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Perform in Process with Diff

To be in process you are present, mindful of the intended result and focused on the feelings and sensations related to the result you want to create. 

I’m standing in a small shack on the beach in the Laniakea Region of the North Shore. In the center of the shack are two stands that hold a surfboard blank in place. The year is 1966; I’m having my first surfboard shaped by the master, Mike Diffenderfer. Diff, as he was known to the surfing world, took his work as a shaper very seriously.

broken image

He would pause and use one of three hand tools: a small saw, a hand planer and a smooth piece of wood with sand paper wrapped around it. This was the definition of hand built.

Diff used the saw to cut the rough shape out of the blank. That was it for the saw. He then began to walk up and down the blank and use the hand planer (no power tools here!) to shape the rails. From time to time he would pick up the blank with a hand placed on each rail and then pause as if in a trance. 

He would then gently place the board back in position and the process would continue. Diff was giving me my first lesson in “being in process.” Like a lot of artists, he was able to bring himself totally present and feel his way through the creation and then pause to check on the intended result. The process took one hour, 60 minutes exact, the time he had predicted.

Diff signed the blank and that was it. I had it glassed with just his signature. The board worked great! It was my favorite for years. Diff had the reputation as a premier shaper. It was estimated that he shaped more than 25,000 boards. He was a true artist. Along with shaping, Diff was a scratch golfer. Both, he said, when I asked him about it, “were well defined feelings.” He died in 2002 at the age of 64.

I’m grateful to my experience with Diff. Afterward, I began to get more into my own work as a teacher and coach and enjoy the results. 

Perform in Process 

To perform in process involves performance breathing, the ability to be present, mindful and have both a broad and narrow focus.

Performance Breathing

Allows you to be settled and present.


Allows you to maintain the proper mindset and select the proper thought as needed in the moment.


A broad focus allows to you to stay open and make good decisions. A narrow focus allows you to see in a feeling sense, to practice seeing and feeling yourself performing at your very best. To visualize the mechanics of your skills and feel the emotions and sensations associated with proper effort and form.

Note: Emotions are feelings related to performance: strength versus fatigue, fun versus frustration. Sensations are physical feelings associated with the body’s ability to perform specific tasks, i.e., running with good posture.

Get The Job Done

The ability to perform in process will require that you:

  • Give your best effort and then attend to the outcome and learn from your efforts. 
  • Learn to embrace all challenges and continue to feel the fire and passion in order to finish and complete the outcome. 
  • Build the fitness needed to settle down when needed, maintain your confidence, continue to have fun and incorporate the learning. 
  • Master the breathing, manage the intensity, let go of upsets and always want to improve.
  • Love the process that enables you to get the job done and be true to your craft.