If someone asked me fifteen years ago, “What moment has changed my life?” I would have jumped at the chance to ramble on about numerous life-altering moments. The first big wave, the time I broke my back at Waimea, the barrel at Jaws, the glacier, or the world record wave in Portugal, the awards, the victories, etc, etc, etc. At that time in my career, I thought that the most important things were getting a shot in a surf mag, winning titles and awards and working with companies that wanted to give me money whether I believed in what they represented or not.
That all changed the day I laid eyes on my wife-to-be, the lovely Nicole. Although it sounds like a self-fulfilling event as mentioned above (and it was), what she has taught me since that fateful day altered my purpose on this planet.
Since the age of eleven, when I moved to Hawaii and surfed for the first time, surfing is all I have wanted to do. And, as it turns out, it’s all I have done. I managed to put food on the table by just riding big waves. That’s all I did and all I lived for. I wasn’t aware of the effect of my actions on other people or on the people that I loved – and I definitely didn’t think about how my actions could make a difference in the world.
Nicole started reading to me every morning from Deepak Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, and it has been the only book I read over and over. There are many things I work on every day, but the main point that has stood out for me is dharma, or our purpose in life. Everyone has something they love to do more than anything else. That part was easy for me… surfing. The next part asks how you can help others through the one thing you were blessed with.
So how can surfing help humanity? Many people don’t know that I came from nothing. My mother was on welfare and we were just getting by. I found my passion and made it my life. I didn’t give up or let others discourage me. I refused to fall victim to my circumstances. I overcame many failures. I have made it my mission to go to schools and speak with kids about never giving up on their dreams and teaching them how to make a road map to get where they want to go. Anything and everything is possible. Do what you love, love what you do!
I also found out the incredible effect that water has on autistic children. Every year I work with Izzy Paskowitz and his organization, Surfers Healing, to share our passion with children and their families who never thought they would get to stand on a surfboard. Sometimes this is the first time these children ever speak or show emotion. The parents are crying, we are crying and the kids are having the time of their life. It rivals any wave I have ever caught.
The other book I recently got into was King Solomon’s The Richest Man Who Ever Lived. One of the messages that I walked away with was about partners, how incredibly important it is to find and surround yourself with the right partners. Go through a hundred to get one, if that is what it takes. I definitely did that when I married Nicole, but then it was time to take a look at the partners that I promoted and worked with. Before I met my wife, I was in survival mode. If a company offered me money, I would work with them. If I thought someone was important, I would hang out with them, even if they had negative energy. It never dawned on me that, as an athlete, people look at what we are representing, especially young children. These days, so many athletes are battling against GMOs but then every month they collect a check from large corporations that have products riddled with GMOs and toxic ingredients. They don’t even realize that kids mimic their behavior. They are so impressionable.
It’s a challenging spot to be in, because these big companies are usually the ones that offer the most money. I have made a promise to myself that I will only work with companies that do good things and make a difference in some way. I just think about my children and whether it is a company I would be proud of them supporting or consuming.
Life is too short to take it too seriously. It’s too short to not be doing what you love and to surround yourself in negative energy. The moment you find your passion, make it your life and give to all those around you. It will be the moment that will change your life forever. It is never too late and never too early to do what you love! Follow your heart. It will never mislead you.