The best surfer I ever met was a guy who is about ten years my senior. About a decade ago I started going to Long Beach, Long Island to surf on the weekends at dawn. I had developed a very big fear of the water and an even bigger fear of the crowd. And there was this gentle giant, Don Oswald with his wife Margie, preachers, spreading the word of fun, befriending beginners, telling you what board you should be using, and offering words of encouragement every step of the way. Don and Marge probably converted more joyous acolytes every Sunday than any reverend in the neighborhood.
Don, 6’4 and muscular, exerted his authority and never allowed bad behavior while the beach was under his supervision. The fact that he was so successful was a tribute to the respect he was given: he was an accomplished surfer, swimmer, former lifeguard and amateur comedian. Every time he was worked by a wave, he laughed so loud you could hear him 50 feet away.
Don and Marge would give up waves to coach others; their objective was for everyone to have fun and not get hurt. It was infectious; some of the nasty gnarly guys started to encourage us, even me! I still remember a six foot wave rolling in and Don shouted to me that it was my wave. I went for it and rode it to the next jetty, legs shaking. I paddled back out and some of the previously nasty guys, ten, twenty years older were cheering me, telling me they gave up waves to watch me on mine. What a glorious day!
The moral of the story: People do set examples and the unselfish act of one person can affect the behavior of others.