Dan Hamlin is a talented writer/surfer who has penned works for many publications, including Surfers Path and Slide, Drift, and Deep magazines. We spoke with Dan to learn more about his life of writing and surfing.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was great. I grew up about 20 minutes inland, so I didn’t start surfing until I was 16 and I could drive to the beach. Growing up I was really into the outdoors; camping, fishing, hiking, etc. I loved going to the mountains. In fact, up until I started surfing I thought I’d end up living in the mountains someday.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I got my first surfboard when I was 16. It was a 1970’s G&S single fin. My dad had an old Da Cat longboard that he sold, and as part of the deal the G&S was thrown in. My first session was at Rincon, way inside the cove.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I think the best way to describe it was that it was just pure fun. I hadn’t experienced that type of fun before, and being immersed in nature like that made it that much more special for me. I remember after that first surf I sort of had an identity crisis because up to that point I was all about moving to the mountains. As soon as I had my first surf I knew that things were going to change for me. I don’t know if it’s like this for everyone, but for me my first year of surfing was one of the most magical of my life. Some of my early surfing memories are definitely some of my favorites.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a child?
As a kid I always looked up to my older brother Matt. I just sort of tried to tag along with him and do whatever he was doing. I also looked up to my folks; they’ve always been very giving people. Their willingness to help others had a big impact on my life.
Who/What inspired you to begin writing?
My friend Bryan Jennings was making a movie back in 2006 (Walking On Water). He knew I enjoyed writing and that I was trying to give a legitimate go at it, so when a publication had asked him for an article on the making of the movie, Bryan asked me if I wanted to write it. It was my first legitimate article and it got published so I was over the moon. And from there I’ve just kept pursuing it.
What story do you hope to tell when you write?
I do my best to tell positive stories. There is so much negativity in the world, and so much of main stream media focuses on the bad stuff, so I just want to share stories that won’t focus on the negativity. I don’t want to hide from reality, but if I have to write about a bad situation, I try to find something positive I can draw out of it and share that with people. I’m not naïve; I know what goes on in the world, but I want to focus on the good and not the bad. I also want to keep my writing simple. Too much fluff clouds the point and so I try to avoid falling into that scenario.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
This past summer I went to Nicaragua. At the end of the trip, we met up with my friend Brad Corrigan who runs a non-profit down there called Love, Light, and Melody. Brad started LL&M in an effort to help a community in Managua called La Chureca. La Chureca is literally a trash dump where hundreds of families live and survive by sifting through the city’s waste. Brad took us to La Chureca and showed us how LL&M has been helping. It was heartbreaking to witness that kind of poverty, but at the same time inspiring to see what LL&M is doing there.
Who/what inspires you?
I have a lot of people in my life who inspire me. First and foremost is Jesus Christ. My friends Jesse and Whitney Hines have really showed me the meaning of giving; they mean the world to me. My friend Paul Smith has been a support to me forever and I could never repay him for that. These are just a few of the people who have inspired me in life, but really all my friends inspire me and I wish I had room to name them all.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
There are a few truths that I’ve found in my experience on earth to be unshakable. The first is that God’s love for us (all humanity) is an infinite abyss that can’t be exhausted and He demonstrated that love by dying on a cross. The second is that we reap what we sow. And the third is that all people are equal in God’s eyes and so that is how we should view each other too.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I wish I would have started surfing at an earlier age! As far as regrets go I don’t really have any. But that’s not to say I haven’t made some colossal mistakes in my time. That’s part of the beauty of what Jesus did on the cross. We’re all going to make mistakes, but thanks to Jesus I can accept God’s forgiveness, learn from my mistakes, and move on.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my relationship with Jesus.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing holds a very special place in my life. It has been the avenue by which I’ve been able to travel the world, experience new cultures, and enjoy the beauty and power of nature. In a way surfing completely rearranged things for me. Like I said earlier, before surfing I was sure I’d end up in the mountains someday, now I can’t imagine living away from the coast. In fact, if I go more than a week without surfing I can’t sleep at night.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Not to sound like a broken record, but Jesus does. I can only speak from my own experience, and in my experience He is the source of true happiness in life.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
I think Dane Reynolds is having a huge impact on the direction of surfing. I like how he seems to be riding boards that he finds fun. He doesn’t seem to be too concerned with the status quo, which I find refreshing. The kids coming up who have their own video blogs and websites seem to be getting a lot of press these days. Surfing is definitely evolving at an exponential rate; I just hope it doesn’t lose its soul in the process. The essence of surfing is still the same as it always has been. Hopefully there will always be people who carry on that tradition.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
Any board shaped by Robert Weiner will be a good one. But one of my favorite boards of all time has been the Roberts Black Diamond. As for waves, there are a couple of reefs on the Central Coast that when they are good and un-crowded would probably be my favorite waves. The problem is that when they’re good, they’re rarely un-crowded.
What’s your favorite meal?
Any home cooked meal.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Josh Garrels, Gillian Welch, Mumford and Sons, Johnny Cash, Dispatch, the Avett Brothers, Josh Harmony. I pretty much like everything but heavy metal.
What are you most grateful for?
I’m most grateful for my friends and family and most importantly Jesus. I’m also extremely thankful for the support that I’ve had from Jedidiah, Esteem Surf Co, and Roberts Surfboards. I also want to thank my friend Chris Burkard for all his help and generosity over the years.
What’s next for Dan Hamlin?
I hope to continue to travel and surf and hopefully tell stories that inspire people. But truthfully, I don’t really know what’s next at this point so we’ll have to wait and see.