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The Surf Report
by Roy Harrell

Farewell To A Friend-welcome back to Thailand

By the time you read this I’ll be in Nicaragua, surfing uncrowded, empty waves. It’s every surfer’s dream, especially prevalent during the summer tourist season, to find a perfect wave and keep it all to yourself. Or at least, that’s what we think we want. But take it from countless expats that have sold off the ranchero and moved to Baja, or Bali or Bombora, sooner or later they get lonely. Before long, they send off a postcard to just one or two of their closest friends and tell them they should come visit. Within no time at all, they are selling lots to every hodad that comes along.I guess you can chalk it up to the innate need of mankind for fellowship with other like minded people. After all, you know what they say. No man is an island. We all yearn for companionship.
Even in surfing, as selfish as the sport is, there is a desire on the part of practically everyone to share the experience with others. Preferably others that are friends of yours, of course. But even when you don’t know anyone in the lineup, it’s still comforting to surf with a few other people within spraying distance.
Watch what happens the next time you go out, for instance. New people paddle out further down the beach, kind of off to themselves, and within a half an hour they have all melded together into one group. It’s just human nature. It’s also perhaps a little bit of the natural competitive nature of surfers coming to the surface. If the guy just down the beach is getting one great wave after another, then, by golly, the waves must be breaking better down there. Before you know it, you two are swapping waves, pushing each other, and trying to go one better than the other guy.
I’ve counted myself fortunate to have a few friends that I surf with from time to time. Though sometimes it’s almost as much fun to call them up and be able to tell them how they missed it when it was firing. Either way, having a few friends to share the experience with adds something that I just can’t get by surfing alone. I’ve had sessions where I was the only guy out, lucked into a couple of really great waves and just wished that someone had been there to witness it.
One of my all time best friends notified me the other day that he had decided to move. And not just to move to another house, or area, but he was actually leaving the country to move to Thailand. When I heard the news my heart sank. I couldn’t help but think that when he goes he’s going to be sorely missed by me and my family as well as a host of other surfers in the area.
Satja Cheyankanon is a familiar sight in most of the local lineups in Delmarva. Of Thailand/American decent, he may have been small in stature but big of heart. His infectious smile and upbeat humor always brightened up the lineup. You could always pick out his flashy style in the water and it seemed everybody that knew him liked him.
Satja was the kind of guy that would call you up at 6:00 in the morning and announce that it was going off at 48th Street. He had already called four other guys and wanted to make sure everyone he knew was going to be there. Ripping on one of his trademark red fishes, he was always fun to watch. He didn’t always make every big move he tried, but he never let that discourage him. He surfed kind of like his personality, wacky and a little unpredictable.
I don’t know why I’m so surprised by the fact that surfers can be some of the nicest people sometimes. And Satja exemplified that more than almost anyone. For example, the last couple of years he was a mentor to my son, Roy. Often, when my work schedule prohibited me from being able to get out, Satja would come by and pick up Roy for a surf. He was always Roy’s favorite surfer growing up. It was Satja, not me, that showed him how to do an air or a 360. But mostly, he just naturally liked to help out younger surfers. And they all seemed to like him back.
Satja’s decision to leave came suddenly, without much warning. Most of his gear he gave away to other surfers, many of them people that were not able to afford their own. The stuff he did sell he practically gave away to his friends. Perhaps because to Satja, friendships were always more important than surfing anyway. Thailand is a long ways off. I’m not sure I’ll ever see him again. But one things for sure, I’ll never forget him. And I know many others out there feel the same way. Godspeed Satja.