I want to die by shark attack at age 79.
What’s a few moments of discomfort, violence, and pain, even a few hours or a day of such suffering, when going into eternity? This is life, after all. I’m not living life to avoid a few moments of discomfort or pain. I’m here for the full experience, willing and happy to pay full price.
I want to stagger to the beach and crawl across the sand. I want to be barely able to drag myself and my surfboard out to the water. No wetsuit, frostbite conditions. Sunset, feeding time. I’ve got a bandolier of chum over both shoulders and across my chest like Rambo, bloody fish guts dripping from my neck down my torso. I’ll rub the chum across my face and in my hair to guarantee a kill shot to my head, neck or heart. With death, as with life, I think it’s best not to do anything halfway.
I paddle out. I can barely even get through the break without drowning. Maybe I catch and ride a wave if I’m lucky and fit enough, but more than likely I’m paddling out because I’m so mentally and physically worn by the rigors of life that I can no longer run my life, my team, and my career as I wish, I can no longer surf or work out, I can no longer care for myself without assistance. So I paddle out, bloody fish guts strapped all over my body, into shark-infested surf at feeding time, in winter, at a time and in a circumstance when my survival is impossible…and there I ride into the great beyond.
From experience, and through reading, I know that the most intense experiences of pain transform at their apex into the most extravagant euphoria. I have no doubt this will be no different. And instead of screaming when the moment comes, I will roar—just an few octaves in difference between the two responses, but a world apart in perspective.
Reality itself, to paraphrase Alan Watts, is no more than a Rorschach ink blot test: completely subjective and unique in interpretation. Everyone surfs for their own reasons. Some surf to be “good” at it, I guess. I surf to feel alive, to get in harmony with the greatest engine on the planet, run by the moon and the sun and the stars of a universe in which we are all undeniably somehow connected down to subatomic levels. I surf to clear my mind. I live for the joys of being alive, growing, sharing and contributing, loving and giving. I’m willing to put up with whatever comes with it. I’m here to pay the price, not to whimper or be kept on life support in fear of death, but to paddle into it, and to roar when I finally enter its jaws.
After being eaten by sharks, want to be farted and shat out into the universe by suppertime the next day as fresh atoms of positivity to be re-bonded into more “life stuff.” I want to reincarnate. A human. An ant. A plant. A molecule in a drop of blood. And as such, life lives on.
One of my grandfathers died at 89. He broke his hip at 79 and spent the last decade of his life on bedrest. A couple years in, his condition worsened and he lost his ability to speak. He couldn’t move or talk. He just lay there, asleep or awake, alive but not really living. He was in this condition for nearly ten years, with people coming and going, having to feed him and change him. He was a lucky guy. He had a successful career and happy family life, so he had money to provide for himself and loved ones to care for him in his old age. But that was still his fate. I wonder what happened to him on the inside that allowed such a thing to happen. Some sort of personal resignation which led to him not only being able to recover from injury, but not being able to die either.
I like to think it was somehow a gift, in the lessons and experiences it taught me and every generation of my grandfather’s offspring. By the time he passed, he was unrecognizable. Not just physically, but it was almost impossible to remember him for the lively and active person he was.
I’m glad for the experience for what it inspired in me about embracing life. I hope it wasn’t too hard for my grandfather. I actually like to think it was somehow joyous for him, just getting to lay around in my sister’s basement for years and years in a special room they fixed up for him, where he happened to be able to hear my sister and her husband raise their three daughters, and where they all got to drop by and visit with him every day.
But I don’t want to outlive the functionality of my body or my brain. I don’t want to stay alive out of fear. I’m looking forward to dying. I’m looking forward to going into the beyond.
When your plan is to die by shark attack, every other uncomfortable thing in your life becomes merely a minor inconvenience. The thing about facing fears is, when you face a big one and it no longer seems scary, any smaller fear diminishes in proportion. In the way of all great inspiration and aspiration is fear and challenges, the fear of pain is always worse than pain itself.
Woodrow Pack Landfair is an adventurer, author, entrepreneur, and the Adventure Correspondent for HighTides Journal. He is the author of the semi-autobiographical novel Land Of The Free (Harbinger Book Group, 2014), about an indefinite 48 state motorcycle journey he began in 2006, and about the personal challenges fought years afterward while pursuing a life of artistic and professional freedom on the road. Three years after the book's publication, in 2017, Pack purchased El Porto Surf Shop and moved to El Porto, California to surf and write every day. Pack is a graduate of the University of Texas where he studied English Literature on full academic scholarship from the United States Navy ROTC, and was the only walk-on member of the 2005 College World Series Champion Texas Longhorn baseball team - among several soon-to-be major leaguers. At Texas, Pack earned Midshipman of the Month, Student-Athlete of the Month, Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll, served on the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, made three trips to the College World Series, and was twice voted Teammate Of The Year by his teammates. Pack is currently pursuing a personal goal to surf every coastal nation on planet Earth - as a means of seeing the world, learning different philosophies, and making friends across the globe. The first 19 countries of that journey are the subject of Pack's next book Here To Surf Vol. 1 in bookstores December 2024.