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SURFER magazine – September 2008 issue, volume 49 number 09

Article “Molding Clay Marzo” by Chris Mauro and Jake Howard

Clay Marzo has always operated on a different level.  He was only seven moths old when his mother began to notice,  “He never crawled,” Jill Marzo explains,  “He just started walking one day at seven months and one week.”  But even more that his uncanny coordination, it was Clay’s ability to absorb the tiny details of anything that interested him that impressed his mom most.  “He was more focused on his interests than any kid I’d ever seen, even when he was three years old.  It started out with seashells that he’d collect for hours at a time.  Then he graduated to these little sea animal toys- he could tell you everything about each one, and later it was all about baseball cards.  He had stacks of them, and knew everything on them.”

Like many kids who grow up in Hawaii, Clay’s affection for the water was something he seemed born with.  “I nursed both my boys in the tub half the time,” says Jill, “they were both going underwater as infants and they loved it.”  And later while toddler Clay was collecting his seashells, his older brother Cheyne Magnussen who’s got six years on him, was hitting the lineups on Maui. That one day Clay would eventually take to the waves was a given.

“And from the moment he stood up on a surfboard all of that intense focus of his was transferred to surfing, and being in the ocean- rolling and floating in the water.  Looking back on the home movies, and knowing what I know now- you can see that he’s at peace, and how good the sensory input must have felt for his body and mind.” But what Jill understands today regarding Clay’s modus operandi is something she didn’t understand at all during his salad days as a wide-eyed grommet.

Clay’s surfing provided Jill even more evidence to suggest that her son was developing way ahead of schedule.  Like everything else he took a real interest in, he progressed rapidly in the water.  But as those early years passed, she began taking notice of Clay’s more quirky personality traits, which were becoming more pronounced.  While Clay’s peers were becoming more socially adept and emotionally mature, he seemed to be enjoying his own private world more and more.  While his friends were growing their horizons and their social networks, Clay showed very little interest in breaking the rigid routines he liked adhering to.  The routines had become rituals, and breaking out of them in any way made him completely uncomfortable.  He’d usually start wringing his hands and make excuses mot to go or do whatever was being asked.  Eventually, even meeting new people and making new friends was becoming a struggle.  As primary witness to it all, Jill had the gnawing suspicion that her son’s many gifts had some hidden costs.