Do you remember what it was like to get so amazingly excited to get on a plane as a child? The giddiness, the energy, the butterflies in your stomach as you raced down the runway on the way to somewhere new. I miss that feeling so much, too much of a good thing and it becomes the ordinary I guess. Though there are times however when I still feel that slight stir in my gut as we rocket towards take off, sometimes due to last nights curry… but not this time. As the plane levels out, I myself mentally level and drift off into thought. I’m on my way to catch up with my best mate and to see some great people I haven’t seen in a few years, even some new little people that have arrived since I was last in that small coastal town on the bay. Chock a block with good memories and wouldn’t you know it, just in time for a festival, those who know me well wouldn’t count this as coincidence. The Byron Bay surf festival would have to be one of the biggest in Australia and my mate Joe is giving a chat about the training that we’ve done together over the years and also the work he’s done with Russell Ord to enable him to do what he does. Now Russell is a pretty humble guy, and in typical Australian style and understatement casually mentions that he gets a working underwater every now and then, but if you take a moment to look him up you’ll find out a few things. Firstly that the ocean can do things that are almost unimaginable in their size and power, and secondly that having rather large nuts, either in your head or in your shorts (maybe both) must help you sink to escape that volume of water bearing down on you. Throw into the mix getting a few waves myself and taking in some amazing art, music and good vibes, and you begin to understand my child like excitement.
The days before the actual event were spent catching up with Joe, his family and the many friends I’m lucky enough to have in the area, and as always squeezing a bit of water time in there as well. Being able to walk out the back gate of Joe’s place and onto the beach made it pretty much compulsory for a swim or two during the day and with a great crew all sharing the house, there was always someone keen to get wet. Slowly the whole production of the Surf Festival took shape and we got everything in place for displaying Russell’s art and coming up with a plan for the talk that he and Joe were going to give. Somehow in the development of all of that Joe came up with the idea of getting me up to talk as well and was pretty stoked with the idea of sharing a stage with those two. Once again I was amazed at the situations I find myself in, great mates, talking about what we love, and having a blast doing it, how good is that. Not everyone that can do necessarily has the ability to teach, and this is where Joe is gifted, in having both these traits. He can glide his way down to depths that are beyond many others, but also explain and put things across in a way that others can understand and take on board. So with him and Russ up there it took a bit of the edge off for me, or put the pressure on depending on how you look at it haha.
The Festival was huge, far lager than I expected and was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. It was sensory overload at the start; people everywhere, so many amazing things to look at, so much creativity everywhere, and such a great vibe. I wandered around before the talk, listening to speeches by people I had known only from the surf magazines I devoured growing up, watched guys shape hand planes out of solid stumps of wood and spent time discussing building wooden surfboards with guys that were masters in this field. To have so many people, all in that one space, with the common thread of the love of the ocean tying them all together was simply amazing, there was such an underlying feeling of fun and stoke that just had everyone buzzing. There were also so many people all doing their bit to help protect the ocean and raising awareness and tackling the many different issues that threaten this amazing eco system. It was especially great to chat to Bia, Joe’s girlfriend and crew on one of the vessels, of the upcoming sea shepherd campaign and also to Malia, of sirens for the sea, about what they’re doing to help stop the destruction of the reef right here in our own back yard. I’d encourage everyone to have a look into these and so many other things that are currently going on, it certainly opened my eyes quite a bit and made me realize that its not going to work to just stick you head in the sand. Well It may, but no guarantees on what you will find when you raise your head and wipe the sand from your eyes.
I have to admit to being a bit nervous about the talk, but that was easily overshadowed by the feeling of excitement and pride, not in myself, but in seeing how good mates of mine who had the courage to follow their dreams were now passing that on to others. The audience was great, and really took in what we had to share, attentively running through the basic exercises that Joe gave them and asking questions about what we all did and how our training has helped. For me the main thing was preparation and mental focus, this can, and needs to be applied in everything. Joe, Russ and I all use this in different ways to prepare ourselves for whatever we tackle. The mental side of the game is so fascinating; especially in free diving and tackling large surf. With relative good fitness you can do a good dive or cop a large set wave on the head, but if you panic or let your mind run away from you, the consequences can be serious. Free diving is essentially a moving meditation; there is no one else down there besides you and the voices in your head. As you fall on down through the water, there is only you, your thoughts and the water, it can be supremely peaceful or altogether terrifying, simply depending on where you put your focus. This is why I believe that these principles apply not just to diving surfing or sailing, but also to life. With mental focus and preparation we can face the demons that emerge in so many areas. Now if I could only apply my own advice to public speaking.
The rest of the day was spent wondering around and chatting to more amazing people and physically battling to keep the credit card at bay with all the amazing art and boards on show. There are so many talented people out there, all living their dreams and bringing them to life. It really doesn’t matter what you do, if your living true to that then I'm stoked for you. Couldn’t go home empty handed though and did splash out on some art, the flowing lines and good feeling that emanate out of Heather Brown’s work has always out a smile on my dial and getting the chance to chat with her and her husband was great. I've been doing a lot of work with visualizations recently and how this can affect your life and what you want out of it, and the piece I got ties in perfectly with that. The Festival was an absolute success and so much thanks goes out to all the crew that put it together and volunteered and helped out. The wind on the day was something amazing in itself and I think I saw a few new sports invented like the 100-meter hat dash and tandem tent parasailing, how cool is it that when that stuff is at the Olympics, we can all say, yeah I remember when that got started back in a little town on the coast, I was there, that was back in the good old days though.