Day 20 - Chasing Mavericks and Perfection with Frosty Hesson
A couple of weeks ago, I was walking back from the beach with my friend Antonia, and we saw a guy walking into his house. That’s Frosty Hesson, Antonia said. He’s a legend. He’s one of the two guys the movie Chasing Mavericks is about. He’s surfed the monsters.
I thought I had seen Chasing Mavericks, but I wasn’t sure. I put it on my mental list of things to do. A week later I was flying to Indiana to give a talk on writing at the Indiana Adoptee Conference, and I had no idea what I was going to say. I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell people they needed to write their story in order to live fully realized lives. I wasn’t sure anymore that was true because I had realized one reason I’d written my book was to get love. What if people could skip the sitting down for hours and writing part and jump straight to love?
On the plane, I scrolled through the movie choices, and by some miracle, Chasing Mavericks was one of them. This movie was released in 2012, so it was not an obvious choice for Virgin Airlines to have in its queue. But there it was.
The movie ended just as the plane touched down in Indianapolis. I was crying. I knew what I wanted to say in my talk. I wanted to say it doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter if you write or walk or talk or climb trees. Just do it with everything you have.
Something happened to me when I watched the men in the movie surf those gargantuan waves. I saw what it was to live on the edge of life, the pulsing edge, the edge that our bodies and minds were built to ride. I saw that we can live lives of quiet desperation or we can go out into the water and look for a full expression of our personal power.
I wanted to talk to Frosty. I wanted to sit in the same room with someone who had the ability to surf legendary waves. I wanted to see what set him apart from other people.
I told Antonia I wanted to interview Frosty for this blog, and she saw him again just a few days later and went up and introduced herself and told him about me, about my request.
Two days later I was at his house. He said he is all about using his stories to help other people. We sat in his living room for almost two hours, and I recorded our conversation.
The time was magical and empowering for me. I learned so much about being a thoughtful, inspiring, hard-working person. I have transcribed the teaching moments I got from our talk for you down below. I think of each section like a fortune in a cookie.
To fully understand the magnitude of Frosty's interactions with Jay, I suggest you watch Chasing Mavericks.
I tell people, You have value. You truly do. You may not know that value, but it’s there. In our community, we are a tapestry, and you are a thread in that tapestry. You have all these different colors in you, so, in our community, if we were to pull this thread that is you out, we are less. We need you. We need a fireman and a candlestick maker. You have value.
I’ve been saying for years we are strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths are our safe places. You can go to your strength and then you can relax and you are protected and you can download. When you are operating in your weaknesses, it’s a challenge. You’re more on edge. You’re working on that survivalist instinct because you’re not good at it.
There are four elements to being a human being. Three of them are physical, emotional, and mental. And that’s where I was for years and years, with those three things. But it felt incomplete. And then finally I realized that what was missing was the spiritual. It’s not religion, but it’s your understanding of yourself in the world, in the universe. You’re here. You’re here for a reason, and you get to choose what that reason is. You can either ignore it or go along with it, but it’s about trying to find harmony in what feels good.
When you are in your areas of weaknesses, or non-strengths, it’s like what’s supposed to be happening? Those are your lessons. Those are the challenges you get to have and learn from.
People disagree with me when I say the most important person in your life is you. It’s not your partner; it’s not your kids; it’s not your friends. It’s you. If you aren’t grounded and centered and balanced, all of your interactions are off because you’re not grounded, centered, and balanced.
It’s not that we don’t need help and interaction with our partners, kids, and friends, but if you’re in a place of need and you ignore it, more and more builds up and then you’re really out of balance, and you topple over. You need to take care of yourself. It’s not that every little physical or emotional or mental need gets taken cared of immediately, but you can’t continually ignore it. You have to deal with it. When you get back to being centered and balanced, then you can take on the rest of the world and its issues and have good interactions with others.
Having a family takes a village. If in the family unit, people need some separation, it’s perfectly okay. One of the kids going down the street to someone else’s house for a couple of nights or permanently is okay because there’s this sharing of everything. You share work; you share food. It’s about not being judgmental. This parent group doesn’t judge this parent group because we need everybody, and everybody has value. And so it’s okay. Something happens over here and one child leaves at a time we deem too early, it’s okay because another one may come in, and there’s no judgment. The only thing that’s of issue is the judgement, and we don’t need the judgement.
You’re only not good at this for a limited amount of time, I used to tell my kids when they would get frustrated. You need to remember: I knew you before you could crawl, and you run now. It’s a process.
I work with someone who has self-esteem issues, and I tell him, You are valuable. You are capable, and yes, you’re in situations that you’re not very good at, but over time those situations will change. So you’re not very good at school, but believe me, you’re intelligent; you connect dots: you’re observant; you ask questions: you are curious. These are all things that will take you very, very far.
We know so little about what we can do which is why world records are being set all the time. I do public speaking to corporations, and one of my topics is Mastery, The Pursuit of Perfection. It’s a pursuit because perfection doesn’t exist.
Once there was a surfing contest at Pleasure Point, and in the finals Jay scored three perfect waves. A perfect wave is a 10, and he had a 10 and a 10 and a 10, and he was ecstatic, as he should have been.
The contest was over, and I was there, so he came up and Jay was beaming. I told him, I want you to enjoy this. Just relish in this. It’s important. I’ll talk to you on our regular meeting day. I want you to focus on everything. I probably asked him to write something about it. So then we met on Wednesday, and he was like, Well? and I said, What do you mean: well? And he said, Because I know you, and you wanted me to really focus and enjoy what I accomplished, but I know you, and where are we going? I said, You accomplished something that was totally incredible. You scored three perfect waves. And my question to you is, Were they perfect? He said, Well, of course not. I said, Okay, we can always get better. So that’s what we worked on.
As human beings, that’s one of those things, that once we do something, it’s like, Oh, I get it, but I can get better. And that’s what drives us. In the pursuit of mastery, we are seeking perfection that doesn’t exist. Why do we do what we do? It’s a lifestyle of trying to be the best you can be.
We have a very hard time acknowledging our successes because if you are after mastery, if you have a goal in mind, you focus on the end, but truly we need to acknowledge the success of each step, and we need to take a breath and absorb each smaller success or failure as that gives us a point of reference to make the next step. And it’s a struggle, as it should be. We can stop at any point; we can stop and stay stuck or we can stop and re-evaluate and assess and maybe choose another approach or direction. If the goal is to get on the other side of the wall, well you can go over the wall, around the wall, under the wall, or through the wall. I’ve had to learn you don’t always have to go through the wall.
When I was with Brenda, I’m a pretty heady guy, and I came into the relationship with all my deficiencies, and she said she thought we needed counseling, and I was like, I don’t think I need counseling.
My grandmother and my mother and Brenda were all redheads, and redheads just are different. Brenda just looked at me and she said, Are you telling me you don’t want to be the best you can be?
I went to counselling.
To be who you are going to be, you have to realize that you have to select that person, and that’s a process. When we start our lives, they are very broad. I like to view it as a rectangle with all these little cubbies, and the cubbies are the aspects or components that make up our life, and we go on not questioning much until we are traumatized, and then we understand there is a priority, and many people begin that process of recognizing time is not unlimited. Time ticks away constantly and you never get it back.
I was in an automobile accident and I killed someone. Nothing in my life had rattled me like that did. I had been a vegetarian at that point for almost thirty years. I didn’t want to eat meat because I did not want to kill something, and I wouldn’t let someone else kill it for me so I could eat it. If you want to eat meat, you should be willing to go kill whatever it is; so I eat carrots, broccoli.
When the accident happened, it took me for forever to recover. Brenda came to me after a year and a half and asked, When do I get my man back? because I was so traumatized. I was trying to figure out my life. I was trying to figure out the answers. I went to a rabbi and a minister and a priest, and I would explain my story and say, Help me. Give me words. There was a very famous Catholic priest who was at the mission. I don’t remember what he told me, but it was like, If this is what you think I need to hear based upon your experiences, you’ve lived nothing because I would not have told me that. It’s completely inadequate. I wanted someone to give me the answers.
But the answers lie within. The question is Are you strong enough to ask? You have to go inward and ask the questions. We know what our fears are, and no one wants to ask, and I completely understand. But when you are so traumatized then you have to ask; then you really have to go inward, and you come out and you go, Let’s see: I don’t need that and I don’t need that and I don’t need that. Oh! I think maybe I do want that one. You begin to understand that so many relationships you have are senseless.
In life, you need to learn to live by your heart because we are either heart or head making our decisions. As a coach, I teach you to lie to yourself. So your head is not necessarily something that is infallible, but your heart, that will always tell you the truth.
I keep reducing down. I want to be simpler. As we reduce down, we become purer and not so confused, and we end up being truer to ourselves.
I chose to be me. I know who that is. Some days it’s really easy to be me. Some days it’s ever so hard to be that person I want to be. We have challenges. We face them. That’s what makes us strong.
We all arrive perfect for who we are supposed to be. The discovery of yourself needs to go on. It needs to happen in all of us. Our path is not easy. It’s a struggle: life, relationships. That’s where love comes in. You just walk up and hold somebody and say, It’s okay. Love is so powerful and can be so forgiving, and you can feel it. Try to find peace with yourself, so that you can be at peace with others, so you can love yourself, so you can love others. This world needs more love.
When I was a kid, we lived in Hayward, and we used to make the drive to Santa Cruz. Often. My mother, being a redhead, would sit on the beach all wrapped up in a sleeping bag because sun screen hadn’t been invented yet. My father had learned how to body surf in San Francisco so that is what he would do. There were times when there would be waves breaking over at the end of the pier, over by Cowells, and my father would go there and he would body surf and I would get body whomped because I was just a little kid. The waves would pick me up and throw me down, but I was going to do what my father was doing. I could see the guys over at Cowells on the calm and placid ocean, and I was like, Dad! He told me I could earn money to rent a board and go do that if I wanted.
Until I could get a board, I would take an air mattress to the end of the wharf and try to hang on, and I would hang on so tightly I would pop the air mattress. That meant when we went camping that night, I wasn’t sleeping on the air mattress. I popped so many my parents refused to buy me more.
Finally I got enough money and went to Cowells and started to surf. Cowells is typically the first place you surf, and the last. Your journey is what happens inbetween. One day there was some waves, but they weren’t very consistent. I was frustrated; so I paddled out because I could see up the coast where there was a lighthouse and some waves. I was used to surfing little knee-high waves, and these waves were significantly larger. I didn’t have any common sense, so I just went.
I turned around and I took this wave and I stood up and started surfing. My board had a fin that was mounted just a little off, and fortunately it made the board turn a little to the right and we have waves that break to the right, so it worked. I caught my first overhead wave.
It was awesome.
Up until that point, surfing the small waves, it fun. It was okay. And then I surfed this larger wave at the Lane and it was like, Oh yeah! Now we’re talking! This is good! I was all about the bigger waves from that day on.
If you don’t surf, one way to try to understand the feeling is motorcycles. When I was a teenager, I was at work and a guy came up with a new Harley, and he was pumped. He said I could get on it. He said, Kick it over. I started it, and every cell in my body screamed Yes!!! And it scared the ever-loving shit out of me. I turned it off. I said, Can’t. With surfing, I can go there. But not on bikes. Bikes would kill me.
People talk about fear, and how fear is part of surfing big waves, but for me, that’s not part of the process. I think a lot of people don’t understand that when you’re there and your purpose is to ride waves, you are evaluating so many things that are really important to your success, you don’t have time for fear to come in. You’re doing an analysis that’s completely absorbing your focus and attention to try to see and consider all of the things, the components, the elements, that are going to give you success. For me, it’s like, I have all of this shit to focus on that’s important. Fear is not one of them.
There was a great white shark that used to hang out at Mavericks, and someone asked one of the surfers about it, and he said, It’s so far down the list of things that are going to kill you. Who cares?
I like to think. That’s what I do. I think. I’m trying to understand not only my life but how to help people understand their lives, so I’m willing to share my personal stories because maybe something is relevant in my story will help others understand theirs.
In my own life, I’m addressing getting older and not being happy with it. I’m 69 and I don’t like it. I’m denying it. I still want to surf and I still want to bike ride and I still want to play. I’ve always felt like I’m going to live for a very long time. If you know about me, you’d know I should have died many, many times over, but that’s not my destiny. So, I figure I’m going to grow old, but I still want to be capable. I’m not ready to give anything up yet, and I’m not happy that instead of surfing eight hours a day, I can only surf six. I’m not doing this transition very well. I want ten. I’ve always wanted ten. I was frustrated when I only had eight. So I’m not doing this transition well.
When I asked Frosty what well would look like, he said, Ten.
He’s a ten alright.
See you tomorrow.
The movie Chasing Mavericksis about Jay Moriarty’s relationship with Frosty. The book Making Mavericks: The Memoir of a Surfing Legend is about Frosty’s life. I can’t recommend either enough.