How to Surf the World’s Biggest Wave — Step 1: Be the Best at Wiping Out [video]

Surf fans have likely already seen the video of Garrett McNamara, a 44-year-old Hawaii native, breaking the Guinness World Record for largest wave every ridden. Caught in Nazare, Portugal, the wave was measured by an independent panel of experts at a jaw-dropping 78 feet. Apparently McNamara almost missed out on this wave because he was so exhausted from the previous day of riding waves that, according to the professional surfer, “were a little bigger.” This is not breaking news – but I’m highlighting McNamara’s accomplishment because it is clear that Garrett has achieved, as my friend Robert Greene talked about on chasejarvisLIVE recently, Mastery of his work. [see that episode here.] How did he do it? By wiping out. A lot.

When most of us creative types talk about following a passion and making a creative career, doing so rarely means putting your life on the line. But the fear of taking that next step to live a creative life can sometimes feel like dropping into a monster wave like this one. But we need to consider, as my buddy Tim Ferriss has articulated [also on chasejarvisLIVE here], “What is the worst case scenario?” Often times, the worst case is not really all that bad. Along the way you WILL wipe out. You might fail. You might be embarrassed. Your work will probably be rejected. Case in point, McNamara won Billabong’s Biggest Wave Award with this ride (and $50,000) — but he ALSO won the Wipeout of the Year [see below]. Garrett was quoted as saying,

“If you can’t have a great ride might as well have a good wipeout. I guess I’m good at wiping out.”

Being good at wiping out, and the understanding that taking your licks is a part of the process, is critical to success. And it prepares you for the ultimate ride – the big opportunity. Had McNamara taken a spill on the 78-foot monster…,well, let’s just say the headlines could have been quite different. But it’s his experience with failure, with wiping out, that gave him the confidence to drop into this death-defying wave. And he rode out with a new world record. Talk about the ultimate commitment to one’s craft.

This 2-minute clip above is packed with great take-aways:

_Do what you love, because you love to do it. Awards and accolades should [will] be a by-product.
_Wiping out is a part of achieving mastery – be good at wiping out.
_Patience, hard work and practice will allow you to recognize an opportunity…and drop in on it.
_If you’re doing what you love – fear will not stop you
_If the challenge ahead inspires fear within you, it’s probably worth taking on.
_You’re never to old to ____
_Make sure you capture and share the moment or you’re left with…”you should have seen it yesterday…”

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11 Responses to How to Surf the World’s Biggest Wave — Step 1: Be the Best at Wiping Out [video]

  1. dylan December 7, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    So much truth.. you have to embrace failure if you ever want to try something new!

  2. Jonny Miller December 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    This post really resonated. I totally agree with the comparisons drawn between the process of surfing and leading a creative life.

    I grew up in land-locked England and at the age of 19 I became obsessed with the idea of learning to surf. I reached out to as many surfers as I could and the concensus was either ‘grew up by the sea’ or ‘moved to live by the sea’ followed by 1-2 years practice before progressing to a short board. 3-4 years before you are good enough to ride a double overhead wave or get barrelled (for example). The drop off rate is apparently close to 99% – that is people who don’t progress from mini-mal to short board. This seemed insanely high! Despite this I flew to Australia and bought a board. For the first 3-4 weeks I struggled a lot. Found it hard to paddle out, got hit by my own board. It was all-round embarrassing.

    The turning point was when I started to enjoy wiping out. I took the Bruce Lee quote ‘Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail’ quite literally!

    With a newfound sense of fearlessness (bordering on stupidity) I set myself the challenge of flying solo to Indonesia and surfing some of the heaviest most critical waves on the planet. Which I did. Most of it consisted of just standing up and ‘going straight’, but on a double overhead barrelling wave that was good enough for me! I realised that you don’t actually have to be a technically exceptional surfer to ride in the heavy waves and have the time of your life!

    Many snapped boards later became a qualified surf instructor in Morocco and spent an amazing 3 months essentially teaching people how to ‘wipe out with style’, then helped organise a TEDx event on ‘the success of failure’ and more recently running the marketing of a Start Up and I know that most of the stuff I’m going to do here will probably fail too…

    Tim’s and Robert’s perspectives’ make total sense to me and I’m sure the philosophy can be applied to many other areas of life. It can be amazingly liberating knowing that you’ve taken the biggest pounding possible and yet you’re still alive. This inspires confidence because you no longer have anything to be afraid of!

  3. faisal December 9, 2012 at 5:06 am #

    Both ways a tough job, the sufferer and the person shooting it.

  4. peter December 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Outstanding shoot – love your work and would like to turn you on to the work of Krystle Wright, a young pioneering photographer from Australia whose images we represent at capturedglobal,com.

  5. Jesse December 11, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    Great video, hadn’t seen it before. On a side note, that wave is controversial in the surfing community as the “biggest ever ridden” – most major surf publications and websites did not run the news when it happened and still don’t recognize it. Just FYI. Not to take anything away from Garrett though, who is amazing.

  6. eccoyle December 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    Wow. Surfing is so incredible and terrifying to me.

    “Wiping out is part of achieving mastery” is definitely going on an index card above my desk as a daily reminder to fail.

  7. Daniel kappelle December 22, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Awesome, and a nice and stimulating post :)

  8. True man! We all do v our own dark sides. Am rili dissappointed that a man cud do such. Rob rili has low self esteem. Well, I hope he gets a life.

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