Few people are willing to surf big waves because it scares them. And it should! To be real, I’m scared too, but I’m also compelled and I want the challenge, so I choose to face big waves and because of my preparation I feel ready.
I have been surfing for over twenty years and have built up courage and knowledge over a long period of time. As a beginner, I would have been terrified of such a big, scary wave as Teahupo’o or Jaws – plus my body was just too small and it would have been silly for me to try to surf a wave like that without preparing in advance for the risks involved. As I put in the time, soaked up knowledge from others, and practiced A LOT, I gradually stretched my comfort level; and the courage to paddle into waves of consequence has developed.
Towing into a breathtaking monster wave at Teahupoo. Photo sequence by Tim MeKenna.
On a recent podcast, Behind the Shield, which is a show for the men and women who protect our communities that emphasizes First Responder wellness, I was asked what I do when I feel scared. Beyond preparation, and harnessing my fear, I have a few tangible things I do in the ocean that I think apply to land too… The ocean can be a great school!
- First, I breathe and stay calm.
- Next, I talk to myself. Seriously! It helps a lot to get it out, talk it out, and remind myself of my training so that I can trust my preparation.
- I also pray. Prayer helps remind me that I’m not alone and it calms me.
Many people think courage is something you’re born with, but I think anyone can grow in bravery. Yes, that means you!
Do you need to have courage to surf waves the size of a five-story building? Heck yes! However, it’s not for everyone. We all have things we are fearful of trying, saying, or doing. What’s your “big wave”? What can you do to prepare yourself, minimize the risk involved, and gradually work up the courage to take on that “wave”?
Margie Warrell says this well: “The challenge we face in today’s modern world is to discern between fears that are serving us and those that are holding us back.” “Courage is about choosing to lay our vulnerability on the line for something greater than our pride; risking failure and rejection in order to pursue our greatest aspirations and create more truthful and meaningful lives.”
Courage also takes some real honesty. So let’s let honesty be a part of our daily life so we can carry ourselves with more bravery and courage. Being courageous isn’t about pretending that bad things don’t happen or that real risks are all in our head. Being courageous is being honest with what we are facing and feeling then pushing on. We are fueled by our preparation and we can take a risk in pursuit of a goal. The good news is that we can practice courage every day.
p.s. If you want to think more about how to grow into courage by fueling yourself mentally and physically with preparation, you might be interested in my conversation with Laird Hamilton and Gabby Reese in my Unstoppable Life course called Train Your Mind.