridin'.
Just after 7am John said, "I'm gonna catch a boat to shore."
And below was his last wave in Puerto Escondido on 5 February 2020, Playa Zicatela, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.
For more on John Shearer,
The Gillis Beach Bodysurf Club
and John's advocacy for the Sport of Bodysurfing
see this article by Mark McDermott: