Surfing’s Iron Man

Surfing’s Iron Man

35 years in, 13,000 sessions later, and Dale Webster still hasn’t missed a single day of surfing.

Sixty-two-year-old Dale “Daily Wavester” Webster of Sonoma County, California, surfed his 13,000th consecutive day on April 6, 2011. Think about that for a second; when this crazy streak began, Gerald Ford was president, a gallon of gas cost 57 cents, and Kelly Slater was three years old. It was stoked along by all sorts of misunderstandings, one of which was about a wetsuit warranty—he thought it meant if he surfed in it every day for a year, he could take it back to be repaired. Over the 35-plus years, it’s morphed into a fanatic connection and dedication to the sea. Here are a few reflections from his maniacal endeavor.—Ryan Brower

“The streak all stems from missing a day of surfing. My girlfriend, before she became my wife, couldn’t drive me to the beach because she had to work. So I just went to work and saw an ad for this Ford Falcon station wagon and ended up buying it after work—I didn’t want to miss another day in the ocean again. Been surfing every day since.”

“I feel so funny sometimes being this complete creature of habit. I remember coming home one night from some midnight job I had and there was this ad on the TV describing OCD symptoms. This infomercial nailed me; I’m this surfer that has to do this ‘routine’ every day. It’ll die when I die.”

“New Year’s Day 2010 almost broke the streak. My car died and I thought it was the battery. So I had to wait for a friend to come by to jump it. It was actually the alternator, and while it was raining, my friend switched it out. I finally got to the beach a half hour before dark. It was so mind-boggling how it all worked out, and no one else suffered this anxiety but me. Getting the car started again was total elation: ‘I’m gonna make it!’”

“In 1985, my wife Kay was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I couldn’t believe how tough and strong she was. She battled it for three years and I was there by her side. Her in-laws came and I could surf in the mornings. It was horrible and amazing at the same time—our wedding vows to the max. She eventually passed away.”

“I feel really lucky that my parents gave me the personal freedom to be a surfer. It was almost a way to control me, though, I guess. ‘You can’t go to the beach until you clean your room, take out the trash, clean the dishes,’ they’d tell me. Biggest control warp there ever was for me.”