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Sunday, June 13, 2010

“When does age create gigantic waves and storms?”

So Abby Sunderland is the 16-year old from California who was trying to sail around the world solo. Long story short, she ran into trouble but is now headed safely back to port. Most reactions I’ve seen are from people angry that her parents could let their child just go out into the open ocean like that.

Still others note that people always seem to care more about a lost teen out sailing the globe than one missing up the street. Not everyone feels this way of course, but sensational stories do make the news. Face it, a 16-year old adrift on the high seas is a ratings money shot coveted by the media.

I disagree with the idea that it was wrong to let her go however.

Mostly because the family is a sailing family. Her brother Zac has already made a solo trip around the world at 17. Growing up around it, you understand early on that water’s one of those things that you learn to respect. You can sense this from her family.

She’s been sailing on her own since 13, and when you hear her talk, there’s a maturity there aware of the risks. More than that though, she doesn’t seem to be afraid. How many teenagers have the fortitude to confront something that many adults wouldn’t even have the courage to think about?

Imagine going days without seeing land or another ship—at 16.

Few could. What I liked the most though was that in her blog post Saturday after being rescued, she flips the age thing around in a way that people should respect, especially those adults who would’ve kept her from going:

“As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?”

Far as she was concerned, the ability to deal with the challenges at hand had nothing to do with age. It didn’t cause her problems. Is that youth talking smack against Mother Nature? Maybe.

But here’s the thing, how many times do we tell kids “Oh, you can be anything you want, if you... just work hard enough. President. Astronaut. Doctor. Whatever, right?

So here’s a teen doing just that, doing what she loves and what she was encouraged to try, and people blame her mom and dad? As a parent, do you know how hard it is to instill a desire like that in kids? You can’t. It comes from within.

Yes, ultimately you have to decide what’s best for them (up to a point), but in this case, waiting until she’s 18 wouldn’t have mattered. To her point, would storms at sea be any less dangerous?

Do those same people also blame the parents of Bethany Hamilton, the then 13-year old surfer who lost an arm to a shark attack? No. Instead, they applaud her for being *brave enough* to resume surfing so soon after the incident (and subsequently turning pro).

That attack should’ve been proof of the dangers anyone faces surfing but instead, people go, wow, she’s an amazing surfer... for someone so young.

Danger lurks everywhere, even in your own home; it doesn’t have to be in the middle of an ocean. Trust. So here’s to Abby, helluva sailor... for someone so young.

(Update: While it doesn’t change my opinion, dad apparently inked a deal for a reality show after the trip started.)

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