As many of you have probably heard by now, last Sunday August 18th the surfski community lost a very passionate and driven pioneer when John Abrahams, owner of Superior Surf Systems, took his own life. I received this news on Sunday night and quickly went from an extreme high from all the excitement of the TC Waterman weekend and some great paddles to a feeling of deep sorrow for John and his family and friends.
I can’t say that I knew John really well, but had met him on a handful of occasions and was always struck by his level of energy and excitement around surfski paddling on the Great Lakes. It was at John’s shop in Duluth that I first laid eyes on the new modern surfskis. Even though I was not in a position to buy a boat at the time, John was more than willing to spend 2 hours of his afternoon talking boats and sharing his wealth of knowledge with me.
I remember specifically asking John how he trained to compete in San Francisco and remember him saying he would seek out channels in Duluth where the freighter wakes would combine with break walls to create all kinds of crazy confused waves. As I later got to know some of John’s close friends this started to make more sense. They described John as a fearless and extremely skilled surfski paddler, always pushing himself to improve.
Unfortunately John battled depression most of his life. So along with the high energy, excitement, and passion to blaze new trails and inspire others to challenge themselves, came the dark times. It is a very sad reality that in many cases these two seem to go hand in hand.
I have lost very close relatives who were much like John and while on the dark days they may have rubbed people the wrong way, in the end, they have done much more to inspire us all to challenge the status quo and live fuller more passionate lives. There is no doubt many of us will benefit from their influence for the rest of our lives. I know John certainly played a role in influencing me and giving me the confidence to start a surfski business in Northern Michigan, and for that I will be forever thankful to him.
I am a firm believer that whatever religion or God you believe in, the physical body is just a very small piece of who we are, existing for a very brief moment. Our spirits live on and I know John will be with us all every time we grab our surfskis and head for the water. So the next time you’re surfing down a wave face and a bird swoops overhead, you can be sure John is out there checking in and sharing in your sense of elation.