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Surfer, Pianist

Substitute Teacher


Dana Franchitto loves going to work as a substitute teacher at the Nauset Middle School. Even if he won $10 million in the lottery, he’d still want to be there.  He’s trained as a classical pianist. Dana also loves to surf.


I heard the waves calling a long time ago, long before I started surfing, yes. I guess the best way to put it, I feel called to surfing.


 I started late in life. I started when I was 48, and a lot of the people around here started when they were children. My cousin had an old longboard he didn't use. So, he gave it to me. When I first put that the old beater in the water, that tank, I didn't know what I was doing. I couldn't even get through a small wave without getting pushed around.


I'll never forget the first time I got on my feet and actually went about one or two feet on my feet before I fell. I had this strange feeling of almost weightlessness, just the ecstasy of wind passing by me, and I'm totally with the wave. That was a breakthrough. And that had me in seventh heaven!  


The hardest part is for me is standing up, popping up to my feet, and maintaining it. One of my buddies told me, Surf the wave, not the board. And look where you want to go. Don't look at your feet, ‘cause you'll hang your head. And that's going to send you right into the drink.


 I think I've regressed a little bit, unfortunately. I don't know what keeps me going. I almost quit one day. I said, “I’ve had enough, I can't do this.” I was going to leave the board on the beach and say, “Anybody want it?  Take it. I'm done.”  


Well, I just couldn't do it. After all these years, I just couldn't get a ride on my feet. I just couldn't stand up. It would be just like going to the piano and forgetting where middle C was. It was like that, or a guitar player forgetting how to play a G chord. That's demoralizing.


I told a buddy of mine I was going to quit. And he says, “No, you're not!” And he was right. I'll always do it.  I just have no idea why. It's just a way for me to be out in the water.


 I'm a classically trained pianist. Classical piano has been my life since I was a child. Beethoven, Bach, and John Coltrane are my musical gods. Surfing has influenced my piano playing, because surfing requires the whole body in balance, and you're doing it right from the core. And that's how I try to play piano.


There is an etude by Chopin, Opus 25, number 12, which to me suggests very wild ocean waves. So, I call that my surfing etude, and may Chopin forgive me for it.


You're not going to really master that etude, paying attention to every note. You've got to kind of flow with the phrases, just like surfing. You're not looking at water molecules. You're looking at the wave. You're feeling the wave. You're making sure you know where that wave is and how you're going to get it.


And it's going up and down the keyboard with these broken chords called arpeggios. You don't play the whole chord at once. You play up and down these wavy lines. And when I miss a beat there, that's my wipe out.<laughs>

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