Surfing champion and author Shaun Tomson has turned the personal tragedy of losing a son to peer pressure into a new book and he did it with a little help from a young school girl he met while discussing his love for surfing and how it helped him through troubled times.
During a recent visit to Santa Barbara’s Anacapa School, he gave students there an assignment that was partially based on his first book, “The Surfer’s Code.” He wanted the students to write their own code, starting with the phrase, “I will.”
He collected the notes from each of the students and read over them for a week. As he was reading, there was one, from a little girl, that stood out. “The very best line out of all of them was ‘I will be myself,’” he said. “It was just a wonderful peer statement.”
That very sentence became part of the inspiration for Tomson to write his latest book, “The Code: The Power of I Will,” which launches today during a fundraiser for the Surfrider Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica on the rooftop lounge of the Real Office Center on Arizona Avenue.
The new work is a collection of 12 memoirs about the lessons Tomson has learned throughout his life. “The motivation for this book is for 12- to 19-year-olds to think about the future and think twice about making their decisions,” Tomson said.
Tom Danis, a Santa Monica-based licensed counselor, believes that it takes a circle of support to steer kids toward making the right choices when outside forces are weighing in on them.
“When young people experience peer pressure and have an adult or mentor, they are less likely to give into it,” Danis said.
During his trip to Santa Barbara, Tomson spoke about his son, Matthew, being pressured by friends into partaking in a choking game that he had heard about at school in Durban, South Africa. It was the same school Tomson attended as a boy.
Matthew was 15 years old when he died on April 24, 2006 just an hour after he called his father and mother and told them that he loved them and read from an essay he wrote in one of his classes.
“It’s one of those decisions young people make that they don’t understand,” Tomson said. “When you have to make a decision, stop and think twice because that decision could change your life.”
Tomson described his late son as a very likable and fun-loving boy with an amazing smile. “I just miss him,” he said.
The surfing champion said that his son might be gone in a physical sense, but he’s still with him and his wife, Carla, spiritually. One of the steps to healing from Tomson’s tragic loss came when he and Carla adopted a boy whose birthday was the same as Matthew’s.
The couple named the boy Luke, which means light and healer. Another step came when Tomson took his ill wife to a hospital. A spiritual healer came to them saying she had a message from Matthew.
“The healer told me that Matthew says that he was sorry and that he made a mistake,” Tomson said.