What I learned from my global surf-and-turf challenge.

Notes from different corners of the world.
Oct. 30 2009 10:18 AM

Climb Every Continent, Surf Every Ocean

What I learned from my global surf-and-turf challenge.

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Weeks later, I was descending from the summit of Everest when clouds blew in. A blizzard hit us hard and left the team badly scattered along the Southeast Ridge. We made a few key decisions that pulled everyone through. Some of the Sherpas saw it differently. They attributed our survival to the amulet. It was inscribed with the meaning of life; it had juice.

With every surf trip, every climbing expedition, another bizarre entanglement popped up. Debacles led to friendships; failed summits led to lawsuits; and on a climb half a world away I met my wife, even though she lived in Washington, D.C., just two Metro stops from me. Thinking back, I realize now that every adventure was telling me the same thing: The world is an intertwined, luminous, unending ball of threads. And after 10 years of puzzling over that amulet, it is here, with my wet suit dripping on a small crescent of sand in the Arctic Circle, where I finally realize what it says. It's a simple message, really: Go pull a thread.

Francis Slakey is a professor of physics at Georgetown University and a lobbyist for the American Physical Society. As part of the 2002 Olympic Games, he carried the Olympic torch from the steps of the U.S. Capitol.