Waterman and Big-Wave Surfer
Like most guys in the late 1990s and early 2000s, my conceptual understanding of yoga was that it was soft, wussy stretching full of emotional yada yada. My first exposure to yoga was at a Quiksilver training camp that focused on the physical side of the practice. It kicked my butt. In fact, I pushed myself so hard that I hurt my back. That turned me off from the practice. But three years later, Laird Hamilton asked me to do yoga with him. He seemed committed, so I thought it was worth another try. This time the experience was much closer to what I expected yoga to be about—breathing, focus, balance—but the physical exertion in simple movements really blew me away. I was sweating so hard during that first session with Laird that when I left the studio I looked like I’d stepped out of a swimming pool. It wasn’t even a heated class! Of course, I approached it like a typical young man with no yoga experience, muscling through every pose with no acknowledgment of my body’s limits and trying to overcome every situation with bravado rather than breath. Breath instruction was foreign to me. To breathe during these very intense movements seemed impossible. I was so winded I had to huff and puff to get air in. It was a very humbling experience and completely changed my perception of yoga—and it got me hooked.
There’s nothing wussy about yoga. It’s very tough and very physical but leaves you feeling somewhere between euphoric and relaxed. I immediately noticed a difference in my paddling. In those days, there was this one guy who was just a bit faster than me. Eight times out of ten he’d beat me. But if I did yoga the morning before we raced, I would absolutely smoke him. That was the tipping point for me, and I started practicing yoga regularly. I’d never been that fast on a paddleboard. Yoga really translates to sports. With all of the water sports I do, whether surfing or paddling, I’m in a very fluid situation calculating data—speed, time, distance, and how I relate to a wave—at a subconscious level. When your subconscious is relaxed and free from stress or outside thoughts, you can make better decisions. Basically, you get in the flow more easily. The hardest part for me is finding time. But even if I do just 15 minutes of yoga, it helps me so much.
See alsoPre-Surf Yoga Sequence