The Gift

The Gift

“If you know someone who has lost a very important person, and you’re afraid to mention it to them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them they died…you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift!
– Elizabeth Edwards-

This isn’t necessarily a holiday story, but it is about the power of a gift. And if there was one thing Jimmy enjoyed, it was giving (and receiving) meaningful gifts. Not that all the “stuff” we shared and bestowed upon family and friends at the holidays, birthdays, and other occasions wasn’t appreciated. It was!

I always loved thinking up small gifts that would touch the hearts of the recipients and would retain their meaning over the years. Jimmy carried on the tradition as he grew up and started his travels. This is his story.

The attached photo is one of my favorites. (I think I say this every blog)! Not just because all the “bros” and their families gathered at our home on 3rd street, but because Jimmy created a moment in time, that none of us will ever forget. If you ask most of the people in this photo, they will say they still have it framed in a special place in their homes. I often hear the stories of this day, retold with love when this group gathers.

When Jeff and friends graduated from high school, we had a party for his best buddies and their parents. We served up tacos, margaritas, and hilarious stories of all their escapades, in and out of the water. Mr. Lang, their favorite teacher and surf friend and his wife attended, along with assorted friends and neighbors. Jimmy had just returned from a long trip to Bali and was getting ready to start lifeguarding and working on the beach.

After many toasts and funny speeches, Jimmy got up in front of the assembled crowd. By the time Jeff’s gang had reached 12th grade, his friends and Jimmy’s friends had blended to become one big group of soggy, tan surfers who all hung out together at 3rd Street and on the road. Jimmy was the adored and much respected older brother to most of Jeff’s buddies. He had been their guide to surf travel, helped them through some wild times when there was no parental supervision and been an example how to care about grades and get into a good college, yet continue to follow his passion.

After some initial heckling, Jimmy reached into a bag and pulled out a sarong. He then called each of the guys up to the front of the room, one by one. As he opened each sarong, he described what was on each of the colorful large fabrics with exotic patterns. With each description, he found a way to connect it to the guy he gave it to. Sea Turtles for the guy who was slow and steady, dragons for one who chased after the impossible, and cool and calm colors for the one who managed to keep everything together most of the time. Nine sarongs and nine stories that connected all of us to our sons and our sons to each other. As he spoke, he had the most gigantic smile on his face and when he got to Jeff, that smile was tinged with so much love and respect. There they were, our “boys” who had spent their childhood together, getting ready to leave the soft cocoon of the beach and head out separately to start the next phase of their lives.

And there was Jimmy, graduate of Cal, world traveler, teacher, lifeguard and soon to be business owner, sharing small gifts that would have a long-lasting and cherished memory for everyone at that party. Somewhere, there is a similar shot with the moms. Probably in the same box with all of Jimmy’s surf articles for the Beach Reporter.

During this busy holiday season, as we rush around and stress about what to get for everyone, hopefully you can remember this story about Jimmy, the sarongs and the gift of making memories.

With so much love and light to all of you who take the time to read our newsletter and support JMMF. Our 15 years of collective memories and the photos of our Ocean Therapy sessions will inspire all who come to share the magic and healing of Mother Ocean.

Xoxo
Nancy

*Remembering with love, our friend Walt, standing next to our Jimmy

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Jimmy’s Articles

Hi friends:

As promised, I found some of Jimmy’s articles for you. I couldn’t find my carefully copied and preserved versions. They must be in a storage bin somewhere. Instead, I spent the day at the Manhattan Beach library, going through the hard-bound archives of the Beach Reporter. The article below is one of my favorites, for so many reasons. If some of the phrasing is a bit off, it’s because I couldn’t decipher what was squished in the stiff leather hard-bound pages. Any mistakes are strictly mine, not Jimmy’s.

I hope you enjoy this November story and if you have the time, perhaps you can take a “Hot Tip’ and head south for some great adventures. Happy Thanksgiving. We are so thankful for all of your support this year.

Reprinted from The Beach Reporter – April 1996

“The Hot Tip “
Getaways for Surfers
By Jim Miller

Go South Young Man: Surfing the Many Waves of Mexico

All right. Summer’s creeping up in the South Bay with its blocked south swells, red flags and frat-bros on mini-longboards. You know the entire southern hemisphere from South Africa to South America is pumping. Uluwatu, Reunion and Puerto Escondido. The names are starting to blend, but it doesn’t really matter. You are dying for a trip, but it doesn’t look financially feasible and busting out the Visa and going two grand in debt doesn’t quite work because you still have to pay for the round of tequila shots and the Bud you generously bought for the crew last Thursday night at Sharkey’s. But it’s time for a surf escape and I can feel it.

Time to grab a few friends, $40, lots of bottled water, peanut butter and take a trip to local Mexico. I’m not saying let’s go rage at strip bars and drink beer, or let’s go scam chicks, I mean a real surf trip. With a little bit of effort and a passion for adventure, you and your friends can find empty waves in beautiful surrounding in a three hour drive away.

The first good spot south of the border is Baja Malibu. Although the name draws thoughts of a long right point break, actually there is a hollow beach-break that can good a good imitation of Puerto Escondido. Many San Diego based surfers are tuned in and cross the border at dawn whenever the conditions are on, so it can get crowded. But plenty of wedging peaks go unridden, and if you are craving a thick tube-ride, this is the place.

South of Rosarito, the well-known right point-breaks at K-38 and San Miguel pump on both south and north swells. Both waves are long, rippable walls that occasionally barrel; and provide fun, racy sections. Long-boarders and Mexican locals usually crowd these spots, but if you find yourself in Mex on weekdays from late fall to early spring, you may pleasantly surprised and find the lineups nearly empty.

La Fonda is another well-known spot where you can camp on the cliff or stay at the eccentric La Fonda Hotel. Fun, challenging beach-break walls peak in clear water and break onto a nice, white sand beach. La Fonda may be the most consistent break in the area, and you can almost always get in a fun session, even after the onshore winds pick up in the afternoon.

Local Mex, from the border to Ensenada has so many nooks and crannies between the well-known spots that if you keep you eyes open, follow your instincts and pay a few bucks to pay a local to open a gate on to his property, you could luck into a session as good as any you’ll find halfway around the globe.

Over Thanksgiving this past year, a few friends, my brother and I ventured down to Mexico and rented a house south of Rosarito. There was a solid 4-6 foot swell sunny beaches and glassy conditions. We surfed at Malibu the first two mornings and scored some filthy barrels, despite the weekend crowd. On the second day we drove south and noticed good waves, but there were crowds at K-38 and La Fonda.

On our way home for a siesta, we spotted a point-break from the highway that was barreling with solid 6-foot sets and nobody in sight. I’d seen that point before, but never with anyone surfing it. It definitely looked good, so we went to check it out. The gate leading to the headland was locked and we were going to walk the half mile by foot, when a chubby man ran down the street. He had the key, and I offered him a few dollars and a Pacifica for his troubles. We drove to the top of the headland, bouncing down the dirt road and park atop a drop-off cliff. Jaws dropped as our suspicions were confirmed and a five-wave, solid 6-foot set pushed out of the deep water and churned along the reef. We mapped out a way to safely scale the cliff to a hidden rock cove below and paddled out. Kelp beds lined the glassy point. The late afternoon sun shimmered off the deep blue ocean faces. Overhead set waves broke out beyond a big rock and would push for 50 meters into the bay. Smaller waves sucked up and broke in a dredging hollow section right off the rock. The headland jutted into the lineup and formed a natural bridge where the surf and wind passed underneath and reminded me of Santa Cruz.

The five of us surfed for about three hours, hooting and yelling and getting the waves wired, while my friend’s girlfriend filmed us from the cliff above while standing on our ice chest. Some waves barreled and others left a big wide open-face to carve. The amazing part was that we could see other surfers bobbing around at an average beach-break to the south of us, and countless cars passed on the highway, but no one else clued in that this spot was going off. The session was all ours.

At sunset, we made our way back to the car, and saluted the day with some cold beers and cruisy Hawaiian tunes. Standing there with my brother and friends, watching a final set roll in and blend into the pink and orange haze of the sky, I realized I had found the session I’d searched the world over for, by plane, train, automobile, motorcycle, donkey, horse cart, boat, canoe and foot. I’d found good friends to share good waves, adventure and perfect conditions; and I’d found it all just a three hour drive away in Mex.

@Copyright Jim Miller 1996

Pure Surfing Experience Triple Showdown Series And THE JIMMY

Ahh, October! Waves return to the South Bay, the beaches clear out, the sunsets are brilliant and the Bubble reclaims our own. When fall rolled around, Jimmy would get busy promoting his famous “Pure Surfing Experience Triple Showdown Series” of contests. The goal was to create three contests to keep his PSE surf students involved in their new sport and to invite parents and friends to see how much they had improved. For Jimmy and Jeff’s friends, it was a chance to hit the waves and show off their skills to their bros and score a few “adult beverages.” Pizza, good tunes, colorful rash-guards and a rag-tag group of friends to judge the waves; what better way to spend a glistening fall day on the beach?

We would watch Jimmy assemble the homemade trophies on our family room floor and helplessly watch as the prizes of skateboards, surfboards and surf gear piled higher and higher as he gathered treasures to hand out at the end of the contests. Hmm, does this sound familiar to anyone who has surfed, helped, or been involved in “The Jimmy Family Surf Fiesta,” for the past 15 years?

As I look at the logos from the T-shirts that Mitch Meidroth has designed each year, I can close my eyes and remember each one. From our very first Jimmy, we had no idea how many people would sign up to surf. When we sold out at 200 in the first few days, we had our first inkling that this would be a special event. These were pre-computer sign-ups, so we had dozens of little blond groms coming up to our door the night before the JIMMY with their sign-up sheets and their parents, begging to be included. We never turned anyone away, and said we would substitute their kiddos on to a team because kids have to leave the event for soccer and other activities. In those days, the event on the beach would not end until about 6 pm, and then the whole party, plus a few extra hundred people would arrive at Kevin Barry’s Sangria in Hermosa for a huge after-party, dinner, auction and awards. Susie, Lindsay, Danielle, Tecia, Mel and their crew would have worked for months to make our auction a huge success. The auction girls completely confiscated Susie’s house on 4th Street and they spent their days organizing prizes for winners, auction and raffle. It has always taken a village.
The first year we were still giving out awards at 10 pm. It was truly a 24-hour day, and we loved and appreciated every minute. I laugh when I think of Carly, Mark, Tommy, Chris, Jeff, Andy on the floor of our den, designing the draw sheets, creating the thank you posters, and organizing the surfboards until the wee hours of the night before the JIMMY.

Fifteen years is a long time, and the moving parts of the contest changed, but not the spirit, fun and family centered memory of Jimmy’s own contests. We moved the after-parties to Verandas, The Lakes and other venues. Slackstring, Latchkey Kids, and Kevin Sousa performed. We finally moved the auction to the beach and Katie and crew continue to perform wonders each JIMMY, gathering the most incredible items and teaming up with our sponsor Fresh Brothers to keep everyone fed for hours. With our breakfast from Grow and Bread and Bagel, and the ever-constant Jimmy favorite of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, there is never a shortage of food! We can even claim a wedding or two resulted from meeting at the JIMMY. I smile every-time I see John Balk and Rikki, knowing they met on the beach at the contest. The list of sponsors and donors would take up the entire newsletter, but you can see their names on the beach each year and on our website forever. We could not have this event without the support of our community.

I’ll end by throwing out some highlights of the past fifteen years. You are welcome to write in and add your own or answer a question with the correct year: The first rainy JIMMY, a boat that ran aground after circling closer and closer to our surfing area, the huge orange and grey flames billowing from the Malibu fire, the JIMMY dolphins that arrive each year, the longest trip by a competitor who won the big prize, the giant Sunfish that landed on the beach in the late afternoon glare, the donation of all the decorations for the after-party from the Rosenberg’s Bar Mitzvah at Verandas, “Getting it done for Lindsay,” the intense competition for “Best Beach Lounger Award,” riding a surfboard from a beach chair and winning the heat, (thanks to Daniel, Dietz, Ryan and Mark) and watching Riley and Austin compete in their first Jimmy. Oh how their Uncle would have loved to see that! He’s there in spirit and we hope to see you all in person on October 13th at the JIMMY!

Questions

Questions

When you lose someone to suicide, there are always so many unanswered questions. Fifteen years has taught me that sometimes there are no answers, and the questions become a deep part of your soul. Tucked away, but not forgotten.

In life, there are also so many questions about the prosaic and everyday issues, as well as the deep thoughts. I found this photo of Jimmy and a group of kids at Magic Mountain. I actually remember the day he was going to drive them all there in one of his crazy Camp Surf Vans. It was a boiling hot day, and they would be traveling with no air conditioning. They didn’t care! They were off for an adventure with Jimmy! As I look at this photo, I only recognize a few faces. Who were these kids and how did they end up with him? Hopefully, by the time I finish this blog, I will have some answers, but for now, it’s another question to ponder. From the smile on Jimmy’s face, he was loving his time with this gang. Here’s the thing: When you are a parent, you don’t always know your adult child’s friends. Such is the case with this photo! If you know who they are or anything about that day, please let me know: nancy@jimmymillerfoundation.org

News Flash…as I was writing this, Tommy responded to say it was a group of kids from a special CampSurf session based at Loyola College. Thank you Tommy!!!

Adventure is what Jimmy always craved. I remember reading a note he wrote to Jeff about making a walk home from school become an adventure. Side trips, cool places to skate and grab something to eat….Jimmy could make the mundane sound like an exotic adventure.

That’s why he started Pure Surfing Experience (Camp Surf). He wanted to share his stoke of finding the beauty in the waves and in the story-telling after a great set. And that’s why he traveled: to create adventures he could share. In the coming months, I will share Jimmy’s articles about his travels, discoveries, adventures, loves, losses, mishaps and triumphs. The articles are tucked away in storage trunks, but I promise, I will find them and share with you.

Not sure if any burning questions will be answered, but we will all get a chance to remember and perhaps find out something new about “our Jimmy.”

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Thanks for reading these blogs. For those who have volunteered with JMMF this summer, thank you for making this a stellar Ocean Therapy season. There were so many old faces, new friends, instructors, visitors, supporters and surprises. Now it’s back to school for the “littles,” quiet beach time in Manhattan Beach and a whole new project for JMMF in Coronado. I can’t wait to share more!

On this National Encouragement Day, please take the time to encourage your friends who may need some words of kindness and compassion.