Hot coffee, buttery croissants and sexy sandbars…
I sat down on my usual spot, at a local french patisserie, waiting for a freshly made cup of coffee and hot, buttery croissant. As the waiter arrived with the steaming cup of Chiapas magic, my friend Eduardo joined me, also asking for another cup.
The patisserie, a lone star and true survivor of a notoriously fickle restaurant market, has been our spot for well over two years now. Tuesday is normally our day off. Weekends in Cancun are mainstay working days. So yes, Tuesday coffee and croissants, in Cancun, may be bit corny. But it’s the company that makes this quarterly get together work.
Eduardo and I have known each other for almost 12 years now.
We have families and understanding wives who know a thing or two about this “guy thing” going on between my best friend and I. And so, we sit down, drink our hot coffee (and croissants) and talk about our week. We both continue to work for the vacation club industry in Cancun, which gives us plenty to discuss.
But our thing is talking about anything that has to do with our real passion: surfing and action water sports.
Exhilarating win for Brazil and Latin America!
As the croissants arrive, Eduardo goes for the butter and jam, spreading it over half of the roll, previously sliced in tidy halves. This by habit. Never fails. I go “viking style”, breaking the roll in two and spreading butter and jelly generously over the croissant. We both know that something quite extraordinary has transpired over the weekend.
As I look at Eduardo, I ask him: “Lalo (term of endearment for Eduardo), define triumphant for me”.
As he finishes putting half of the roll in his mouth, Eduardo pulls out his cel and shows me a picture of an exuberant surfer, arms up in the air in victory, his face clearly showing signs of happiness, relief and exhaustion. I recognize the picture immediately. Gabriel Medina.
“Just won Hossegor again!” Eduardo informs me, putting the cel down, beside the bread plate holding half of the croissant waiting to be eaten. I sit back and think for a minute at Gabriel’s feat. At barely 22 years of age, Gabriel Medina is the only Brazilian (indeed, the only Latin American) to ever win the Quick Silver Pro France for the third time.
He also made history by being the first Brazilian ever to win the Hawaiian Triple Crown of Surfing in 2015 and landing a first ever “back flip” which earned him another historical first and a perfect score of 10 on May 14, 2016, during the Oi Rio Pro.
The very same year, Medina won his seventh WCT event, and his second in heavy Cloudbreak, in the Fiji Islands. He is considered as the most victorious Brazilian surfer of the WCT at age 22.
So what defines a champion?
What characteristics, traits, attributes, sets these individuals apart from the rest?
As we continue drinking our coffee, Lalo adds an interesting bit of information to Medina’s journey to victory. “Kelly Slater had Andy Irons…Medina has JJ Florence”.
I look at him, understanding in part what he is implying.
“Competition can drive you to become better at literally any activity” Lalo stated. “You are right”, I conceded. “Nothing to do with surfing, but in F1, Senna had Prost.They were excellent examples of true competition. Again, away from the water, current, legendary rivalries, like Nadal and Federer, are invaluable for the individual and great for those watching!”.
I take my cel out and look for the WSL site. The image of Medina comes up again. I think for a minute. “You know, a lot of it I think also has to do with your background. Where you come from and the challenges you have had to overcome to reach your goals. This has a lot to do on how successful you will be in your adult life”.
“Take Gabriel, for instance”.I continued, taking a small sip of my coffee.
“His life from early on, was competitive surfing. Did you know he began surfing at 9 years of age and at 11 he won his first national championship? From there, he began his rising career, facing the challenges and financial struggles that all would-be pro surfers face when aspiring for sponsorship and ranking at the highest level”.
Lalo considered for a moment. Then questioned:”If you had to choose a trait that sets not only Medina apart, but really, other champions apart from the rest of the heap, what would that be?”.
I thought about his question for a moment.
Deconstructing the profile of a champion.
“I would have to say mindset, Lalo. The power of the mind is everything. We are barely tapping it’s full potential. And already look at what has been accomplished. Mindset has allowed us to finally conquer impossible waves like Teahupoo, The Right and Shippies. It has allowed surfers like Garrett McNamara to ride the biggest wave ever recorded in Nazare, Portugal. It’s put Peahi on the map. Its gone as far as finally allowing Maverick’s to be included in the Big Wave Circuit for 2017 and 2018. And this is all due to mindset. How we control and master our emotions when facing risk, adversity, insurmountable odds, and such. Yeah. Mindset wins out. Everytime”.
Lalo took a sip of his coffee. He sat back on his chair, reflecting and considering my emotional explanation of mindset and champions.
Making a case for discipline and consistency…
“But Xavier, isn’t discipline and consistency just as important? I mean, just look at any world champion today. Let’s say, Roger Federer, for example. Sure, nothing to do with surfing, but it still remains relevant since singles tennis remains an individualistic sport. Federer has mindset, agreed. A steely mindset that has helped him win many grand slam tournaments. But he couldn’t have had such success without iron discipline and consistency. I mean, look at the guy. He just beat Nadal again this last Sunday, at the Shanghai Masters, in one hour and 12 minutes! And the guy is 36 years old! Mindset, sure, but discipline and consistency weigh very heavily on the end results, in sports, at work, man, in life!”.
We both sat there, each considering each other’s views. One thing was certain. Unlike many sports, surfing had one unique aspect that set it apart from other sports with worldwide appeal. The environment in which the sport actually takes place in. The ocean is unpredictable and always in motion, demanding a healthy amount of creativity, adaptability and cojones!
We both laughed, agreeing in between guffaws, clearing our eyes from laughter tears. This remained the one true aspect of the activity we loved so much. In this point in particular, we both really felt no other sport in the world could hold a candle to it.
“So we agree, then” Lalo said. “To be a champion, to set yourself apart from the rest, you must, first and foremost:
Have the right mindset.
Basic qualities, like intelligence or talent. Qualities are documented and not developed.
Basic abilities can be developed through discipline and hard work.
Jim Rohn once said that discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments. Think about this for a minute. Now think of the incredible people that have reached success by being disciplined individuals. Who comes to mind? How about this guy:
Or this gal:
Doing something, whatever that is, over and over again, regardless of the challenges or obstacles that may present themselves. This will temper your character and yield great results.
“Humor!” Lalo said out loud, breaking the silence between us. “A good sense of Humor is fundamental as part of a champion’s profile. Taking any sport too seriously is a mistake, I think. Those athletes that don’t take themselves too seriously usually do better than others. Just consider some of these champions: Taj Burrow, Peter Mel, and, lo and behold, his Highness himself: Kelly Slater!”. We both agreed, no argument there. You must be able to laugh at yourself. Otherwise, you risk going crazy!
Lalo and I finished our last cup of coffee. We looked outside the window. Outside was a typical Cancun autumn day: still hot and humid, with a slight breeze. Things were starting to cool down a bit.
And we both looked wistfully beyond the heat, the humidity, beyond the borders of our minds, letting our imaginations carry us to windswept beaches, hollow a-frames, red wine, cheese and baguettes; we dreamed of sexy sand banks and La Graviere and experiencing the whole surfing scene, french style.
At that moment, Lalo and I made a pact that we would be there, at Hossegor, in two years time. Drinking coffee and hot, buttery croissants at a local patisserie at La Graviere. Add one to our bucket list.
If you have liked this post, please comment below. Share it and also tell me what being champion means to you. What sets these individuals apart from the rest? Give us your thoughts below. I read all comments, positive and critical. I would be glad to share opinions on this topic with you. Talk soon!