“Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.”
~ Seth Godin
For many people, overcoming fear is one of the hardest things to do. I am one of those people.
So what is it that scares me? Not the usual snakes, spiders, clowns or the dark. I read somewhere once that P Diddy is scared of clouds but no, it’s not clouds for me either. My nemesis…waves!
A few months ago I decided I wanted to learn to surf. I’d done a few lessons here and there but never really mastered it, far from it in fact.
Having not grown up in Australia, swimming is something I’ve had to work hard on over the past few years. In the UK it’s pretty standard to wear arm bands until you’re about seven but in the land down under babies are swimming like fish pretty much straight out of the womb. Throw in rips, currents, huge swell and a few sharks for good measure and I was at a natural disadvantage in the ocean.
That said, I had a couple of triathlons under my belt and my ocean swimming lessons had paid off so when the opportunity to do a 6 week surf school with my awesome gym buddies at Agoga came up, I jumped at the chance.
I started off pretty good. The first few weeks I was paddling out the back, jumping on a few waves, all was going well. Confidence kicked in and I decided to go out and practice one afternoon at Bondi with a couple of the girls from surfing. Big mistake.
Bondi is without doubt one of the most famous beaches in Australia. A big hit with tourists and locals, this place seemed like a great place to practice. Especially as my weekly lessons were there too. It’s also the star of a tv show called Bondi Rescue…the clue is in the name and I’m amazed this outing didn’t make it on to the small screen.
Off the three of us went straight into the rip and out the back where we quickly realised the conditions were definitely not for learners. I was way out of my depth. Big powerful waves smashing me and my 8 ft board left, right and centre made for a really scary experience. I was in deep water and panicking. Not a good combo! I survived (obviously!) but was left pretty shaken and lost any confidence I had.
The next few times I went out I was paralysed with fear. I was so terrified of the waves that it was becoming stressful to even think about going out for a surf. We were just about to embark on an amazing trip to Sri Lanka where we planned to surf every day. The question was, would I be able to overcome my fear and get back in the water?
I had a choice. I could let my fear consume me and miss out on a great opportunity to hang with Elaina out the back, practice and get my confidence back. Or, as my friend David Wood says, I could feel the fear and do it anyway!
Fast forward to our first week in Sri Lanka and we’re at a killer little surf spot called Weligama. The first few times I went out to surf, fear won. The waves weren’t even that big but I was getting freaked out. Why couldn’t I just get over this?
Then I came across a little book called Overcoming Fear by Caesar Lincoln. After a quick read I realised it’s ok to be scared sometimes but that most of the awesome experiences and success we have in life will often happen outside our comfort zone. I was determined not to let fear win. It’s all in the mind after all.
The next day I was back in the water and paddled out the back for the first time with Elaina. I was still nervous and felt way out of my comfort zone but I sucked it up and did it anyway.
I will never forget the moment I dropped in on my first wave. It was AWESOME! Totally worth the fear!
I still get a little freaked out but I think that’s a good thing sometimes. Only this morning I had a moment when I got a bit scared again but I’ve heard from seasoned surfers that’s totally normal. Just makes catching waves that bit more exciting!
My surfing journey has taught me is that it’s ok to be afraid sometimes but don’t let fear stop you getting where you want to go! I’m sure there will be many more times in life when fear kicks in, but in those moments we all have a choice. To overcome fear or let it get the better of us.
I remember being afraid just before I jumped 14,000 ft out of a plane, but at that moment when i was free falling through the air all the fear just washed away. I certainly have no regrets about that skydive but I’m sure I would have regretted not doing it if fear had won that day.
2014 is going to be a big year for us. To achieve our goals there’s going to be challenges to over come, doubts and definitely fears. But despite all that, I know we’re going to get there. Fear or no fear.