A really big anniversary

First things first - Jan. 28, 2008 is the 10-year anniversary of the largest waves ever surfed.

Before Jan. 28, 1998, it was unimaginable that surfers could ride waves in the 60 to 100 feet range. Ten years later this unprecedented experience, which raised the bar of human possibility, has yet to be repeated and more than likely never will.

What makes the massive swell stand out is not only the fact that the largest waves in history were actually surfed, but also that the majority of the world’s best big-wave surfers declined to go out. This was also the first time in history the Eddie Aikau big-wave surfing contest was postponed due to “surf deemed humanly impossible to ride.”

At the time virtually every big-wave surfer, lifeguard and waterman, felt to enter the ocean that day would be sheer suicide. The waves were just too big. The Willis brothers along with big-wave surfers Cheyne Horan and Sam Hawk saw it differently. Where others saw impossibility we instead saw possibility.

Seeing the possibility was one thing, acting on it another. It took courage and belief to get off the beach and into the roaring ocean that day. Courage because we knew if something was to go wrong, if something terrible did happen, no one, not the lifeguards, fellow surfers or even angels would be there to help. Should something go awry, the only one you could depend on would be yourself.

Contrary to what one might think, it was not a haphazard decision to go surfing this day, it was rather a calculated one. We had trained and prepared for years for an opportunity like this to come. A very real opportunity to test our mettle, fortitude and our very own definition of what is truly possible.

With every opportunity comes challenge and responsibility. Challenge as in risks that are involved, responsibility as in ability to respond. When opportunity knocked, unlike many others, we were not only ready for it we embraced it passionately, aware of the risks, and prepared to respond.

The fact that we surfed the world’s largest waves is important only to a few. More importantly to many is how we were able to accomplish surfing the world’s largest waves. The answer is teamwork.

It took a team to accomplish surfing the world’s largest waves just as it took a team to put a man on the moon. Though thought impossible by others, we teamed up and began working on what we thought could be possible. First and foremost we had the vision and belief we could do it, even though the majority said we couldn’t. Secondly we acted on that vision and belief as individuals and as a collective whole.

Our team consisted of a Jet Ski driver and a surfer. Interchangeable, the driver and surfer were equally responsible for the success of the quest. It did not matter whose job it was to check “the details,” from the simple to the complicated; it was everyone’s job. You may have been the captain but you still watched out for the crew. You may have been the crew but you still watched out for the captain - all for one, one for all. If you went in the ocean and the Jet Ski happened to begin sinking because your partner did not put the rubber stop plug in, the onus nonetheless was on you for not backing up your partner. Being on a team doesn’t just mean being on the same side it also means working side by side, watching out for yourself and each other. No matter the rank or position high or low everyone individually on a team is responsible for the success of the team.

Just as the little waves team together to become a powerful force in nature, individuals teaming together can become a powerful force in human nature.

Will waves ever reach the size of Jan. 28, 1998 again? Sooner or later yes.

This year is ripe with unprecedented opportunity for mankind and individuals alike. Let us hope the year 2008 extends the boundaries of human accomplishment, raises the bar of human enlightenment, and extends the perceptions of what is truly possible - world peace perhaps?