The man on this beach has just experienced a radical wipe-out. He broke his leash, he had a tough swim back in and his confidence was shaken. A challenge that I can relate too, having surfed on the North Shore enough to experience the feeling of being completely over-matched.
We do not know if he decided to go back out or called it a day, both of which require going deep. “Go back out,” requires the confidence that you are up for the challenge. “Call it a day,” requires the maturity and self-awareness to know when you need to rest or are injured and have no business paddling back out.
The first year I was in Hawaii, was when I learned how to surf. Physically, I was making the transition from playing football in the SEC. While surfing really small waves, at Courts in town and at Chun’s in the country I wound up in the emergency room. In Town, I wiped out and went head first into the reef, and my lower front teeth went through my lip. At Chun’s my board hit me in the head and I suffered a broken eardrum.
Along with the wipe-outs where I got hurt, there were several times when I miraculously didn’t get hurt when I probably should have. Going Deep though the steep part of my learning curve always involved the feelings related to my intense desire to learn how to surf Sunset Beach and the pure joy associated with being able to surf it on a good day.
In retrospect, I’m so glad that I was able to go deep and process the fear and doubt that came with surfing big waves. I’m also glad that I knew my limits. I was able to paddle in when the surf was too big, or not go out or join the guys that were charging the outer reef as surfers were beginning to use tow-ins to conquer more and bigger waves.
My introduction to tow-ins
In the late 70’s I had the good fortune to have Flippy Hoffman and Jeff Johnson as really good friends. Flippy and Jeff were great waterman from the day. Fishing, diving, surfing, sailing…always up for an adventure.
On this particular day I was standing with the two of them at Jeff’s house on the beach close to Eukai Beach Park. The surf was huge. White water as far as you could see in any direction. In the moment that followed my developing ability to “Go Deep” was instant and very much appreciated.
Flippy said to me, “Hey, Brad! Jeff and I are going to surf Waialua River Mouth tomorrow we have a board for you.” With that he walked over to show me two of the biggest boards I had ever seen. As it turned out, they were 17 feet long and he and Jeff were going to take turns towing each other into these enormous waves with Flippy's boat.
What’s the wipe-out like I asked? Flippy said, “oh minor, you just lay flat and hold your arms at your sides. The white water will just shoot you forward and we will come pick you up with the boat.” So what happens if you drag an arm, I ask? Flippy smiles and says, “Oh that’s bad.”
Without skipping a beat I was clear. I went Deep and accessed the feelings that came forth instantly. “No thanks,” I said. “I have a rule that when Sunset closes out I work in my garden!”
In what seems like in a very short time jet skis became the vehicle of choice for tow-ins as Laird Hamilton, Derrick Dorner and Ken Bradshaw ‘them lead the way to what has become a huge part of surfing!
The “Go Deep!” Training
The act of going deep involves learning how to use your breath to settle down and access the feelings that allow you to focus clearly, be present, work hard and give your best effort when it counts the most.