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Dear Reader,

Here is a story about Mark Sandvold, one of the most inspirational people I have ever known. If you're a follower of my blog you'll remember me writing about him a couple of years ago. I feel privileged and extremely grateful to have worked with him in his capacity as a coach and then with him as he battled cancer.

My story about Mark is in two parts:

Part One is about how he used his light to learn how to live and how to finish.

Part Two is about the process that he used to express so much fire (fast burning fuel used to express intense action) and passion (slow burning fuel to express the capacity needed to get the job done).

I hope you’ll enjoy both stories. Mark would have liked that.

Brad Yates

Whenever I write about breathing, the memories of working with Mark Sandvold come rushing back. Mark was vested in anything that promised to improve his physical performance. He was also an outstanding athlete and coach, and a dear friend who died way too early. Mark coined the term “love–love”. Much like the Hawaiian use of aloha as hello and goodbye. Love–love is a double dose of acceptance and appreciation. Mark’s way of letting you know how much you meant to him. Love–love became a portion of Mark’s Mantra.

Mark and I originally started to work together out of his desire to improve his ability to coach young woman paddlers. He wanted to find a way to share with them the ability to work hard and also to have fun. Mark was a legend in terms of working hard and having fun. He was the bull with a hammah’ (powerful stroke) that would not quit. It wasn’t long before his teams responded to his coaching in a very positive way.

I will always remember how much Mark loved to practice his breathing. In the beginning it was all about how to use this new source of energy in his workouts, and then to master the settle down. Mark used to love sharing about times when he would start to get upset, catch himself, and then he’d use his breath to settle down and go deep to save the moment and a perhaps a relationship.

A few years later, after Mark was diagnosed with cancer, he called me and then the real work began. While Mark used his breathing to manage the pain, be present and embrace his challenge, he also began to learn more about his spirit. To this end, he had some great coaching along with the continued support of his family and a huge group of friends from all over the world. These friends had competed with and against Mark in ocean kayaking and one-man and team paddling. Their presence was evidence of Mark’s power to make people feel special.

Mark had "the light"

"The light" is a metaphor for different sources of energy. He used performance breathing to settle down, go deep, prepare and execute. This process allowed him to gain clarity of what he wanted, compassion for himself and others, acceptance of the work needed, the truth about his reality, the trust in his capacity and the love he wanted to share.

Settle Down

Inhale in your nose and forcefully exhale out of your mouth. Make the ‘Taaaaaaaaaah sound and restore the calmness and clarity. With practice 2 or 3 reps should do the job.

Go Deep

Use slow and deliberate nasal calming breaths to be aware and present in the moment. Be mindful of your reality and be clear about what you want to accomplish.

Reflection: Now Mark could settle down and go deep. In competition he would take the lead and own the race. In his battle with cancer, he never ceased to amaze me and the other members of his team with what he could endure. On one such occasion, Mark was going one on one with some major pain and I was beyond distraught. When I got home, I got down on my knees and said a prayer. “Higher power, please, just put me where you want me.” Early the next morning I got a call from the hospital, “Mark wants you, please come!" My prayers had been answered, divine intervention at work. When I got to the hospital, Mark gave me the signal that said, “I’m battling but I need some help.”


Use gentle and relaxed nasal breaths to evaluate and visualize the results you want to produce: To focus on seeing yourself being alert and performing in the best possible way.


Use a shortened (30% to 40%) inhale though your nose and an explosive exhale through your mouth to perform with tempo, power and accuracy. To use your breath and core to create a burst of energy as you complete the movement.

Reflection: Now Mark could prepare, and he could execute. Visualization and prayer were part of his strongest skills. He had a very active and colorful imagination that helped him to focus and mentally rehearse the action and sensations he needed for the action in question. In wrestling and water polo he coupled his huge desire to excel with the agility and quickness to perform at a really high level. In kayaking and paddling his unbeatable spirit and love of competition enabled him to endure and complete some extreme challenges The ability to work hard and attack challenges was ingrained in his soul. He lived ready to give his best effort no matter what.

Through­out Mark’s life he had lived in service to his family and all of the people that got to share his love­–love. At the end he had used up all of his light: The clarity, compassion, acceptance, truth, trust and love. It was now time to focus on his spiritual dimension as that was all he had left to control. His final gift to all of us. And in this realm, he grew strong. But then in time, as a flame that one day burns out, he left us. He showed us how to live and how to finish.

In the next blog entry, I will go deeper into how he used his light to take on such a huge challenge, to battle with so much dignity and share the lessons with so many in such a meaningful way.

Photo Courtesy of Darrell Wong, shot at Tongg’s on the south shore of Oahu, near Diamond Head

“Mark Sandvold is the only one that had the skills, energy and personality to make this photo represent our brand. I’m grateful to Darrell and Mark for creating such a unique and memorable moment.”

Dale Hope, ocean athlete, author, coach (Mark’s at age 16), family friend, world famous curator of Aloha Shirts