Surfer Rob: King of the Island!

Is there something that you feel you can’t live without?

That’s essentially the question the Daily Post is putting out there when they ask, “what are the five items you must have on a deserted island?” Let me tell you something:

I don’t need a darn thing.

Now, if I could take someone with me, that would be a different question. I’d certainly take my wife and daughter because I want them to always be a part of my adventure, my life – but what if I had to do it alone?

It would be handy to have a decent survival knife and a whetstone, as well as a waterproof survival guide. That’s three things, but I could most certainly make do without even those practical items. The knife is really cool, though.

My Pet Dinosaur 01 - final
(Photo credit: Cladgeman)

Some people will talk about different things, like a book or a device or some piece of modern flotsam that they find worth mention. Somebody might even talk about how they have to have their dog with them. My response: are you serious? You’re going to a desert island. Fido is going to be dinosaur food. Why not just cut out the middleman and get a pet dinosaur when you get there?

Some people just don’t think it through.

But that gets me to my point, you see: underneath all the layers that society has encumbered us with like stratified sediment over the millennia – the technology, the pop culture, the clothes and accessories, the social norms, the rituals and taboos – underneath all of this lies a single, primal imperative: the need for survival. The whole point of society is to mask that need by providing us with a network of assistance, and such a wealth of tools and equipment that we forget that it’s really a big game of Survivor. When the paradigm of the game changes, then, so must the player’s strategy.

English: Color cover of the book ', written by...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t need any tool or manual to fight my way through the world. Those things are nice to have, but when we rely on them too heavily we become convinced of their so-called essential nature. Instead, from one moment to the next we have just one important status update, and that is either one or zero. On or off. Alive or dead. Who’s taking that measurement? Well, if it’s you then it’s still a good day, isn’t it?

So the number one priority is to survive. As it turns out, the human being is a marvelous example of a fully-featured adaptive mechanism. If I were stranded on a desert island, I would gladly take my mind off of all the things I missed about modern life and focus on survival. If you came back for me a year later, what would you find? My sun-bleached skeleton, or Tarzan? Personally, I’d work on the latter.

Some people aren’t fit for island life, and nature tends to weed them out; why she chose to take Amelia Earhart while sparing Gilligan and the Skipper is beyond my ability to analyze. Her ways are mysterious, my friends. I’d have to start out by making some tools, like a knife, and then constructing some kind of shelter if I could. I’d have to make some kind of a signal in case they were out looking for me, but I’d have to do that as I go, since I’d have to focus on what I was gonna eat. Is there wildlife or do I have to sharpen some sticks and carve a crochet hook to make a net with? I’d have to learn to fish the old-school way!

Kilauea Volcano ~  "Pu`u `Ō `ō" ~ Bi...
(Photo credit: Konabish ~ Greg Bishop)

As essential preparations dwindle to a maintenance level and life begins to find its rhythm, I’d schedule my day accordingly. I’d start out after waking by taking a morning run around the island for as long as I can. If I can run for a couple hours nonstop and there’s larger prey, I could potentially hunt without weapons, which would be a decent choice to be able to make.

Then I’d spend a few hours (estimated, of course) climbing trees for practice. This would build limb strength (in my limbs and the trees’) and enable me to reach more food sources and provide a way to escape ground-based predators, if necessary, as well as my pet dinosaur if it goes into heat or something.

I wouldn’t be the first islander to make it work, you know. The Tahitians and the Hawaiians invented surfing, after all, and they thrived until the modern world came in and took everything from them.

What do you think? Would you be able to adapt to island life with nothing more than island resources? Let us know in the comments!

This post was prompted by today’s Daily Post prompt.


  1. Very thought provoking post. While I’d like to think I could get by, a couple of good fishing hooks, some line and a knife would make things alot easier. I would insist on a huge thing of Neosporin for those nasty reef cuts: Infections are scary in the tropics.

    • I agree, those things would make it easier. I actually considered a giant bottle of fish-pen or fish-mox (OTC antibiotics) before deciding that no amount of preparation would cover everything.

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