Paddling Life Lessons – Attack the waves!

(c) Richard Kohler, Downwind Dash
(c) Meds Martin
(c) Meds Martin

Thinking back to my first national surf lifesaving competition (or Carnival as us Lifesavers call it) I literally get a cold shiver.  I was a Junior, 16 years old, and this was my first experience of the mighty Natal South Coast.

My heart in my throat

I remember how the beach would shudder with the crash of each thunderous wave.  It felt like you were standing next to a jack hammer.  The shorebreak washing up the beach would easily take you off your feet.  The smell of salty sea air lay thick over the beach, like a blanket; and it overwhelmed any other smell, including that of our Fear (which was a fortunate guise for the apparently confident few).

Now, when like me, you have grown up paddling in the relatively benign waters of Fish Hoek bay, then your first view of the surf break at Margate’s main beach will fill you with paralyzing fear; and that’s on a small day.  So when the locals are standing next to you staring out to sea wide-eyed and silent, then you must know that the surf is “next level” big and you are in for a “heart in throat” day.

A pearl of wisdom

I learnt a lot that day; about myself, about others, about facing fears… about holding my breath! But mostly I (very quickly) acquired new skills thanks some pearls of practical wisdom from my biggest mentor, my dad.  As my coach at that time, and knowing how nervous I was, he put his big arm around my shivering shoulders, slowly nodded his head and then, like the great dad and brilliant coach he was, began reassuring me.

We devised a clear strategy for getting through the critical impact zone area.  We watched and timed the surf sets.  We carefully studied the rip currents while observing the seniors’ first few races.  And when the moment came for me to line up for my first race he passed me an absolute gem: “When you decide to go” he said “you must ATTACK THE WAVES!”

(c) Richard Kohler, Downwind Dash
(c) Richard Kohler, Downwind Dash

Zero Apprehension, Complete Commitment

His choice of words was perfect.  He could’ve said many other similarly encouraging words:  “Paddle hard”, “Be Brave” or “Give 100%”; but ”Attack the Waves” simultaneously gives encouragement and also clear instruction.  The beauty of this nugget lies in the practical application thereof: there is no ambiguity as to what you should do.

Two things happen when you Attack the Waves: Zero Apprehension and Complete Commitment. Firstly the action of “Attacking” means that you can have no apprehension paddling into the surf zone; and then secondly the statement of “Attack the Waves” necessitates complete commitment.

Every Paddler’s Test

It’s a test every paddler will need to pass.  I’ve witnessed it at our Surfski School thousands of times.  Without exception, one of the biggest acid tests every new surfski paddler has to master is paddling through waves.  It is a benchmark skill and to do it successfully you must learn to Attack the Waves when the moment comes.

Yes, the best scenario will always be to make it through the surf break in-between waves, during a “lull”; however there will come a time when you will be faced with a wave.  You must know what to do when that moment comes.  At that moment any apprehension or doubt will most certainly result in a capsize.  When that wave is standing up in front of you, you must attack it.

(c) John Hishin
(c) John Hishin

Life Lesson?

Similarly in life, when we decide to follow our dreams, or want to achieve a goal, there will ALWAYS be obstacles, challenges or problems that need to be overcome.  To fulfill your dream of paddling out in open water, you will have to leave the shore and paddle through the waves.  To realize any dream you will face the “waves of life”.

You may be fortunate and get a “lull”, and miss them altogether.  Sometimes they will be smaller and easier to get through.  Sometimes they will be massive, and just plain terrifying.  Whether small or large, when these moments come, these obstacles, challenges and problems can capsize you if act apprehensively or doubtfully.  The first step to get through them is to face them head-on; it’s a decision to Attack the Waves!

Perhaps you’re reading my blog today and know exactly what I’m talking about, either in your paddling life, or maybe more seriously in your real life.  You are chasing a dream, but you’re facing a wave.  Please be encouraged and remember to Attack that Wave!


Dawid Mocke

I love to motivate!  Please contact dawid@mockepaddling.com  if there is an opportunity to share and motivate at your company or with your team, and perhaps even take them paddling.

The Paddling Life Lesson and today’s  #MockeMaxim:  “Attack the Waves.”  Zero Apprehension and Complete Commitment gets you through.

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