This is a photo of Giorgos Papandreou. He is a hardcore local. In Greece.
With as much daily dedication as any surf locals anywhere, Giorgos and a small crew of fellow Greek surfers patrol a stretch of the northern Mediterranean in search of waves. They devour surf magazines, haunt surf websites, dream of surf trips, talk surf every day and all day, and surf everything that could even pass as a rideable wave.
Essentially they are grommets. Except older. And a lot hairier.
To say that Giorgos was excited when our little expedition visited his surf zone would be an understatement. When he saw our board bags, he immediately befriended us and wanted to surf with us.
One day he came up to us and blurted, “I am so excite. Good waves are coming tomorrow, yes. Maybe 9 booferts.”
We weren’t quite sure what to say, except smile, nod our heads and walk away like only Americans can. Later we found out that “booferts” referred to the European Beaufort wind scale, and waves were coming indeed.
The next day we surfed surprisingly fun, head-high left wedges in a protected cove with our new Greek friends. The smiles on the Greek surfers’ faces were full of joy and pride. They shared this rare day of waves with hospitality and grace.
Towards the end of the session, I noticed that Giorgos was wearing booties. This wasn’t surprising because the water was pretty cold, but they looked different from booties from home. They were really thin looking.
But then I noticed something else. Giorgos’ booties were starting to sag. Looking closer, I could see that they weren’t booties at all…they were socks.
When we asked Giorgos why he was wearing socks he said that his feet felt warmer when he wore them, and it helped him from slipping. Apparently it was really difficult to get surf accessories like booties or wax up here because the nearest surf shop was about 500 miles away.
So he wore socks.
To this day, every time I see a pair of dark socks I think of Giorgos and his crew. Of their amazing surf stoke and dedication to a sea that rarely produces much surf. Of how much closer their hearts are to the true Aloha spirit of surfing than most of the grumpy locals where I live, including me.
So tomorrow, in tribute to the memory of Giorgos, I will add an additional act to my morning surf routine. I will make coffee, throw my wetsuit in the dryer, and then head straight for the sock drawer.