One brilliant June morning in the summer of 1980 my mom and I drove in silence towards the Salisbury State Beach Lifeguard Headquarters. The two mile road we made our way in on was quintessential New England, surrounded on the right by a vast salty marsh known as the Great Marsh and on the left by sprawling New England sand dunes.
We were on that road because I had been invited the day before to participate in a lifeguard workout by the head lifeguard, Craig Weir, a man I had met in the most serendipitous of ways and had been getting to know for a few weeks. I met Craig at the Frolics Rock n Roll Ballroom where he and some other kind hearted soldiers of fortune allowed me to hang around in the evenings while they kept the peace (peace through strength) at the door as bouncers. Craig had learned that my father died 2 years before and he took a liking to me and thought that me joining his ruddy lifeguard crew for a morning workout might be good for me and for the crew.
Nobody could have predicted just how monumental and transformational that invitation, workout and the relationships started that day would be for my personal development.
When I arrived at the top of the winding footpath where the guards met, I saw my strong and confident friend Craig addressing about fifty young lifesavers and could tell right away that they valued and respected his insights. He was sharing points about beach safety, water conditions, rescue operations and he had the attention of every person there and each new that what he had to say could be a matter of life or death.
After his mini-lecture, Craig described the running and surf training that was to follow in the soft sand and in the chilly Atlantic, and then he said, “and this kid is my friend Spike (as he put me in a head lock) and if anyone even thinks about giving him a hard time you will deal with me.” No body messed with me that day or any day that followed, I was kind of like Craig’s kid.
That day, at 11 years old I fell even more completely in love with running, paddling and ocean swimming and felt like in some ways I was meeting the rest of my family for the first time. I felt joy, I felt safe and I felt like I was home.
I went to every workout that summer, getting to know the crew and spending more time with Craig before and after the workout. Many days I would not leave headquarters all day, going for meals, rescue boat rides and long foot patrols with Craig and his assistant head lifeguards.
My relationship with Craig didn’t stop with end of the New England summer, he continued to stay active in my life year round, supporting my swim training, weight training and my pursuit of excellence.
At fifteen, I served as a groomsman in Craig’s wedding, at seventeen he hired me as a rookie guard to protect the shores he had groomed me on for so many years before.
In 1990, I moved to San Diego and Craig once again supported me in pursuing ocean lifeguarding and competing at the highest level on the west coast.
Craig’s love, friendship and example molded my life as an athlete, lifesaver, teacher and as a man. Although the loss of my biological dad was heart breaking, it lead me to Craig and the band of brothers and sisters at Salisbury Beach that shaped my character and now my career and my passions.
In September of 2015, I held Craig’s hand on the final days of his life… As I looked into his tired eyes I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the love, guidance and protection he bestowed on me at a time when I needed it the most.
I love you Craig…
Lifeguards For Ever