As a teenager, Dylan Short's first insight into life as a nurse came on the South Coast where he was caring for his elderly nan and pop.
It morphed from there, but not before he had a dabble in an international bodyboarding competition in Hawaii along the way where it became clear a surfing career was unlikely.
His one and only time surfing competitively against the big guns came at Makaha on Oahu's west coast where he was "hammered".
"I did compete once in Hawaii and I was definitely not up to that standard," Short admitted.
But staring down some of the most isolated beach breaks around the world paled into insignificance when the 35-year-old had his first brush with COVID last year.
The registered nurse at Port Macquarie Base Hospital admitted the last two years had been a time where anxiety levels had skyrocketed in the emergency department.
"The last two years since (COVID) hit has been a pretty uncomfortable time for most nurses," he said.
"At the end of the day, nurses just want to look after the people that we're looking after - that's why we're in the job.
"Regardless of which side of the fence you're on - vaccine or not - when we go to work, we put our hat on and we're looking after that person that's in front of us.
"That's someone's mum or dad or grandma."
Short's mum and sister are also nurses - that's where the connection originally stemmed from.
"Naturally I just had this connection with the older generation and getting to know them," he said.
"I thought it was a worthwhile way to invest my time looking after these people that are just good, old-fashioned souls."
While the bodyboarding career fell by the wayside, Short said his nursing employment made him appreciate life out on the water more.
"Being a nurse is not always rainbows, but nurses have a good sense of reality and a good understanding of life and death and the value of life," he said.
"In that sense, being a nurse motivates me to go and travel and to seek out adventure because we're not here forever. We're here for a short time and we're not even really guaranteed that either."
His overseas tally currently stands at 57.
"I've taken my bodyboard through most of those countries looking for waves most people don't know about," he said.
"It's been an interesting and unique way to travel where you're not chasing the normal tourist thing, you're in an obscure fishing village, surfing waves and meeting locals in a different sort of way.
"I feel like I'm spending my time helping people and maybe at least earning some good karma along the way."
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