The truth is…
Fear is uncomfortable. Period.
Anyone who decides to practice action water sports on a regular basis will eventually come face to face with fear at one point or another.
It is a simple part of the sports we enjoy practicing and many times, it is in fact, the one ingredient that we seek so we may find ways to overcome it and, by doing so, become stronger, more experienced.
A bit of perspective…
A good example of this is the Billabong Pipe Masters, normally celebrated from December 8th to December 20th. For those who are not acquainted with this very special event, it is one of three events that make up the Hawaiian Triple Crown of Surfing, held at the end of the WSL(World Surfing League) season, in the island of O’ahu, Hawaii.
The Pipe Masters, on its own, is made up of two events, the Pipe Invitational, where local and foreign talent are invited to compete for a coveted spot for the main event, the Pipeline Masters, second part of this event, and considered by many the Superbowl of surfing.
Right, so what does all of this have to do with the 3 ways to break the fear barrier? Well, lets just consider the actual spot where this tournament is held. The North Shore of O’ahu.
A primer on Pipeline mechanics…
In winter, huge storms from as far as the Aleutian islands churn and send on a regular basis very large, powerful swells towards the Hawaiian Archipelago during this time of the year. These swells travel, unobstructed, for thousands of miles, carrying with them tremendous amounts of oceanic energy. In their path, stand the Hawaiian islands, in particular, a stretch of beach, 7 miles long, where all of this energy rises over shallow reef, and is released in one single, incredibly powerful moment.
This stretch of beach is known as the “Seven Mile Miracle” and begins at Sunset Beach, extending all the way to Waimea Bay. The stretch has many famous surf spots but none hold more respect, fear and mystique than the legendary Banzai Pipeline.
Located in Ehukai Beach Park, in Pupukea, the Banzai Pipeline (or more commonly known as Pipeline), is home to the best tube riders in the world. It is also one of the world’s deadliest waves, rising almost vertically over very sharp reef, carrying with it tremendous amounts of water and energy. Taking off from the wave is nearly impossible, almost suicidal.
Hence, the name Banzai Pipeline.
The wave here is so intimidating and powerful that it was only conquered barely 50 years ago, when surfing legend, Butch Van Artsdalen, made tube riding popular, putting in on the map, and bringing surfing into a totally new age. According to many experienced Pipeline surfers, the most intimidating aspect of this wave is the energy it releases when it finally breaks over the reef. That, and what lurks just below the surface of the water.
John John Florence, 2017 World Champion, describes it vividly as a large concrete court, pocked marked with caverns and lava spires which, on a given wave, can hold you down indefinitely. Falling on this surface, Florence adds, is similar to falling on a concrete bed, first taking damage from the impact, and then dealing with the reef’s sharpness, spires and caverns. All this while being churned all over like a giant washing machine.
It is a well-known fact that Pipeline has broken bones of many an experienced surfer. Death is not unheard off at the Banzai Pipeline. Jon Mozo and Tahitian Malik Joyeux are very unfortunate examples of Pipeline’s raw and dangerous power.
These are known as Pipeline and Backdoor. From the perspective of a watcher on shore, Pipeline (First Reef) is ridden when taking off and riding it to the left, where sharp, apparently unmakeable bottom turns must be made to place the surfer just right so that he/she can get barreled in deep, cavernous barrels, in essence, what surfing Pipeline is all about.
Equally famous is legendary Backdoor, which gets its name from skilled surfers entering through the “backdoor” of the barrel and coming out the other side, hopefully, in one piece. Check this video out. Watch exactly what I’m talking about, starting at 00:36 (Pipeline) and then 00:40 (Backdoor).
At 12 feet plus, another reef (Second Reef) starts breaking with longer walls and much heavier waves. Even further out is an extreme size area where huge waves are also ridden. Following is another great video clearly showing (00:60) First, Second and Third Reef (Outer Reef)in full action.
For deeper look at the mechanics of Pipeline, click here.
Faint of the heart need not apply…
Pipeline, Backdoor, Off The Wall, Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay…all legendary surf spots…and all open only to an exclusive elite of fearless, experienced wave chargers.
And yet, even then, ask any of these seasoned surfers and they will all agree that disrespecting these awesome surf spots by showing senseless amounts of bravado and recklessness can only lead to very serious trouble.
A very fine line exists between a burning passion for the pursuit of that one perfect barrel ride, and crossing that line into the realm of irresponsibility and disaster. And in the middle, within that very fine thin line, I believe surfers charging these incredible waves, find transformation.
It’s also what is come to be known as “stoke”.
Ask any surfer or action water sport practitioner, at whatever level, how he feels after getting barreled, or going down that turbulent river ride, or making that ultimate wake boarding jump, or asking a windsurfer or kite boarder about that freestyle jump, or white-knuckled ride, where board, wind and skill just “clicked” somehow, making that one single moment indelible for the rest of your life.
And feeling good all over, even hours after you’ve left the water.
That, my friends, is stoke.
And even after the most harrowing of accidents, like Andrew Cotton’s colossal wipe out in Nazare, Portugal, last 8th of November 2017, or more recently, Dusty Payne’s horrific wipe out at Pipeline, the stoke remains so strong that these super athletes keep coming back for more, even after months of rehabilitation and recovery.
Living life from an unexpected place…
They go back to the same places where they looked at death straight in the eye. And, in spite of the fears they faced at the moment of their unfortunate accidents, they get back on the saddle again, indomitable, showing us that the way to gain that confidence again is doing something that makes them feel good about themselves, and, sooner or later, many of them realize that they are living life from a place of love.
Love for the sport, for the ocean, for the friends and camaraderie, for the wonder and awe that is intrinsic with all action water sports.
This is not to say that they will not be afraid again.On the contrary.
I believe they will feel fear more tangibly now than ever before because they have been through something that only a handful of people have ever experienced. They know the risks involved better than anybody. This gives them a distinct edge.
Each step they take to reach their goal is further strengthened by the activity they love. And here is the funny thing that happens as a direct result of acquiring this attitude. You may want to take note:
Focusing in the things that they are passionate about keeps their fears at bay.
This is the way to be a champion. In sports, in business, and in life. Focus on the things that you love and have that be the major theme in your life.
Now look at the fears that are troubling you…got it? Ok. Now, order them to sit their ass back on the bench!
It’s a mental game. It most certainly is a mental game.
Breaking the fear barrier…
Lets consider the workplace for a moment and compare it to what professional surfers face when competing in an event like the Pipemasters.
At the work place, many times you are caught in a trap of self-doubt. You begin to sabotage your career, falling into bad patterns like self-doubt and comparing yourself to others.
Now consider the professional surfer about to enter the most dangerous surf spot in the world. Self-doubt, and comparing himself to other competitors, not only could leave him out of the tournament. It could lead to catastrophe, resulting in severe injury or even death.
To some measure or other, extreme action water athletes have come to accept and understand the undeniable existence of a fear barrier and also three very powerful ways to get over this barrier.
1. Fear forces you into making decisions.
When facing fear, you have two very clear options. Either act and decide to make your fears go away, or decide to sit back and do nothing. You can go either way, but the fact remains that fear demands that you make a decision.
2. Fear pushes your limits, making you stronger.
Remember the first time you paddled out and, to you, it was “huge” out? Or that time the wind was blowing so hard, you thought you sail would catapult you or launch you in the air, 10, 15 or even 20 meters above the water? And yet, you managed to keep it together, controlling your fear, making millisecond adjustments that came to you almost super-naturally?
Through experience and paying your dues in the water, you realize that fear is now your ally, albeit a fickle ally, always ready to take you down.
And yet, when fear pushes your limits, when it takes you to the edge, but you still remain in control, internally, mentally, spiritually, something amazing is happening. You are growing stronger. And the more you do it, the more you want to repeat the feeling. It’s scary how addicting it can be.
3. Fear makes you feel alive.
Lets go back to you first paddle out when it’s huge out.
What is the thing you remember most?
Perhaps it’s your heart beat racing as you duck-dive that first massive swell, adrenaline pumping, your senses heightened to levels you had never felt before. It’s that pervading sense of fight-or-flight that invades your stomach and fills it up with “butterflies”.
And yet you press onward, now remounting another wave, impossibly, unrelentingly, larger than the last.
Until at last you make it to the take off zone.
When you arrive, the fear gradually lessens and suddenly it is replaced with a feeling of triumph and euphoria. And now you wait until the horizon becomes dark again.
A wall of water approaches, higher and higher, and then, in an instant, you turn around and start paddling frantically, all muscles and senses primed for immediate action.
And inevitably, the leap of faith, the take off, committing to whatever the ocean throws at you. And also in an instant, you are riding the face of wave and in one incredible moment, the wave’s lip starts crashing down behind you.
You adjust your speed just at the right moment and what happens next is in slow motion, or at least that’s how it feels to you. The curtain of the crashing wave covers you, and you are in the tube, chandeliers and white water trying to catch up with you. You stabilize, again making millisecond adjustments on your balance, footing and stance.
All of a sudden, the white water finally catches up with you and attempts to throw your balance by exhaling a huge spit ball; but your technique, for that one moment, is perfect.
You come out of the barrel, in one awesome, synchronous exhale, spit ruffling your hair. You are out and the wave rewards you with a clear ramp to exit the face.
As you paddle away, you feel more alive than ever. A sense of accomplishment fills you and you feel exhilarated and complete. You have just crossed the fear barrier and found what is on the other side: FEELING ALIVE!
Acceptance leads to transformation…
So why embrace fear? Really, consider this for a moment.
As I mentioned in the first few lines of this article: fear is uncomfortable. So why should we welcome it?
The fact is that if you want to expand your personal boundaries, stretch your limits and grow as an individual, you actually need fear to add spice to your life. This will set you up on a path of self-discovery which could also open doors to new opportunities. When this happens, and believe me, it will happen, accept it and, better yet, learn from it.
So what are your fears? How has fear held you back from reaching your goals and finding out what is on the other side? We all have personal fear barriers to conquer…which one is yours?
If you want to be more than you are, welcome a little fear. It could very well be that “special sauce” that could set set you on a different path. When it happens, the results can be pretty awesome. Embrace it!
I hope you liked this article and found it useful.
Please leave your thoughts below and share it if you know someone who you think might benefit from this information. I read all comments and will gladly take the time to reply. Thanks for reading!