What does a cat litter scientist and Charles Barkley have to do with paddling?

shirley wang

I came across this article a few weeks ago and it struck a chord with me. If you haven’t read it yet, Shirley Wang of WBUR, a public radio station in Boston, tells the story of the unlikely friendship between her dad, Lin, a cat litter scientist from Muscatine, Iowa and Charles Barkley, the NBA legend and member of the Hall of Fame. It’s one of the most interesting stories I’ve read in a long time and may refresh your views on friendship and family, or even just humanity in general.

You can read or listen to the whole segment “My Dad’s Friendship With Charles Barkley” by Shirley Wang here.

As you will read, the friendship between Lin and Barkley was simply a wonderful connection between two people who enjoyed each other’s company. They found a connection that went beyond profession, socioeconomics, race or even height (Barkley’s 6’6″). They simply connected, remained in contact and became great friends who were there for each other.

In our sport, there are countless examples of people who had it not been for paddling would probably not have ever met much less become great friends. Carpenters and nurses, writers and trainers, artists, accountants, marine upholsterers, builders and yoga instructors all find connection on the water and through our paddle community.

Our sport grants the newest paddlers to the biggest stars in our world. You can hang out for a week with Dave Kalama and Jimmy Terrell. You can go to Central America surfing with Dave Boehne or Baja with Sean Poynter. You can get coached by gold medalist Larry Cain or a world champion Travis Grant. You can paddle with Seychelle in Florida, meet up with Fiona for a downwind in the Gorge, or head to Maui to rub elbows with Maliko royalty. Our sport and community are so intertwined, it’s amazing. As one paddler remarked while lining up for the Carolina Cup one year, “where else can you lace up next to F-ing  Jordan?”

I hope you read Shirley Wang’s article. It’s really beautiful. And I hope you reach out to someone you’ve paddled with this week and just say hello, ask how they’re doing. Like Chuck Patterson who is shoeless in the snow somewhere. Save Chuck!

—The Mullet