Lessons Learned – How Surfing has Helped in Life

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A good old Florida summer storm. Photo by Spencer Morton

It was a sticky, humid summer day and the Stubbies Surf Trails had been put on hold due to the conditions. My friend and I had paddled out and caught a few waves with a small group of surfers at Sebastian Inlet.

At some point, I heard a loud rumble and turned shoreward and saw a black wall stretching across the horizon. Some more rumbling and then a bolt of lightning came down in the distance. This looked serious and I began to make my way towards shore.

I have seen a million storms in Florida and the tenacity of some of them are jaw dropping. This one came at a speed that was fearsome. Very quickly it went from something far-off and closing in to a watery Armageddon.

My friend was paddling in as well and I reached the shore just before him and laid up against the sand berm that separated the lower beach from the upper area. People were fleeing and the scaffold for the contest was abandoned. Pellets of rain began to hit me and then more in with an increasing velocity. Then a watery haze lowered onto us. I looked back over the berm and heard a loud boom. A bolt of lightning came down and struck the long metal handrail that runs along the north jetty. This was serious.

My friend Lou sprinted up and forced himself against the wall of the sand berm as well. The water was spraying into my face every time I tried to see what was going on in the ocean. How long did this last? I could not say. But I do remember peering back over the berm and seeing the black to the west being replaced by grey so the storm was moving by rather quickly.

As the severity began to decrease, I looked out to sea and saw that some of the surfers had chosen not to leave the water and they were trying to ride out the deluge; maybe trying to get the jump on the crowd that would surely return with the sunshine.

Then suddenly came a boom! So abrupt that my only reaction was to crouch forward towards the sand. I could hear screams and cries. So I sat trying to process what had just happened. A woman was screaming in the water and others were running along the beach. Then it became apparent that lightning had just hit close to or had hit someone.

I got up and a wave of adrenaline and fear washed over me. The situation was clearly not safe but I also knew that somewhere out there was a person whose very survival depended upon someone taking action. The sky let out a low rumble and the flash of lightning in the distance washed out the sky. I trotted towards the ocean and ran in. Rain drops still dropped on us from the dark sky and a man ran towards us.

Look for the man! He has on red shorts. You go this way and I will move this way.

I jumped over the walls of white water and peered down into the water hoping to get a glimpse of something in the churning surf. Another rumble made me lower myself closer to the water trying not to be a target myself. A young woman was wading out too and she was sobbing. Then maybe a half a minute later…

I have him! I have him!

Three of the guys picked him up and we all moved up onto the beach. I saw a towel and moved it to where they could lay his body on top of it. The rain still came down as the lifeguard started C.P.R. Within moments some emergency units began to respond and a few minutes more he was taken away.

I never saw him again and later I heard he was pronounced dead.

As a 16 year old, moments like this would shape my perspective as did getting caught inside by massive clean up sets, coming face to face with a Great White Shark, and being alone in massive closed out surf in a rising hurricane swell.

You do not have a lot of choices. You can panic and possibly die or you can calmly try to work things out on your own terms.

  1. It Will not Last Forever.

When I was caught inside of a maybe 25 foot set, it seems like you will not make it. But the reality is that you will either wear 4 sets on the head or you will take 2 or 3 bad ones and get washed inside where it will not be so bad.

So work and life are the same way. A short-staffed day will only last a shift and someone usually steps up when overtime is mentioned. If not, do the best you can and call it a day.

Then move on. It is in the past and can not be changed.

2. Perspective is Everything

This goes along with #1. For example, deciding to put yourself in danger is a big decision. You could possibly lose your life. On the other hand, working in a restaurant and finding out that you do not have enough pickles to last a shift is not an event that could result in someone going home in a casket. So employees need a leader who does not freak out every time there is a work inconvenience. What they need is someone to calmly analyze the situation and then come up with an appropriate plan of action.

Even better, you can get the employees involved to come up with solutions of their own. The feeling of involvement will give them some ownership.

3. Action!

Surfing is a joyous sport and it can be very fun. But ask any surfer about facing a day where the swell interval is short and you are paddling out in a highly shallow area. Once you commit, you have one option to get out. That is to paddle. And duck dive. And paddle. And duck dive and repeat over and over. If you give up or worse, do not commit from the beginning then you will never make it out. There are no hacks to get out or ways to cut corners. No amount of complaining or pointing out how unfair the situation is will get you out. Only a committed episode of paddling will yield any possible outcome that may be fruitful.

Once, I was working at a very popular theme park with high attendance. On one busy day, I received a call from another department that needed some assistance and guidance. I arrived to a group of fellow management members from another department huddled together discussing what to do in regards to a giant puddle of grease that was spilled on a main pathway. Some guests were walking into the grease and foot prints began to show up down the path. When myself and my co-manager arrived with some employees, we looked at the scene and I walked up and asked what they decided. They were unsure and returned to their discussion.

My co-manager looked at the spreading ooze and said to herself that this is ridiculous and we both agreed to ignore the others and that it was time to take action.

We picked out a few people to get others to help. A few to block the sidewalk and a few to get the equipment that we needed. The plan took shape and was quickly put into action.

Within 45 minutes, the mess was cleaned up and not a member of the management team from the department that created the issue had helped. Later, we received a thank you letter and a gift card for stepping up and taking care of the issue.

So, if something is clearly wrong. If a problem is festering and you see it. Do not wait for a far off meeting to address the situation or at least start to move the ball forward. Any action works!!

In my life, I have watched people complain about why something happened instead of removing the problem. Complaining does not solve problems. Action solves problems. When you are finished correcting the problem, then you can address how to not have the problem happen again.

With that, I hope that none of my readers will ever have to experience creating an action plan just as a random shark tries to swim onto your surfboard. This will also mean that you will not have to give yourself a pep talk that the moment is over and that you should just continue on with your day because dwelling on the past will not produce anything positive. But by adopting some of these ideas in less stressful moments, one will quickly find themselves becoming a doer and will solve tasks as opposed to a critic who does nothing more than points out things.

Aloha!

– Steve

 

 

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Noise to Note! #141

Noise to Note!

 

People who know me well chuckle about my off beat sense of humor. How I can find a small part of a big story and twist it into something unexpected which turns out to be ironic or out of sense in funny way.

That is why I like this video from The Utah Saints.

They took a dumb out of vogue dance move and created a funny back story that the move was actually a hit created by a Welch pub dweller and it became his ticket to fame until it was stolen by M.C. Hammer thus ruining his chance to become famous.

As for the song itself, the chorus is sampled from a song by legendary new wave songstress, Kate Bush. So the Utah Saints were batting a game winning run with this song.

Utah Saints – Something Good

 

 

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Where the Right is Always Right!

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My local break – Ponce Inlet

 

Maybe I wrote this title to lure in some overzealous political types who like to spend their free time posting their views on some forum. This post…Prepare for disappointment!

Yesterday, I drove into the park at Ponce Inlet and walked down the boardwalk to the beach. People were fishing and the dog park was bustling. A field trip of elementary school kids were being escorted on a search for local wildlife which includes the grazing gopher turtles that reside in the flowing field of Sea Oats and white sand.

I stopped for a brief moment and took it all in. I am lucky to call this place my local spot.

 

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You can see the Daytona Beach in the distance.

 

Daytona Beach is so close. The cars blasting hip hop and rock as they drive by in a long line. The wall to wall hotels and convenience stores and the grime of a beach in a big city. Yet, so close is South Daytona Beach Shores. So close yet a world away.

As for the surfing, if you are a local then you know you are going right. The lefts do break but they bend out and are far shorter. Even if the wave looks good going left, I just let it roll on by.

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Right after right after right

 

So if you are in the area and want some tranquility; skip the chaos and drive a few extra miles for the quality.

 

 

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The tranquil beach of Ponce Inlet.

What about you all out there? Do you have some hidden gems that go unnoticed by the masses?

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Farewell to Dick Catri

 

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Portrait of Dick by Phil Roberts

 

Although the hub of Brevard County surfing was only a few miles to the south, I sat in crystal clear water without a soul to be seen as far as the eyes could see. Sets poured in. I rode to my hearts desire blasting turns without the hassle and hustle that was taking place a few scant miles down the beach.

When I come in, I made my way up the boardwalk to the backyard and hosed off the salt water.

You got some good rides buddy! My father offered me something to drink. Then the owner of the house chimed in.

I like how you went into the first turn right when you took off. That floater…do that.

I knew when you had a person with the pedigree of Dick Catri giving advice then you should pay attention.

Dick made us dinner. Tomorrow would be a long day for the both of them. Another surf contest. I would be surfing and taking notes.

 

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My buddy John Ubbink, Dick Catri, and myself at the Florida Pro

 

Dick passed away the other day and the tributes began to fill up my social media feeds. For the sport of surfing, his contributions were huge. He came up as a contest surfer representing Florida and began to shape surfboards. He also made the transition from contest surfer to surf contest administrator and his events provided a platform for countless surfers to gain experience and to earn the money necessary to travel and to make a name in professional surfing.

Under his label of Catri Surfboards, he picked up some kids to surf on his team. For many of them, it was the first steps into the framework of sponsorship and many took the next steps to up the level of their career paths. The biggest was Kelly Slater.

 

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My father, Frank Zima, and Dick at the Sundek Classic

 

 

Dad and Friends

Frank Zima, Dick Catri, and John Griffin

As I line up my turn and pull myself high up the wave face to gain some speed, it will because of some words spoken to me by surfers such as Dick, Pete Dooley, Peter Townend, Rabbit Bartholomew, and Greg Taylor. People who took the time to give me direction that I would use over countless waves and whose words I would recite so often that they would imbed into my being. As a grom will be out at the inlet reciting my words as they remember to pull up their arms to get more lift.

And like Dick Catri and many other important people in my life, I will strive to give and not just take.

The tao of Dick Catri.

Aloha!

 

 

 

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Noise to Note! – 140

Noise to Note!

A while back, I saw that one of the great early punk bands was coming into town on their 40th Anniversary Tour. I watched some videos and saw some from several years back and the performances were spotty. Their famous guitarist had to stop touring and they seemed to be not at 100%.

Then I saw a more recent video. I loved what one of the singers was saying about life. I also noticed her weight gain and more negatives were coming into my mind. But at the end, the interviewer took the singer out into a garden area and began to play a song. Her voice was better than ever. In fact, it was impressive.

Then I read some reviews from previous dates and they all said the same thing – This band was firing on all cylinders.

I bought a ticket and did not know any friends who were going.

So I walked into the club alone and within a minute found some old friends. I was stoked!

And the performance?

If I told you I watched a band comprised of 60 year olds and the guitarist had to sit in a chair the whole show time; one would only imagine how awful it was.

Wrong!

They played with an energy that was impossible not to notice. The guitar playing was top-notch and the chemistry was back.

The band was X. Their performance of I See Red was more frantic than the studio version and yet not out of control. It was a performance that 40 years of playing together can only create.

X – I See Red

Sometimes, you just have to take a chance. More than likely, you can deal with whatever happens.

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Thankful That I Still Got Stoke!

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First off, what do myself, Jason Apprecio, Chris Makris, and Jimmy Parker all have in common?

We were all pro surfers. Traveling together and not always getting the win or the big cash check. Just guys trying to fulfill their dreams. And, there are lots of us out there scattered in various countries around the world.

As life moves forward, we have to make an exit and transition onward. Some of us do great and others for what I have seen tend to struggle with the changes that come with gaining a family or being employed outside of the surfing bubble.

Personally, I dislike people that brag and try to one up people so it is weird to be in a situation in which you want to tell people your stories but you also want them the others to not feel like you are trying to steal their thunder. So, I try to spare people from a constant barrage of my stories unless they really want to know and in my case, my stories are a bit more outlandish than most.

So to up the cringe factor for me(It is odd putting your thoughts out to the world), I recently had a very wonderful opportunity to answer some questions about my experiences and things today and the struggle we all must face as adults in balancing our lives. And as I gave this interview, I faced even more pressures from work and I had to step up and take my own advice. My answer was to tackle a few issues that have been real time killers for me to get some of my life back!!

So thanks to Kirsty Hill for the support! You can check out her site to see how her adventures are going in the sport of surfing here in the tropical waters of the U.K.:

Kernow Surf Girl

And to read the article about my thoughts on finding balance here at Still Got Stoke. Check out their other articles which give perspective on a variety of subjects such as advice from older athletes and the perspectives of female athletes. Good stuff!

Steve at Still Got Stoke

 

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Noise to Note! #139

Noise to Note!

 

A great song? There are many.

This could go on a list of the perfect songs. Even live in a studio.

The Cure – Just Like Heaven

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