Ben Lecomte: The Longest Swim – 5,500 Miles of Science and Sustainability.

Hey Sentinels! I hope you all had an incredible summer! For my part, although it’s been great getting away for a while, it’s also a relief to be back to cooler weather! It’s been a hot one in the Mexican coastline.

During this period, I came upon a couple of amazing stories that I would like to share with you.

The first one below is about an astonishing expedition which is currently taking place just as you are reading this article.

The other one I will publish next week and deals with some insights I learned during my last surf trip to Puerto Escondido.

So, let’s get right to it!

The mission continues…

For the better part of this year, I have been dedicating a fair amount of time writing about ocean conservancy and disposable plastic awareness. This is an essential topic which is slowly gaining traction worldwide.

From heroes like Sian Sikes to ocean conservation organizations, such as Sea Shepherd and Surfrider foundation, environmental awareness and active involvement is key for our ocean’s survival.

My attention finds itself captivated once again by yet another extraordinary expedition: The Longest Swim.

This adventure is nothing short of mind-blowing. It involves an extraordinary individual and his desire to not only break physical and mental boundaries but also bring scientific fact about our oceans precarious condition: The Longest Swim’s main protagonist is Benoit “Ben” Lecomte.

Ben is attempting to swim across the Pacific Ocean in 180 days….let me write that one again folks…as you are reading this, Ben Lecomte is swimming, right now, across the Pacific Ocean, having started in Choshi, Japan and ending in San Francisco. That’s a distance of 5,500 miles, swimming an average o 8 hours every day!

Ben has trained for the last 6 years for this expedition, having previously swum successfully across the Atlantic Ocean in 1998.

“A team of researchers from 13 scientific institutions including NASA and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will conduct studies on 8 different subjects during The Swim. From plastic pollution to space exploration, this adventure will be a unique opportunity to collect data and learn more about the oceans and the human body in extreme conditions.”

Lecomte is not of this planet!

At the core, The Swim is all about scientific discovery…

Besides lending his mind and body for scientific studies focusing in human super endurance, the expedition has also other very clear objectives which will be at the top of the expedition’s priority list:

How the Fukushima nuclear disaster has affected the ocean.
The health of Phytoplankton.
The Gravity Effect (NASA).
Cardiovascular health.
Microplastic and ocean health.

Other challenges he will be facing will be low water temperatures, special nutrition needs, solitude, swimming through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (extending for a colossal 1,000 miles!), and ocean wildlife (including sharks…not the main concern when compared to swimming through swarms of jellyfish).

The supporting cast…

Ben has been joined by his faithful support crew of 6, traveling side by side during his swim aboard the “Discoverer”, a sturdy,  67 ft (20 m) steel monohull sailing boat Challenge 67. “Disco” as She is affectionately called by all the crew, was designed to take part in the legendary Global Challenge round-the-world race.

Disco’s deck and the main structure are in steel. This material is a favorite maritime construction due to its durability and sturdiness. The Pacific has some of the roughest weather patterns in the planet. Discoverer was designed to face impacts and challenging weather conditions, a given the crew knows they will have to endure at some point during their crossing.

And why a sailboat?

According to Ben and Discoverer’s skipper, Scotty:

“…a sailboat is an ideal choice since it will require for very slow sailing along Ben’s 6-month journey. Relying on an engine during this expedition, with no stop-overs whatsoever, was definitely not the way to go”.

So, wind power is the order of the day for Discoverer’s Seeker support crew. Other than Ben and the ocean, the Discoverer is the third main protagonist of this incredible story.

The Seeker support team and Discoverer

Preparation of mind and body…

Besides choosing the ideal transport for the crossing, Ben has also prepared himself by swimming countless hours in open waters, and of no less importance, learning and sharpening his mind by using visualization and disassociation techniques. Visualization is pretty straightforward to understand, as many of us who have practiced some extreme sport know,  having used visualization at some time or another, when facing challenging conditions out in the water.

Dissasociation, however, is entirely a different matter.

In an interview with AFP news, Ben explains:

“The mental part is much more important than the physical. You have to make sure you always think about something positive. When you don’t have anything to occupy your mind it goes into kind of a spiral, and that’s when trouble starts”.

Challenges and adversity the order of the day…

Through such distances and uncertain environments, far away as one could possibly imagine from any civilization, adversity is almost a daily affair.

It takes extremely clear objectives and clarity of purpose to get you through those inevitable rough patches, as Ben retells his experience during a difficult day:

“This morning the wind and waves were coming from the north and were stronger than yesterday. We still had to progress toward the north and this was going to be a challenging day.

Maria was back in the kayak. She communicated a few times with the crew on the VHF to verify that we were going in the right direction. Each time we took a break to feed me we felt we were pushed back from where we came from. Maria was drifting in the opposite direction, the wind and waves dragged her much faster than me.

She was trying her hardest to keep the pace but she was paddling slower than I was swimming. After a few hours, I knew I wouldn’t be able to swim for a full 8 hours at that pace because it was too slow and I couldn’t generate enough heat to stay warm.

At midday, we had planned to have Paul trade place with Maria. At that time Seeker wasn’t close to us, I could only see the top of the sails at the horizon. Maria gave them our position and corrected it a few times as we were drifting fast. After 45 minutes Seeker finally reached us but by that time I had waited too long in the water and was cold, I decided to get back on the sailboat and stop swimming for the day.
Even in those challenging conditions, Maria managed to collect a big 5 gallons clear plastic bottle…”.

Ben’s final thoughts…

And so what’s next for our lone hero’s awe-inspiring adventure? As I publish this post, it is August 29…Ben and Disco’s crew are located here, approximately 750 miles east of Choshi, Japan.

They have seen their share of natural wonders out in the deep sea, as well as constant reminders of our indiscriminate use of plastic waste.

Ben finishes this article, adding a final thought that we should all take to heart:

“What do I stand for? I am not against plastic, I am for a responsible way to use plastic, one that doesn’t pass on any liability down to the next generation. Like many people, I am struggling with how I can reduce my use and limit my impact. My bad habits are still entrenched in my daily life and like any bad habits I find it difficult to change them. I have a tendency to resist change and feel more comfortable sticking with the status quo.

I know how to push my physical and mental limits and how to get out of my comfort zone but I found it very challenging to stop my relationship with plastic, stop following the easy path and more convenient way when using plastic.

For the past few years, I have made some changes in my life to reduce my use of plastic and try to single-use plastic, but I have more to do. I am very fortunate to see firsthand how pervasive plastic is and how vast is the problem we have created. This is a very strong motivating force for me to make more changes.

I am very fortunate to be where I am and foster a unique relationship with the ocean. This has a profound impact on me, it is reshaping me as a person and redefining my role as a human being; I feel I have a responsibility to give a voice to the ocean.

Thank you to all you for following and supporting us. You inspire me to be a better steward of the ocean and I appreciate any feedback that would help me achieve it”.

Conclusion…

Ben’s commitment and candor are truly inspiring.

Like Sian Sykes, whom I have also mentioned in past articles, and her incredible marine conservation awareness odyssey in Wales, Ben has taken his interest and that of other ocean conservation organizations to a whole different level.

This is how involved we must be…not swimming a whole ocean, no. That’s for super-men and women like Ben and his crew.

But we can also be heroes, unassuming and perhaps a bit humble, in our daily efforts, but, together, we can make a HUGE difference.

I hope you liked Ben’s continuing odyssey in the Pacific. He is truly one of a kind, as are we all, in our battle to protect our fragile planet. Please share this article with your friends and loved ones.

They must know about Ben and what he is trying to accomplish.

Thanks again for reading and talk soon!

Faith, courage and ingenuity: The Tham Luan Nang Non Cave Rescue

Reporting on what really matters…

I thought I would take a moment and look back at last week’s events. And no, I’m not talking about the World Cup or, heaven forbid, the Helsinki summit fiasco!

No, what happened last week, in my view, supersedes by far an large these and many other media-crazed events. A week ago, on July 10, a miracle of human faith, courage, and human ingenuity happened on the other side of the world.

After more than two weeks of unimaginable anguish and uncertainty, rescue divers were finally able to extract 12 children and their coach from the depths of the Tham Luan Nang Non cave in Thailand.

But somehow, with all the World Cup madness and the last week’s international diplomacy hype, most news media giants have literally dropped the ball on an event that should continue to be reported and talked about as feverishly and constantly as the media events filling last week’s news channels.

You see, what transpired before, during and after the Tham Luan rescue operation was nothing short of remarkable and awe-inspiring.

The media have called it “miraculous”, using this word, in my humble opinion, very lightly, giving it free reign to bring ratings and drama to an incredible event that has been too easily forgotten already.

It is clear to me that many of the reporters that were present at the time of the actual rescue, broadcasting back to their respective networks, although doing it in a very professional manner, braving long hours and difficult weather conditions, absolutely had no idea of what the rescue attempt would mean for the kids and their rescuers on an emotional level.

And even though experts were invited to weigh in on their personal experience, it would have been adequate that at least one of the reporters would have had cave diving experience, to convey to the public exactly what these kids and their coach would be going through once the actual rescue got underway. Let me explain.

Putting it all in perspective…

Riviera Maya, where I have been living now for 10 years now, has a vast underground cave and river system, courtesy of a 10  to15 kilometer diameter asteroid impacting on earth during the dinosaur age.

This extinction level event forever changed the geology of the region, giving way to one of the largest underground river systems in the world.

The waters flooding this system are said to be sacred to the Maya. When you traverse one of these caverns, you can easily see why. The visibility and beauty of the place always take your breath away.

But there is also a dark side to this beauty. Danger and risk are always present when exploring these waters. Going through narrow crevasses, in deep, dark places, even with extraordinary visibility, is an experience not suitable for the faint-hearted or for the claustrophobic.

To safely journey through this system, even under ideal conditions, takes years of dive experience and a healthy set of stones.

If you have ever been in a broken elevator or a closed bathroom (and you can’t get out), you have a close sense of the emotional urgency and immediacy of that “Let me out!!” feeling. It’s creepy being trapped, without knowing how long it will take to be “rescued”.

If this has happened to you, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that the wait ALWAYS seems to take forever, right?

And that’s in dry ground, with ample lighting and resources for your eventual rescue.

Now take that same feeling of being trapped and place it deep inside a pitch black, wet cave, 4 miles from the entrance, where your only sustenance is water.  Add to that water levels threatening to drown you at any moment.

Sort of puts things in perspective, huh?

Here’s how they all pulled it off…

What these kids, their coach and their rescuers faced was probably one of the most terrifying experiences that anyone could endure. And they faced this not for one hour, or one day or one week. They endured it for nearly 17 days. In such dangerous and adverse conditions that Saman Kunan, a 38-year-old former Thai Navy SEAL, died of asphyxiation on 6 July on his return to the cave entrance after delivering supplies of air to the interior.

On the danger scale, 1 being safest and 10 being the most dangerous, The Than Luan cave was flat-out 10. Not only for its natural geological configuration, a huge challenge in itself, but also for the difficult weather conditions which the cave system experienced during the actual rescue.

Bittersweet endings…

In the end, however, through incredible faith, courage, skill and human ingenuity, the 12 children and their coach were rescued last Tuesday, July 10. And after a week of rest and recovery, they have made their first public appearance, forever grateful for the support and dedication of everyone involved in their rescue.

Saman KumanEspecially Saman Kuman, whose sacrifice speaks volumes of the better side of human compassion, dedication, sacrifice, and selflessness.

In a world so full of hatred, anger, and conflict, it is comforting to know that mankind can still shine a very brightly, even in undeniable dark and uncertain times.

Let’s pause for a moment and revel in the accomplishments of these real heroes and take their example whenever we, in our daily humdrum, face adversity and challenges. Their unwavering spirit and resolute attitude should be an inspiration to us all for years to come.

For another account of incredible heroism and grit, you can also check out one of my all-time heroes right here…

In conclusion…

What makes someone a hero? What characteristics do you think make them stand apart? Forget the Avengers! These divers and these kids and their coach…they are the real deal.

Everyday people doing extraordinary things. Do you know anyone that inspires you and is your hero? Please share your experience in the comment box below. I would love to be inspired by your story!

Tks for reading and talk soon!

 

Three SUP paddle board activities you have got to try!

Landlocked but inspired…

Hey Sentinels!

Greetings again from beautiful, land-locked San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, in Mexico!

So here I remain still and to be honest, I’m loving it!

Even though the nearest beach is well over 1,000 kilometers away on either side, my time here, away from the water, has provided the motivation and inspiration I needed to become even more involved in any and all action water sports activities that come my way.

If you have been reading some of my posts lately, you probably have noticed a pattern developing. My articles have recently centered around self-development skills and big wave riding and how, when put together, can create deep impactful transformation.

But it is by no means the only way.

SUP paddle boarding…for real!

I’m an advocate of big wave riding because I simply freakin’ love it! And I hope you have come to learn and love a bit about it too.

However, SUP boarding is also catching on as one of the most transformational water sports activities in the world. And though there are many ways you can practice this fun sport, following are the three most popular SUP paddle board activities for you to try:

  • SUP Surfing
  • SUP Yoga
  • SUP Trekking

SUP surfing is pretty self-explanatory and the link here should give you plenty of history and interesting facts about its origins and variations.

SUP Yoga, well, suffice to say that Yoga on its own is an incredibly challenging and meditational experience, which also can result in amazing physical benefits: flexibility, balance and lean, strong muscles when practiced regularly. Now, practice all that on a moving surfboard and you get the idea why so many yoga enthusiasts are making this their go-to class over other Yoga styles.

I have no ocean where I live.

I also have no patience or interest in doing Eagle or Downward-Facing Dog on land, much less on a wobbly surfboard.

Would I try it sometime down the line? Maybe. For now, though, if I were to give SUP boarding a try, it would be for exploring lakes and river ways…

And that’s where Sian Sykes comes in.

If you have never heard of Sian (pronounced “Shan”), it’s ok. I had never heard of her or her incredible journey until about a week ago. I was looking for inspiration for my next article. So far, most of my articles have been about surfing. But lately, I had ignored ocean conservancy,  a medular topic of Surfsentinel.

It’s a bit embarrassing, really, since my tagline announces my site as “Surfsentinel is an advocate for ocean conservancy”. It sort of looks cool there, but the truth is I’ve only published a couple of articles about ocean conservancy: this very one and another article about plastic waste. Pretty lame production, right? I know.

Until now.

As I began to do my research for my last post on single-use disposable plastics, I came uppon Sian’s SUP board adventure. It caught my imagination so definitively, I shared her epic journey on Twitter the very moment I finished reading about it.

Right, so here it is.

Sian Skyes is from Anglesey, Wales. She is professional SUP boarding instructor. She owns a business (pyschedpaddleboarding.com) teaching others how to get about on the boards and offering water safaris around the island. She is also a conservationist campaigner.

Committing to Mother Earth…

Sian decided to circumnavigate Wales through its long and winding river systems and canals, alone, using only her outdoors expertise and SUP board as a means of transport. The route she took was along the Welsh border. She eventually ended up on the Severn Estuary, where she followed the coast, finally reaching her home, back in Anglesey.

This expedition was a 1000 km journey around wales, and it took two months. That alone could stand as an incredible adventure.

But here is the really amazing part:

Along the way, Sian collected single-use disposable plastic to dispose of when she arrived in towns along the riverside, sharing her story with the inhabitants, promoting plastic waste reduction and environmental awareness.

Now THAT is having absolute clarity and commitment to one’s mission.

Her historical navigation was completely weather dependent. And all along, her mission remained unshaken: pick up as much plastic as possible and bring marine litter reduction and environmental awareness to anyone who would listen.

When asked during a BBC interview as to what she finds so magical about Stand Up Paddleboarding, this is what she expressed enthusiastically:

“You have a bird’s-eye view. You see jellyfish float past you, fish leaping out of the water, porpoise darting about, birds flying overhead and inquisitive seals can come up to you”

“It’s a wonderful way to reconnect with nature, and to go on a journey and explore areas you would never see on foot.”

But it’s not all about the natural beauty. She goes on to add:

“I see a lot of marine litter washed up on our beaches. It is a massive problem – and we need to make a change”.

“I’m going to highlight that on my trip, from showing from inland out to the sea – plastic pollution.”

To further raise awareness about single-use plastic disposal, Sian also used non-disposable plastic herself. Her food and nutrition needs were another challenge she had to face since she is vegan. Her menu consisted mainly of quinoa and dehydrated vegetables.

As if that was not enough, Sian will also had to deal with the following tricky spots along the way:

  • Tidal races along the Welsh coastline.
  • Busy shipping channels, harbors.
  • The second fastest flow in the world.
  • Wild camping.
  • Being totally self-reliant.
…sugar and spice and everything nice.

It blows my mind every time whenever women’s strength and resilience are put into question by clodding misogynists.

Sian Sykes is one of many women who is setting the record straight.

Her commitment, courage, and passion for our planet’s health, both in and out of the water, is undeniable and universal.

Sian’s views on marine and environmental conservancy are inspirational and, hopefully, far-reaching. Her actions truly speak louder than words.

Has anyone inspired you lately to take environmental action of any kind? How about recycling, composting, single-use plastic disposal?

Can you think in ways you can impact your awareness towards marine life and ocean conservancy, perhaps not to the extent that Sian Sykes has demonstrated to the world, but maybe, on a smaller, more personal level?

What would that be?

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below. I would love to read your ideas and share them with other Sentinels around the world. We can always learn and share new ways to protect our fragile planet.

Thanks for reading and talk soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

People who faced adversity learn to cope with many difficult emotions, but these four are at the top my list.

Know thyself…seriously!

Hey Sentinels!!

I have something special to share with you this week. But first, I have a small request to make of you: take a moment to look at the image below. Take your time. See the details. Try to feel what the image is saying to you. Next, ask yourself how this image is making you feel: relaxed? at peace? inspired? Hmm…a bit bored?

OK, that’s understandable. Meditation and spirituality are challenging subjects to learn and understand. But the fact is that without them, we would live half-empty lives. Think of a chair with four legs. Take these out of (they go hand in hand) and the chair will topple. Nurture them and you will have the right balance for a fruitful, rich life.

If you’ve spent some time on my blog, you probably know by now that the ocean is a very important part of my life.I have lived near it for most of my adult life, having been born a mere 50 meters away from it. And for as long as I can remember, the ocean has always provided me a with a sense of awe and wonder.

Living in the Mexican Caribbean, I have had my share of large storms (and one huge one a.k.a. Wilma!) and have seen firsthand a very dark side of nature’s fury and power. But thankfully, and for the most part, I have also experienced its incomparable beauty and spiritual generosity.

The sea is an endless source of inspiration, discovery, and transformation.

Not convinced? Consider:

The ocean provides healing.

It nurtures our emotional and spiritual well-being.

Remember the first time you saw the ocean?

What did you feel?

HOW did you feel after spending time swimming, surfing, kite boarding,etc. in the ocean? Energized? Renovated? Clear headed?…At peace?

Guess what. You experienced spiritual generosity. Celebrate it!

 

 

A storm is coming…

Now, below is another picture. Again, have a look. Go through the same exercise as above. What do you feel! What does it convey to you? Foreboding? Anxiety? Fear?

Yes, my friends. As sure as the sun rises every morning, you can bet a storm is headed your way. It is a simple but inescapable part of life. People who faced adversity know this only too well.

And once the storm hits, for a moment at least, you will probably feel all of the above emotions, perhaps as a trickle first, but then, as the storm intensifies and eventually rages around you, emotions like uncertainty, self-doubt, fear, and shame may easily overwhelm you.

Of all the difficult emotions out there, why did I put these four at the top of my list?

Well, they go hand in hand with advice and counsel on how to overcome these emotions given by extraordinary life coaches like Michael Hyatt, Eric Edmeades, and Tony Robbins

Michael, Eric, and Tony are part of a select group of gifted communicators dedicated to improving the lives of millions of people worldwide through self-development and leadership skills. They also advocate spiritual and emotional awareness as a foundational skill that can lead to significant changes in our lives, allowing us to reach our full potential.

Also actively involved in the PD niche is Vishen Lakhiani, author of The Code of the Extraordinary Mind and founder of MindvalleyScott Smith, CEO and chief motivational officer of motivationtomove.com, and Ray Edwards of The Ray Edwards Show.

Lately, I have been watching their videos on YouTube, but mostly I have been listening intently to their podcasts. I have implemented and shared some of their most valuable teachings with friends and loved ones for one very simple reason: they WORK!

What I am about to present to you here is a condensed recap of a few of their teachings, as I have come to interpret them.

Spiritual fortitude and wellness are not as elusive to obtain as you may think…

“Just remember to try and keep an open heart and mind!”. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, wouldn’t you agree?

Let’s begin by understanding and shedding some light on the four emotions that made my list. You can think of them as fierce adversaries, determined to undermine your self-esteem at every turn:

  • Self-doubt
  • Uncertainty
  • Fear
  • Shame

Back in the 70s (the dynasty era of American Football), there existed an infamous group of players that became legendary for their notorious defensive strategies on the gridiron. Their field authority was so complete, their aggression so devastating, they became known as the “Fearsome Foursome”.

Their names were Rosey Grier, Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones. Stay with me on this…you see, the way they dominated the game was very simple: they instilled crippling amounts of uncertainty, doubt, shame and, most notably, fear, on to their hapless opponents. And man oh man were they ever successful. The LA Rams went from a mediocre second division team to an NFL powerhouse, winning seven straight division titles from 1973 to 1979.

Ok, ok, so I also like football (a lot!). How does this relate to wellness and spiritual growth? Really, how is this relevant?

Let’s take this example:

A seasoned surfer, standing at the shoreline, and looking out at a massive break, let’s say, Mavericks. It’s early morning, and not particularly sunny (what’s new!). Half a mile out, bomber after bomber pounds and drills the legendary break…it sort of looks like this…

It’s 35 ft+ and rising…

What feelings do you think are going through our brave charger’s mind?

Self-doubt? Uncertainty?, Fear? (that’s a given), Shame? Take your pick. Let’s briefly break this down:

Self-doubt.

We all have frequent bouts with this adversary, the first of the “Fearsome Foursome”.

Anybody who denies never experiencing self-doubt is probably lying to you.

Even the most accomplished watermen and women like Mark Haley, Maya Gabeira, Andrew Cotton, visionary entrepreneurs and financial titans like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffet, or sport megastars like Roger Federer, Leonel Messi, or Tom Brady, have all had to deal with self-doubt at some stage during their incredible careers.

If not dealt with appropriately and in time, self-doubt can be one of the “Fearsome Foursome” ‘s toughest players to beat. Your best strategy against self-doubt is practicing and becoming proficient at mastering your thoughts. You need to learn how to literally think your way out of self-doubt.

Your thoughts, and more importantly, your emotions (which are turbo-charged thoughts) can help you overcome self-doubt at every turn.

The seasoned surfer mentioned above knows this.

By focusing his thoughts on the successes of past sessions, some certainly more daunting than this one, he exerts control over his doubts.  Gradually, he starts emptying his heart and mind of self-doubt, replacing it with healthy amounts of confidence.

In a few short minutes, he has been able to effectively control his thoughts and emotions. But now, as he begins to wax his board, he recognizes two more very familiar emotions creeping up his heart and slowly invading his mind. He knows them all too well. One of them is uncertainty.

Uncertainty.

Not being in control of your environment can be as disabling as having self-doubt. Just ask anyone who has been through a natural disaster like an earthquake (we have those regularly in Mexico!), a tornado or a hurricane (them too!).

Not being in control can make you feel extremely vulnerable, confused, and many times, it makes you feel as if you are the victim of insurmountable circumstances.

You fall into the “why did this happen to me!” trap. And, for a while, it is actually ok to feel this way…but only for a while.

You must try to remove yourself from that self-destructing attitude as soon as you are emotionally ready to move forward. And one simple but very effective you can accomplish this is by changing the phrasing; from “why did this happen TO me” to “why did this happen FOR me”.

See what just happened?

This changes the whole context of how to deal with uncertainty. Think about circumstances or situations that have been serious life-changing experiences for you. Maybe you got fired, or you lost a large sum of money investing. Perhaps you went through something more intimate, like losing a loved one.

Try asking yourself not why this happened TO you, but rather, why this happened FOR you.

In other words, what lessons, benefits or changes in your life can you apply and use from this experience?

I have found out that applying this strategy to an event as sad as losing someone very close to me truly served as a literal compass. It helped me navigate through the stormy seas of uncertainty until I was able to reach much calmer waters.

Make this strategy your own. It really works!

Back to our courageous big wave charger.

So he’s been able to control self-doubt by focusing his thoughts on effective, relevant self-talk. He has overcome uncertainty by acknowledging that this moment is happening FOR him: to push his physical and emotional limits once more, to challenge his well-earned wave knowledge, currents, riptides and weather conditions which can all weigh heavily on the end result: a memorable session full of stoke or a disastrous visit to the local hospital.

As he finishes waxing his board, he looks away, his gaze is now on the horizon.

The bombers are relentless, almost surreal.

His experience and wave knowledge kick into gear: he figures 40 ft +.It’s getting really big out there.

Fear, which had been firmly under control, breaks loose.

And for a brief moment, his heart and mind take a brutal pounding from this, the most powerful and relentless player of the “Fearsome Foursome”. It’s bad. For an instant, he can’t breathe. It paralyzes him. He regains control again. But fear has firmly settled in his gutt…he feels beads of cold sweat on his forehead. Even with his steamer snuggly on,  an uncomfortable wet shiver spreads all over his body. It has nothing to do with the cold weather around him.He shakes his head as he gazes at the massive bombers half a mile out…”What the hell am I doing??”.

Fear.

Yes. Fear can be all that. And more.

But fear can also be your strongest ally if you recognize it and embrace for what it is. If you have the determination to face your fears, something awesome and quite unexpected happens.

Fear can make you take that decision which you have been avoiding for so long. Whether you do or do not do what you have been avoiding to do, fear forces you into a decision. You may not do anything or you may decide to actually do something about it. Either way, fear requires that you make a decision.

Fear can also be transformational.

It can make you push your limits, helping you to move out of your comfort zone, and allowing you to grow in many aspects of your life.

And, most of all, fear can make you feel alive!

It heightens your senses, making you keenly aware of your present self. Fear releases adrenaline, putting you into survival mode. When the moment passes, you feel at peace yet exhilarated, immensely satisfied, even euphoric. And the only thing you can think about afterward is how you can repeat feeling this way again.

Fear. It can be extremely addictive. More on that topic here.

The moment passes, and as our charger regains his composure once again, he smiles briefly, shaking his head. He makes for the shore break and with a few swift steps, he enters the water and starts paddling towards the impact zone. Self-doubt and uncertainty replaced by healthy confidence and purpose.

Fear, now an ally, enters the water with him, giving him laser focus and determination to face what’s ahead.

He paddles on. The first bomb crashes relatively near to him but he is able to sort his way through the white water explosions that follow. Until, at last, he makes it to the take-off zone. It is still cloudy. The ocean is gray. In the distance, a mountain of blackish water rises steadily, fast approaching him.

It continues to rise, higher and higher.

The mammoth wave reaches the critical threshold. Our charger paddles furiously. In an instant, he’s up on his board, literally free-falling as chaos threatens to engulf him.

But today, chaos loses.

He takes the full natural energy of the behemoth as he races down the 40-foot face. In an indescribable moment that feels like a lifetime, the wave’s energy becomes a part of him. He exits the face of the wave, white water exploding behind him. He raises his arms in triumph, screaming to the heavens in total exultation.

As he paddles away from the receding wave, his heart still pounding furiously, he feels a bit ashamed. Ashamed for almost giving up. Ashamed for letting his emotions get the best of him, even if only for a moment. He would have missed this unique opportunity for growth…for the ultimate stoke.

Shame.

We all feel shame when we or someone else tells us that we don’t measure up to the activity assigned to us. We beat ourselves silly, recriminating as to why we did not do this or that, or why we acted this or that way.

This is not only extremely harmful to our self-worth.It is also acutely stupid.

While researching for this post, I recently read a quote which hit home so effectively, I thought I would share it with you here. It’s from mystery novel writer, John Scherber:

“Never fear failure – It’s only a poor choice of words to describe one of a series of steps on the way to success, not all of which are of equal value. But they all must be taken and something can be learned from every one of them”.

How’s that for nugget!

Don’t be ashamed to fail. It is a natural part of reaching your goals.

Your failures are growth opportunities deftly disguised.

Take advantage of each failure that comes your way (and rest assured, they will come!) and never feel ashamed for having tried, even if failure looms on the horizon.

Challenged, yes, but always lionhearted…

As I begin my own journey of healing after my father’s passing last February of this year, I often see myself as the wave charger mentioned above, looking at Mavericks’s massive waves, mustering the determination and courage necessary to conquer one of the heaviest waves in the world.

Yes. Self-doubt, uncertainty, fear, and shame can overcome him at any given moment.

But facing and understanding these emotions have made him mentally tough and emotionally resilient. He has learned, and continues to learn, how to control these emotions, and most importantly, how to use them in his favor.

The colossal waves he is about to face will come incessantly, each trying to take him down. Hurt him. Destroy him.

But he knows his way around the legendary break.

His ocean savvy and deep understanding of how the wave works have been hard earned through persistence, discipline, respect, and a passion for the sport, nearing border-line obsession.

Similarities could easily apply on nearly every aspect of our lives.

The real challenge lies when something happens in our lives, an incident or circumstance that is beyond our control. An event so profound and life-changing, that for a while, we are dazed, lost, confused.

And rushing towards you at full speed, four adversaries which have the capacity to impact your weakened spirit with the force of a trainwreck.

But not this time. This time, you are ready.

You have the strategies, the tools, and effective countermeasures to repel and overcome anything these adversaries throw at you. And you can bet that you and these four fierce adversaries will collide.

You will not come out unscathed. But whoever said life’s greatest opportunities were meant for the weak of mind and the timid of heart?

You will prevail and you will come out victorious.

You have learned from your adversaries.

You have even made peace with the fiercest one of them.

You are wiser. You know the game better.

And you are improving with each opportunity that life throws at you.

Make the most of it.

Share your experiences…

So which are your fiercest emotional and intellectual “adversaries”? Your “Fearsome Foursome”? How have you dealt with them? What strategies did you use to overcome and come out victorious? Please share your thoughts and/or experiences in the comment box below. I would love to hear about your challenges and how you prevailed.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you liked it and if you know of someone who you think may benefit from it, please be so kind as to share with him or her.

Un abrazo!