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Our Greatest Challenges can be our Greatest Opportunities | Surfing CloudBreak – Tavi, Fiji 2017

I have long believed our greatest challenges can often become our greatest opportunities, if we allow them to be…  This idea of consciously stepping outside our low-level pains and personal frictions to ask the higher question, “what am I supposed to learn from this struggle” is at the core of my constitution as well as my recovery from paralysis.  A few decades ago, I remember standing in an airport, picking up a surf magazine and seeing “it” for the first time – that teal, hollow, overhead barreling diamond of a wave clapping down on a Fijian reef named after a meat skewering device.  The cover shot (probably a Tom Servais image & probably Kelly Slater surfing) was an image of a stand up CloudBreak barrel, and it flipped a neuro switch deep inside my head.

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I am a mountain adventure kid by environment, who grew up on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe pursing myriad adventure sports in the snow, dirt, rock and air.  As an expedition whitewater kayaker and professional back country snowmobile rider, athletic experiences in the ocean were yet to land on my shores.  Moments before picking up that fabled surf magazine, I was not a surfer…and, after seeing CloudBreak for the first time, I wanted to be.

 

Now, back to my belief that our greatest challenges can often become our greatest opportunities.  As much as my spirit desired the experience of standing in the shade of that iconic wave off the island of Tavarua, the likelihood of me becoming a surfer capable of respectfully surfing that wave was minimal.  And, after sustaining a life-altering 2010 spinal cord injury while filming for a snowmobile project in the Sierra back country, that likelihood became infinitely further away.  Although the distance to this dream wave was now light years away, the goal never changed within my heart.

A few years into all-day physical therapy and workouts, my greatest challenge had now landed my wife Shawna and I on the shores of Maui to push my miraculous recovery beyond its limit, along side dear friend and Olympic gold medalist Alpine skier, Julia Mancuso.  It was her Dad, Ciro that put me on a board for the first time.  Ciro piggy backed me into the water and set me on a giant all red Laird SUP for my first session at Kihei Cove – with a kid sized stand up paddle.  I would scratch myself into small waves, grab an outside rail to initiate a turn, hold on for dear life and ultimately get annihilated into the white chaos.  With time, those small waves got bigger and bigger.  Eventually I met a shaper named Tyler Lausten who worked with me to create custom prototype boards , which featured cuts outs for my feet, a pad for my butt, a seat belt to hold me in, and a leash to secure my old kayak paddle.  The prototype process led us to an 8.0 tri-fin design that allowed me to explore waves which kept getting bigger and faster.  With time, surfing doors continued to open and I found myself in heavier and heavier line ups all over Maui, Kauai, Santa Cruz, Ventura, Todos Santos, and then…a heartfelt email showed up in our inboxes.

Opening the message, my smile extended a mile-wide.  Julia is getting married, and the location is spectacular!  Jules is marrying one of the greatest guys on the planet – a waterman legend named Dyan Fish with a heart the size of the south pacific and a surfing talent capable of competing with the world’s best.  Dylan, lives in Fiji on Tavarua island many months out of the year.  As this infamous “heart-shaped island” is one of Dylan’s homes, the soon to be married couple chose this slice of paradise to tie their proverbial knot.  Within moments of reading the invite, Shawna and I realized that CloudBreak – that teal, hollow, overhead barreling diamond of a water wall – would be right off shore…and, if conditions, talent, safety and courage all perfectly aligned, that multi-decade goal might be within reach.

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Our greatest challenges can often become our greatest opportunities, if we let them.  On a brilliant June evening in 2017, a man who dreamed about surfing a far a way distant wave, who laid in a hospital bed years prior with zero feeling or movement below his belly button, loaded up into a Fijian boat with friends, family and stoke higher than the moon.  The boat hummed its way from the island, pulled into the CloudBreak channel and with all the safety boxes checked, the man jumped into the water fulfilling a life dream.  Just being in the water with those world-class ocean athletes was the full realization of his goal.  And, riding the soul-filling waves that ensued, gave way to a freedom and bliss equaling an experience which left an indelible smile on his soul…

Our greatest challenges are our greatest opportunities, if we let them be…  Stay thirsty, my friends – Korg
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 *Photos, courtesy of Tom Servais | thank you, Tom | http://www.tomservais.com/

The Heart of Gratitude

Korg & Naa Jeff Dow Tahoe When I was thinking about gratitude (like most people do this time of year), I asked myself the question, how deep is my gratitude?  Do I let my gratitude resonate into my heart and soul, truly, I mean truly deep into my soul or does it remain on the surface?  Now it’s easy to answer that question in regards to the people in my life.  When I think about Grant and the gratitude I feel for having him in my life, for getting to be in his life, for the life we share together, that gratitude is what fuels my soul…it is my heart.  The gratitude that I feel for my family, friends and of course Obie runs deep in my heart – this is what I am grateful for each and every day, and I think these are the “easy” things to be grateful for.  Now, when I say “easy” it doesn’t take away their value…it’s just those are the things that are the strongest forms of gratitude in my life, you probably have those people/things too.  And wow…how grateful do I feel to be able to, on a daily basis, feel and express my gratitude for what is in my life.

Now being perfectly honest, I know sometimes it can be really challenging to find the gratitude.  Sometimes you have to dig really, really deep to be able to say, “thank you”.  For me being willing to “see the silver lining”  to the unexpected life-altering adversity which Grant and I have faced together, has given me the opportunity to see a beautiful side of humanity that I never would have before, and to witness the true power of the human spirit to persevere, despite pain and challenge.   When I am able to search, dig, find and embrace gratitude in a situation that feels more difficult to do so, it is those moments that give me the most hope, strength and opportunity to learn from.

So now going back to my original question…how deep is my gratitude?   Well it made me think of something that I have always believed, something I would share in the classes I used to teach, “every step, every choice you have ever made has led you to where you are today.”  I really do believe this.  Now, if you don’t like where you are well…maybe make some different choices.  But that doesn’t take away from all the choices you made before.   Those people that you have met, the people you had in your life (for maybe a long time or maybe a short time), the jobs you’ve had, the places you’ve lived, the adventures you’ve gone on, and even the myriad challenges (the loss, the heartaches, the life-altering adversity)…they have all shaped who you are in this very moment.

It’s these people and those past experiences which help define how you live your life, the choices you make today, and the decisions you will face in the future.  For me, to create even more room in my heart for all things I am grateful for, to let them run deep (and not just stay on the surface), I am taking a conscious moment to truly feel grateful for all the steps, the people, the choices, the heartache and even the unexpected challenges I have experienced in my life…for these are the things that have made me who I am.   And, if gratitude is the bridge to joy (which I believe it to be), then I want my bridge to be strong and sturdy…I want it to be built on pillars of hope, honor and love.

So this Holiday Season, I am not only thankful for the many incredible blessings I have in my life today, I am also grateful for every step, person, chapter, celebration and challenge I’ve experienced in the past.  Because whether light, dark, high or low…all of these experiences allow me to truly be grateful for this moment I am living in now.

Namaste’

The Naa

Be Kind…Be Love.

I have the incredible honor of being one of the coaches for the www.Cheer4Kindness.com team movement.  The mission of Cheer4Kindness is, to rally outspoken, caring and truly awesome individuals to ban together & inspire kindness not just through our words but through our actions; therefore, 2015 is a year of kindness!

As I was reading a book this morning, The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma, I came upon this beautiful and powerful piece of wisdom:

“ No action, no matter how small, is insignificant—how we treat someone defines how we treat everyone, including ourselves.  If we disrespect another, we disrespect ourselves.  If we are mistrustful of others, we are distrustful of ourselves.  If we are cruel to another, we will be cruel to ourselves.  If we can’t appreciate those around us, we won’t appreciate ourselves.  With every person we engage, in everything we do, we must be kinder than expected, more generous than anticipated, more positive than we thought possible.  Every moment in front of another human being is an opportunity to express our highest vales and to influence someone with our humanity.  We can make the world better, one person at a time.”

My commitment to kindness is to remember the wisdom above each and every time I have an interaction with someone, to share a little piece of kindness with them, to remind them of their greatness, and to remind them how truly powerful they are…and to also remember to share that kindness with myself. We are our harshest critics, which at times is good.  It’s good to push ourselves, to challenge ourselves, to step out of our comfort zones, to grow, to learn…just remember to be kind to yourself along the way.  The thoughts you think, and the words you speak have great power…we become what we think and speak…Be Mindful…Be Powerful…Be Great…Be Kind…Be Love.  Thank you Robin Sharma for sharing your kindness and wisdom with the world…Namaste`.

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The Power of Love

I love love everyday…It is love that empowers every step Grant Korgan and I have taken on this journey..The love for each other, the love we feel from our family, friends, & community, and it is love that is at “the heart” (no pun intended:) of our mission to empower others to remember the beautiful greatness, strength and power that lies within us all to overcome any adversity we face in life with courage, positivity and of course LUV!  Live your dreams…YOU ARE #UNLIMITED!!!

The Power of Love…My Journey “My love for Grant is the greatest force in my life, by loving him I am loving myself…He is the inspiration of my heart & the fuel to my fire.  So find what fuels your heart and gives life to your dreams & goals..infuse your everyday life with that #HeartandFire.  You are a being of love and light here to make a difference…You are a warrior of change, of hope, and the greatest of all #LOVE!!