Face your challenges head on


Many surfers experiencing their first successful ride on a wave have surprised themselves with uncharacteristic outburst of emotion, cheering inside and out. Deep in the heart, a feeling rises to the vocal cords: I did it. That feeling of rising to the challenge is what keeps surfers coming back wave after wave, year after year.

Challenges found in surfing as in life are what make life so compelling. The best way to face challenges is exactly the same way a surfer faces the waves: straight on. Turn your back on challenge, and it will still be there. Sometimes overcoming challenges is just being brave enough to face them.

One way or another, real-life challenges are unavoidable. Challenges, like the waves, will always keep coming. Get though one and guaranteed there will be another one following right behind. It’s through facing our challenges that real growth takes place.

When a surfer takes on a challenging wave, he either makes it or not. If he makes it, he stores valuable confidence and experience to push on further. If a surfer wipes out, he gets back on his surfboard and prepares to ride another more prepared this time.

The surfer who faces no challenges, the one who does not take any waves, is the one that does not advance. In fact, the only way a surfer can improve is to experience the challenges that help change the surfer he is into the surfer he will become.

Challenge is seldom easy and it isn’t meant to be. Some are blessed and pick and choose their challenges. Others are surprised to find themselves facing challenges they could never have imagined.

All challenges can be measured by the courage strength and faith it takes to overcome them. Great challenges separate average character from great character. It’s important to remember it is the small obstacles overcome that lead to major breakthroughs. Learning to master the 6-inch wave must come first if one is to ride a 2-foot wave, a 4-foot wave and so on.

One of the biggest mistakes in surfing is hesitation. One of the biggest reasons for hesitation is fear of failure. What’s going to happen to me if I wipe out? Can I make the wipe out? Hold my breath long enough, take the pounding?

Interestingly enough, even the most harrowing wipeouts generally appear a heck of a lot worse than they actually are. Even the longest of hold-downs are not really that long.

Many times, surfers cause their own worst fears of wiping out to happen, by hesitating. A surfer paddling into a steep wave has to go and never look back. One hesitation, one second thought at a critical moment, and it’s all over. Surfers who hesitate at the top of a steep wave nine times out of 10 get pitched out with the throwing crest of the wave.

For the most part, wipeouts where surfers hesitate are worse than when surfers don’t. When a powerful wave begins to close out on a surfer, he either straightens out or goes for it. The surfer that hesitates and freezes, even if just for an instant, is in for a pounding.

When world champion surfers like Bruce Irons, Andy Irons and Kelly Slater go for a wave, they commit to that wave with no hesitation. With 100 percent mind, body and soul, there is no turning back. Challenge accepted. They may ride a mind-bending long tube and make it in or get slammed at the end, but either way emerge a better surfer for the effort.

You may not be facing the challenge of a long tube ride over a shallow reef, but if you are human you face life challenges of equal or greater proportions. Some challenges seem insignificant others seem great. What’s more important than the challenges we face, is how we face them. Facing personal challenges is like taking a growth pill for the soul.

Have no gear of failure because the moment you face a challenge you win, there is nothing you cannot overcome given time. Remember when facing a challenge big or small, be like a surfer, stand tall and give your all. Aloha.

E-mail surfing experts Michael and Milton Willis at