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John Kruk is not an athlete

Spencer Hirsch
It was spring training, and John Kruk was significantly overweight. 

He was also drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. A woman recognized him, and she approached him. “You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re an athlete,” she said.

Kruk responded, “I ain’t an athlete, lady. I’m a baseball player.”

It’s a pretty famous moment in professional baseball. I grew up hearing the story told and retold by my dad. These things are passed down.

At first, I simply enjoyed it as a funny anecdote. Time passed, and it became a poignant depiction of that elusive quality that separates baseball from other traditional sports.

More recently, I’ve come to apply it to anything loved, but not quite fully understood by the general public. Action sports are often a good example of this. Kruk’s brief response comes about as close as anything else in defining the unique drive of an action sports enthusiast.

There have been other slogans of a similar nature geared more toward the action sports “insider,” such as, “Only a surfer knows the feeling.” But I’ve seen that motto on one too many t-shirts.

“For love of the game,” also comes close in helping to decipher the action sports drive; but I still think Kevin Costner peaked with “Field of Dreams” and “Bull Durham.”

So I return to Kruk’s philosophy. The simple distinction that Kruk makes between an athlete and a baseball player is all I really need.

There’s no great mystery. It’s not hard to explain. I surf because it’s fun. That’s it. I skate and ski because it’s fun.

More than anywhere else I’ve been, I think coastal North County most values and understands that simple longing toward board sports.

In this column, I hope to capture a bit of that. I hope to capture the coastal quality and the John Kruk hypothesis, as it pertains to surf, skate and snow.

Twice a month, I’ll be writing profiles on local figures, up-and-comers, industry veterans and wave-makers. I’ll cover brands that are doing something different here in our community. I’ll feature shops, trends, events, shows and action sports premieres at La Paloma.

I’m also interested in fitness, high school surf teams, local clubs and travel ideas. Anything that blends action sports and our community deserves attention.

With that in mind, I’ll be looking for suggestions from readers. My contact information will be included with every column. Let me know what I’m missing. Direct my focus to things this community cares about, even if most of us don’t know about them yet. Email [email protected] for suggestions, questions or anything else that comes to mind.

A bit about me: I grew up in North County. I’ve surfed, skated and skied most of my life. I’ve enjoyed great sessions and I’ve endured my share of injury.

I’ve competed at the high school and college levels, and I’ve also sworn off action sports competition on a few separate occasions.

In recent years, I’ve worked in marketing, e-commerce and brand development across several action sports brands, including Skullcandy Headphones, Armourdillo Belt Co. and Stereo Skateboards.

I live in Encinitas with the same buddies I’ve had forever. I surf Pipes, I ski Mammoth and I skate a friend’s backyard.

In the next session, I’ll be profiling a young, local skater.

He’s a resident of Del Mar and a graduate of Canyon Crest Academy.

He came of age under the wing of the “Birdman” Tony Hawk.

He’s the action sports equivalent of the childhood actor who grew up.

And now, he’s reinventing himself.


Emily Weisberg February 25, 2013 at 9:48 am

Looking forward to reading more! Nice to find someone writing about action sports who has a unique voice and can actually write! I’ll definitely be reading the next column.

Eli Cash February 22, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Very nice article, I look forward to reading and hearing more about what is going on both in our community, and the brands and shops that are doing it!

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