Jaimal, what a thrill for me to have this conversation with you.
I want to start by asking you take me back to when you were 16 years old. You kind of left your mom a note. Anybody who has followed your story knows the note said something to the effect, please don’t worry. I’m somewhere in the world and I will call you when I get there. Tell me about the mindset of that 16-year-old kid, if you still remember it?
That was 15 years ago now. I remember it really clearly. It doesn’t seem that long ago. I had a military dad. My dad was in the Air Force. We had been stationed in various places.
I was born in New York and we lived in Washington State and the Azores, Portugal for a particularly formative period of my life where we lived on an island. We were right on the beach where a U.S. air base is on Terceira. That was just sort of a magical place for me. We learned to body surf. My dad was a surfer growing up having been stationed in Hawaii and Vietnam in the Navy.
We moved again to Sacramento, California after the Azores. Sacramento was fine. It was great. We had a little suburban house. I had great friends. There is something about the valley and the way some American high school trajectories go. We were just all at about 16 really spinning our wheels. We were just kind of the kids who complained about our home town and would go out and get into trouble for no reason, drinking too much, experimenting with drugs. I got suspended from school and then I got arrested for drunk driving.
I didn’t understand why I was feeling so belligerent. I didn’t feel particularly belligerent, I was just thinking this is the way I feel. Unconsciously, I was playing out a lot of anger that was about various things but mostly I think it was about my parent’s divorce which had happened when I was 11. I never really processed that. I didn’t know how. So I was looking to the things that were at my disposal.
For some reason, at that time, I knew that something wasn’t right about the path I was on. I knew I needed to change. I knew that I was having trouble making it at home. What kept coming back to be were these visions of islands and visions of waves. I had connected the ocean I think because of that particularly formative period of my life in the Azores with a time when the family was whole, a time when I was really happy as a kid.
There is something about that age being 16 to 18 where you really have no fear. I thought this is it for me. I’m going to get on an airplane and go to Hawaii. It was the closest place I could think of where all those elements could come together. I was going to start over. I was going stop getting into mischief and really remake my life and learn to surf.
Surfing had been something that I had wanted to pursue my whole life. I skateboarded and snowboarded like crazy, growing up all the time wishing that I could surf as this was something that I had wanted to do since I was three years old. We lived by the ocean when I was old enough to have a board.
Anyhow, all of those thoughts were swirling around. I felt like I had to take drastic measures. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal in retrospect that I have gotten into a little trouble and nothing I was doing was that extreme. I wasn’t running with a gang or smoking crack or anything. It seemed like a huge deal like I had hit rock bottom and that I needed a change in my life. I ended up getting on a plane and I could continue the story but I don’t want to go on too long.