I’ve never made a conscious decision to try to inspire people, it’s a byproduct of the things I like to do. But while it always embarrasses me when someone tells me I made a difference in their life by motivating them to do something they might not have on their own, it is very satisfying. It makes me happy to know I’m having a positive effect on them and maybe the world at large.
That’s not a small thing to me, and it’s not just a little food for my ego. I know inspiration is important, because just like everyone else, I need to find things and people that inspire me.
One such person is Emily Haager. Emily was a young lady in her twenties with cystic fibrosis. She was one of the main spokes people for “Pipeline to a cure”, a charity gala that Laird and I are involved in to raise money to find a cure for this disease. One of the reasons that Laird and I are involved is a surf and ocean connection–the most effective treatment for this disease is to breathe salty air, which was discovered by a group of doctors who saw that groups of kids in Australia with this disease were doing better than most. They discovered those kids were surfing, and they found that it was the salty ocean air they were breathing that was giving them relief. This inspired one of the most effective treatments they have for this disease.
After having the opportunity to get know Emily and find out what a normal day consists of for a person with CF I was blown away. Most of their waking hours are spent treating themselves which only leaves a few hours to play and that’s when they don’t have a lung infection that puts them in the hospital. In any case after hearing her stories I found it absolutely amazing that this young lady could be so vibrant and full of love for life. She admitted though there were very tough times, but when she spoke about surfing her face would gleam like the sun in the morning. The one thing she told me that really stuck was ” as a CF patient you don’t get to quit. If you want to live you must go through the daily treatments no matter what.” I had no idea at the time how inspiring that would be to me later that year.
About a week before last years Molokai to Oahu stand up race I got the flu, probably from over training. I had gone so far over the top training for that race because I wanted to win so bad. I was starting at the harbor on my stand up board and paddling to just past Peahi then back down( 5 hrs into the wind) to prepare for this race. Biking up the crater, beach workouts even hiking up in Haleakala for altitude training. So when I got sick it crushed me, I was trying everything I knew of to combat this sickness, including IV vitamin bags, acupuncture and even chicken soup. They all helped a little. When I woke up the morning of the race I sort of felt up for it and thought I might be alright. When the race started I was OK and started to get my hopes up, but at the half hour mark Ekolu made a move that I had to cover, which meant it was time to go to work. Immediately I could tell that I didn’t have the strength it would take. I was completely devastated but thought don’t quit yet maybe it will come. Within fifteen minutes it was completely obvious that I didn’t have what it would take, my illness had got the best of me.
I was on my way over to my escort boat with the intention of pulling the plug, I hadn’t come here to get anything but first, and it just wasn’t going to happen today, but just before I got there I remembered what Emily had told me,” CF patients don’t get to quit”. I realized at that moment I was being a pouty little bitch, who was going to go home because I couldn’t have my way. With that realization everything changed. I still wasn’t competitive but by God nothing was going to keep me from getting to that finish line. I had about five more hours to contemplate everything I stood for, even though I wasn’t going to win, what kind of heart do I really have, would the CF patients be proud of me if I dropped out, all sorts of things that make you question your worth, and in the end I came to this. It’s just a race. You’re not going to die, you’re not doing anything very noble, you’re just doing a race and you chose to be here. Cf patients don’t get to chose if they get that disease. With that thought I was a bit ashamed of myself for getting so consumed with what really is a very selfish pursuit. So I finished the race, I went home, my wife coddled my ego for me and learned a very good lesson. There are so many things out there with a gazillion times more meaning and purpose that must be done and finished, and if I can’t even finish this race, how can I ever hope to do something with real meaning and purpose.
Emily unfortunately has passed away from the disease, but her smile and inspiration will never leave me.
Another person that has recently inspired me is Jordan Romero, a thirteen year old boy that just successfully climbed Mount Everest. I went to high school with Jordan’s stepmom Karen, who is an incredible endurance athlete herself. I don’t have all the particulars on how it really went but I do know that he made it to the top and more importantly back down. Just a couple of days ago his achievement inspired me while I was on a training paddle. My goal was to do two Maliko laps ( up down up down) on my OC-1. I was fine on the first lap but as I started the second I found myself needing some inspiration. I thought about Jordan. “This thirteen year old kid climbed Mount Everest and you are starting to think you’re getting tired”. It made me laugh at myself. “You can’t begin to compare the two, not even in your wildest dreams” I thought to myself “if I even start to think I’m tired I’m going to hit myself over the head with my paddle”. Problem solved, seven and a half hours later I was on my way home to eat a nice meal, not curl up on the side of the tallest mountain in the world, in below freezing temperatures, with some rock stuck in my back and the threat of a storm that could make me a permanent fixture on the side of that mountain for the rest of time.
So find your inspiration from where ever or whomever it comes. As long as it gets you over any mental barriers that you set up for yourself, it’s worthy.