An Ugly Water Bottle—Father's Day with Ryan Tatar
When you type “is parenting” into Google’s search bar, it conveniently finishes your inquiry for you: “is parenting hard?” It’s apparently a question on a lot of people’s minds, and that’s understandable. Sure, becoming a parent is one of life’s greatest triumphs—the opportunity to impart all the lessons you’ve learned into a miniature version of yourself—but for many, it’s also a tad nerve-racking.
For this Father’s Day, we talked to our buddy Ryan Tatar, who, on top of being a phenomenal surfer and taking some of our all-time favorite photos, happens to be a proud father himself. Ryan talks about how he maintains balance, his favorite ways to spend time with his son Mason, and what his ideal Father’s Day looks like. So, is parenting hard? Well, maybe, but to hear him tell it, it’s also a ton of fun.
What’s your favorite thing to do with your son?
Hop in my Subaru (AKA the Dune Buggy) and head up to Mt. Tam looking for trouble. Hitting In-N-Out or Super Duper on the way down as the sun settles behind the Pacific. Ensuring our shoes are full of sand and our pants just a little dirty from a day well spent.
What’s your favorite part of being a dad?
My son is four now, and one of the highlights of his day is when I come home from work. He gives me the largest, warmest smile, runs to the door to give me a huge hug, and immediately wants to spend time with me building space ships with Magna-Tiles, wrestling around, or just hanging on the couch. Every day. There are countless laughs and smiles in these moments, and that is the greatest currency. To know that you mean so much to this little human—who is also a mini version of you in some ways—is just so cool. It makes you realize you have this great power and responsibility as a dad to be there for him and spend time with him. Days he will remember the rest of his life, maybe.
How have you changed since you became a parent? Has it impacted your work?
I feel I’m the same dude with the same goals. Maybe with less time for everything, but I make it work. I’ve had less time to schedule things for my personal life, hang out with friends, make prints and art, and get that out into the world. You do get more efficient at work and can keep up the same level of productivity—with focus. In order to avoid burning out, you just need to be okay with letting some stuff go. Before, I could catch a beer with a friend on a Tuesday, surf after work on a Wednesday, stay at the office super late on a Thursday, and then maybe Friday evening still have some energy after date night to work on an upcoming show. Now, there’s maybe time for one of those after-work activities. In the end, you just prioritize the one thing that matters most to you, and you let the rest go. Hanging with my son Mason is way more fun than any of those things I mentioned, anyway.
What has most surprised you about fatherhood?
How much I enjoy it. I was a bit of a mess during the first six months, but after he started smiling and his personality came out, I got more and more stoked. My priorities have really shifted—that’s kind of a given—but I didn’t expect to really, truly be stoked about not having as much time to shoot film or take on new projects outside of my core job and instead roll down sand dunes in the Outer Sunset.
Which significant milestone are you most looking forward to as a father?
I kind of wish he’d stay this age forever (laughs), but maybe one thing stands out: selfishly, I want to show him surfing, which has meant so much to me throughout my life. Artistically, creatively, spiritually… it’s so centering, and so incredibly fun. I would love to share that with him. I sometimes daydream about when it will happen; wondering if it will be a little night at Cowells, or on vacation somewhere like Waikiki.
I was just so amazed, because at three-years-old, I didn’t even know he’d noticed I drank a lot of water. I was so stoked and impressed about his observations at that young age.
Have there been moments when you’ve struggled with maintaining a balance between parenting and life’s other demands?
Oh, geez, yeah… I struggled in the first year a lot. I mean, it’s always a struggle. You just really have to decide what’s most important and be comfortable with those decisions in your head. Or you can become riddled with anxiety. It helps to have a supportive partner and some flexibility with work. I don’t accept that you can’t be successful in a career and also be a present parent. Although I will always make sure Mason comes first.
Are there any parenting techniques you’ve borrowed from your own father?
My dad is just a cool guy and a lot of fun. I don’t remember him ever telling me he was too busy to throw a football or to spend time with me when he was home. He always had good advice for me, no matter what. I try to do the same for Mason.
Are there any challenges that you face as a father in 2019 that you don’t think your own father dealt with?
Living in a one-bedroom apartment because the cost of living in San Francisco is so outrageous has really been a challenge, but we’ve made it work. My dad also got to leave work at work… the days of a desktop computer and no cell phones. For all of the conveniences, technology has brought to us, it’s also really become a digital shackle.
Any standout Father’s Day gifts you’ve received thus far in your parenting tenure?
Well, my son is only four, so my wife often helps him pick out gifts. However, last year, I got the best gift. It requires some explanation, though. I drink a lot of water. My wife teases me because I bring a big 42-oz MiiR water bottle everywhere. At my son’s preschool, the teachers had hundreds of random things that people had donated, and they let the kids “shop” for Father’s Day. My son found perhaps the ugliest—but most awesome—water bottle and picked it out for me. I was just so amazed, because at three-years-old, I didn’t even know he’d noticed I drank a lot of water. I was so stoked and impressed about his observations at that young age.
What constitutes your ideal Father’s Day?
Sleep in until 8:30, wake up with a pour-over coffee from Coffee Collective, and have a cruise-y, slow-ish morning. Then hit the mountains for a family hike. Maybe stop somewhere like Fish in Sausalito or Hook Fish Co. in the Sunset on the way home to grab some casual grub. If it’s a warm day, definitely hit up a secret spot swimming hole to get some sun. If everyone is having fun, I’d love to sneak in a few waves at one of my favorite spots, too.
Any advice for expectant dads out there? Things you wish you’d known sooner?
You get pulled in a lot of directions as a parent, so try and carve out some blocks of time to focus on yourself and work on your own goals. Try and encourage your partner to do the same. With just a little “me time,” whether that’s one afternoon a week to surf or whatever your thing is, it helps you be really stoked and present for all the things that life throws at you as a parent. Also, remember that there are 7 billion people on the planet now… if that many people have raised children, you can too.