Being Prepared Is Overrated: Is What I Always Thought
I’m always in a rush, but not because I don’t have the time. Mostly because I procrastinate until there was no time. I once thought preparation was a waste of time. Then a wave showed me it isn’t.
On a long ago trip to surf trip to Upolu Island I surfaced gasping for air, first sucking in foam on the surface of the water. My vision closing like an 80’s TV on the fritz. I was 21, in great shape, in Samoa, surfing waves that were powerful but not out of my league. A larger set rolled through the line up. And as I was sitting a bit further to the outside I was able to grab the first of the five wave set that plowed their way across the reef. On my first maneuver coming out of my bottom turn, I fell, quickly finding myself pinned against the reef. As I felt the wave release me I moved to the surface, only to be pushed back down by the following wave just as I was about to break the surface. The second time I made it to the surface is when I gulped down a mouth full of salty foam, forcing me to cough uncontrollably. As I coughed, I gathered my board, still at the end of my leash and started paddling out and towards the channel. With my heart pumping fast I quickly had to ditch my board as the next wave of the monster set was breaking in front of me. Severely winded and at this point deathly afraid, I managed to get back on my board and paddle to the channel. My eyes strained to see light as my brain was struggling to function. I laid in the channel on my board for at least 20 minutes, shaking and seeing stars, while other surfers paddled passed, back into the line up. With my face laying half in the water, I was thinking to myself, that I could have easily drowned under those waves.
Even with my scare only lasting minutes, it made me re-evaluate the importance of preparation. I have taken courses by PFI as well as added mentors I can learn from before taking extraordinary risks. This actions have helped to minimize stress and added to my enjoyment in more extreme environments.
If you’re interested in upping your game, read our Surf Safety: The 4 Best Breath Holding Courses for Big Wave Survival post and get yourself signed up with a course today.
Know your limits: Know what you’re capable of. Having a true look at your abilities is key. That may be testing them out in lesser conditions but more importantly, it is key to gain certifications and training that truly instill confidence in your capabilities.
Find a Mentor/Consult an Expert: A lot of people learn from doing; they need to experience things themselves and have a hard learning from others mistakes and experiences. However, these are the situations where you want to learn everything you can from others before venturing out. You’ll be happy you did.
- Prepare: Today, we an unlimited amount of information at our fingertips. Nearly anything and everything is online. Check the predicted surf conditions on Surfline. Watch youtube videos of other surfers' experiences at the wave you are heading to surf. Prep your gear. Use the right gear for the spot you are surfing. Make sure your mental and physical training has prepped you for the spot you are about to surf. Surf with a buddy. Know life saving techniques like CPR. Take a big wave survival course, even if you aren’t planning to surf big waves. There are lots of good lessons to be learned. Practices your breathing, yoga, meditation to keep you calm in unexpected and uncomfortable situations. Know how to summon medical help in a foreign country. Ask questions in forums Everything you need to know is right at your fingertips.
- Practice Makes Perfect: Training, training and more training will ensure that you won’t panic and you will make the right decisions when under pressure.
- Partner Up: Having a buddy system means surviving or not surviving a life-threatening situation. Make sure your buddy is equally trained and prepared as you are or in may become pointless in the time of need.
Cautious Wins: Slow and steady wins the race. This doesn’t mean surfing slow or not charging hard. It means don’t make your decisions under pressure and take time to analyze the conditions before putting yourself in harms way.
Preparation isn’t easy but when you’ve done it, it feels great. That good feeling isn’t about you having to use your skill set when something goes wrong. It’s when nothing goes wrong, you can have faith that your preparation ensured that an accident was certainly avoided. When you're prepared, you find yourself pushing further, more comfortably and more safely. So start preparing and starting expanding your limits, whether that’s with surfing or something else completely.