On December 15, 2004 I had the pleasure of seeing, first hand, the power of our mother ocean in Maui (Jaws), Hawaii. It was a historical day, Dan Moore rode the third biggest wave in surfing history, it was 68 ft. The largest wave was 90 ft and ridden by Garrett McNamara in Portugal.
Surfers have been mostly portrait as beach bums, a person who does not want to do anything in life other than just hang on or around the beach, a person that has no dreams other than living in the moment but that could not be further from the truth. They are modern-day explorers traveling around the world looking to capture a unique moment-in-time. Just like a climber that wants to conquer a mountain and dreams to summit Mt. Everest a surfer dreams of riding the largest possible wave and wants to conquer his own fears.
Mt. Everest climbers prepare for years physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They are weatherman, that study the mountain and its patterns until they understand it perfectly. They are patient and wait for the perfect moment to climb. They make sure that life threatening risks are at a minimal before taking the first step. They stay focused at every moment and they adapt rapidly to survive.
As well as the climbers, tow-in and big wave surfers follow a very strict workout and lifestyle regimen. I was surprise to find out how many of them stay away from vices and pay close attention to what they eat. They don’t take things lightly and are extremely determined. They are dreamers that want to discover the greatest connection with nature. They want to put themselves to the test to discover who they are. They don’t expect the approval of a loved one to pursue their path and are not easily influenced by society. Think of them as bears, they hibernate when they are on land and, when the right moment presents itself, they jump in the water and use all of their energy to do what seems an impossible task at one point.
What stroked me the most was their process to prepare, it is extremely spiritual. Understanding that their life can end in any given moment, they undergo a deep meditation to accept death as a possibility. This acceptance is what keeps them calm when they are held underwater for minutes. Dan told me that “you need to keep calm because the more you stress the faster you burn your oxygen which leads you to a black out and worse.” Dan, is a person that holds the biggest respect to the ocean as most surfers do. He does not ride the giant to challenge Neptune or purely for the rush of adrenalin, he rides them so he can become part it.
What can we learn from Dan and sportsmen like him?
1. In order to succeed in life you have to understand and learn about your environment with dedication.
2. You need flexibility to survive.
3. Learning to keep calm under pressure will extend you life. Keep stress to a minimum.
4. Accept failure as a possibility. It will allow you to take risks without the fear for failure.
5. Respect your journey and be part of it without waiting for acceptance.
In 2005, I met a group of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 in Yangon, Myanmar. They where deciding between pursuing the Buddhist monk life in a monastery or out of it. Growing up as a Catholic, it is very similar to the choice that nuns and priests have to make. During our conversation one of the kids said that “entering the monastery would make his life easier. Since his parents couldn’t take care of him and he already had nothing. In the monastery he would be part of a community that would give him food, room and education. But, he didn’t know if it was the right thing for him.” It was not an easy decision, especially for a 10-year-old boy. This taught me that, in life, each decision taken with maturity, respect and commitment will lead you to prosperity and enlightenment.