Matt has been involved with the surf industry since he was a teenager. His roles have included marketing, writing and retail.
Published in (now defunct) Carbon Mag:
Goodbye Tim Dowell, Hello James Joyce
Regrettably, I must say farewell to Tim Dowell. Twenty-one years old. Heading into his senior year at the University of California, Berkeley. Passionate. Intelligent. Always positive. Loved by so many. Ready to take the world by storm. Tim Dowell of San Clemente, CA, passed in his sleep August 17, 2004.
One year ago this September, we at Carbon decided it was time to expand our coverage to the national level (previously, we restricted our coverage to the East Coast). I wanted to do a feature on Pat Gudauskas for our debut issue with West Coast coverage. I spoke with Pat’s dad, Tom, and he suggested I get in touch with Tim Dowell, a friend of the family and a great writer. Tom was right. Tim’s writing ability allowed the reader to get to know Pat as if the reader were his fraternal twin.
From there, Tim and I had a lot of fun conversing via email and phone about politics, literature, and various other topics. The fact that such topics made their way into Carbon editorial had Tim really excited to be a part of the mag.
During his spring semester at Berkeley, Tim was reading Ulysses by James Joyce and seemed completely infatuated with the epic novel. He was especially taken by the theme of living in the moment and savoring the time we are allotted in this life. In Tim’s words,
“While most—probably none—of us will ever write a National Epic novel like Joyce’s Ulysses, we have the opportunity to live our lives dramatically—taking advantage of each moment.”
Seemingly healthy, Tim went to sleep the night of August 17th, 2004, as we all do on any given night. Except he didn’t wake up in the morning. Just like that. No explanation (at the time of print, there is not an autopsy report, but most are leaning towards a brain aneurysm).
Tim’s untimely death was a shock to all who knew him. He reminds us how truly fleeting our time here is. I believe Tim spent his last few months (which were delved into Ulysses) thinking a lot about what the novel has to teach us. He emailed me regularly with new revelations revealed to him by James Joyce. It seemed he was riveted by the fact that it took place in the span of one day
The characters explore the depths of the human experience during an uneventful day in their hometown of Dublin, Ireland. The theme Tim seemed so excited about was that if one opens his/her eyes, all the adventure and experience the world has to offer is right at one’s fingertips, wherever one is at the time. One doesn’t need a huge bank account or sponsor with a bottomless pit of a travel budget—one just needs to pay a little closer attention to one’s current surroundings.
I thought a lot about Tim’s message after surfing the other night. It was evening and the waves were less than spectacular. After five days straight of head-high or better surf with conditions ranging from fun to epic, I found myself wondering what I was doing groveling one-foot waves. Getting frustrated and not having much fun, I paddled into a waist-high burger. As I got to my feet, my board immediately spun around underneath me. Confused, I flipped over my board and there were no fins in it. I never screwed them in
Now thoroughly annoyed, I biked the few blocks home, trying to ignore smart-ass comments about my fin-less board. There were only about forty-five minutes left before dark; and, although my instincts told me to bag the session, I screwed in another set of fins and biked back.
But, instead of heading back to 1st Street where it looked best, I just blindly paddled out at the end of my street. The waist-high, dumping close-outs weren’t doing it for me, and I spotted a possible left breaking on the other side of the next jetty.Not only was there a left, a new sandbar had formed, which created a double-up with no back that would go inside-out on itself in a very shallow area right in front of the jetty. The sandbar then would gradually get deeper, ending in a gully down beach.
With only a half-hour of light left, I hustled to catch as many of the little bowls as the evening light spectrum would allow. Then, one of those eternal specks in time that make surfers some of the most passionate of humans happened. The dancing light of the half moon to the south allowed the freak chest-high wave to announce its arrival as the brilliant pinks and purples of the setting sun in the west faded to black.
Instinctively, I dropped in pig-dog with one hand on the outside rail and the other in the wave. The warped little thing must have been as wide as it was tall, and it opened up and let me just chill inside. Even more unique was the back-lit moonlight in the lip, as well as the colorful Ferris wheel at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, whose lights appeared unfettered on the wave face, as there wasn’t a single ripple due to the milky glass conditions.
The hollow piece of ocean let me out of its innards cleanly, and I couldn’t help but let out a giddy laugh. I felt the tingle of endorphins flooding my neuro-receptors and the fleeting ecstasy of being mindlessly within the moment.
Walking up the beach, my subconscious excitement to call Tim and tell him about my Ulysses-like experience surfaced, and the excitement quickly turned to sadness at the conscious realization that Tim would no longer be answering his phone or returning emails.
The sadness slowly evolved into disappointment—and a bit of despair—with an existence that seemingly decides to take the best humanity has to offer whenever it feels like. The same neuro-receptors that allowed me to feel ecstasy, sadness, disappointment, and despair, all within a few moments, also (thankfully) allowed me to feel resolve.
I suspect that, if Tim were here to analyze the situation, he would tell me to be thankful for a life in which a happened-upon session, seemingly so mundane, could reveal a moment so fascinating, so beautiful, that it may have even brought James Joyce to tears.