Wise words to buoy you through life, encouraging a path of purpose, hope and faith

Shaun Tomson, former surfing champion. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Shaun Tomson, former surfing champion. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Published Dec 5, 2022


The Surfer and the Sage

Authors: Shaun Tomson and Noah benShea

Publisher: Familius

Review: Barbara Spaanderman

Shaun Tomson is a South African surfing legend. Anyone associated with the sea, surfing and sunshine will have heard of him. Meanwhile, Noah benShea is a life guru, poet-philosopher.

Between the two they have created this book, The Surfer and the Sage, to give insight and encouragement on a path of purpose, hope and faith.

Shaun Tomson's personal story is filled with grief at the unexpected passing of his young teenage son, who, with peer pressure, took part in the so-called “choking game”.

Says Shaun Tomson, "I was bereft and broken, rudderless. And then I got my faith back in a blinding bolt of light. When you lose a loved one, it seems the light of their soul, their energy, their essence, their atomic core of vitality, does not disappear with death.”

Tomson returned to his familial shul or synagogue, Temple David in Durban, and rediscovered the light of faith.

The Surfer and the Sage alternates chapters written by the two men, and not only is their style different, the colour of the print is different. Where Tomson describes finding his faith again, benShea describes what faith is: “Faith is how you bond with life, whether its faith in God or in yourself.” He ties it to surfing: “Faith is believing that the great wave destined for you is still out there. And in you!”

The book is divided into 18 chapters, each with a dual heading, like Anxious & Calm, or Defeated & Unbreakable, with each of the authors giving their perspective on the subject. This is a book that can be read in one sitting, but kept at hand for reference when you are feeling defeated, exhausted or frail. Each of Tomson's chapters always a surfing reference, and benShea brings out the best in how we understand ourselves and life. Photographs of famous surfing waves accompany the text.

When you feel defeated, benShea has these words: “The major difference between being defeated and being unbreakable is the decision, 'yes, I am broken, but I am not defeated. And I am unbreakable because I can distinguish between the two.' ”

Shaun Tomson on defeat says “ ... defeat is a tempering process that makes us unbreakable.” He explores his father's surfing life which was cut short by a savage shark attack. Tomson's father “never lost his love for the ocean...his passion for competition.” When Tomson lost in surfing competitions his father treated the failures with immense wisdom: “ Remember the decision is final ... no amount of moaning or crying will change the result ... Accept the result and move on.”

The Surfer and the Sage is packed with the practical wisdom of two men who live and love life.

Tomson says “Our words are meant ... to look a little differently at what you know. Do you focus on the positive or the negative? Do you live in joy or fear? Do you take every wave that comes your way or do you share?” The sage's summation is “I am no longer young enough to know everything. What I know can fill a book. What I don't know can fill a library.”

Two good men have filled their book with gems of wisdom on every page.