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The Evolution of Hesitation

Jack Johnson surfing
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Kanaka Menehune via Compfight

We’ve had a week of unusually consistent surf conditions here on the west coast. That’s meant lots of water time and feeding the fuel for my creative fire. My friend Mayi’s husband even went so far as to say that God must be a surfer because the entire pacific coast has apparently been blessed with absolutely perfect waves.  As always, along with those perfect waves come lots of life lessons. Even though I knew some of the waves might be a bit bigger than what I’m comfortable with, I reminded myself that you have to stand on the edge of your comfort zone in order to get past it. So I paddled out, I stood on the edge, I surfed and stepped my game just a bit.


When you see a big wave coming a handful of thoughts run through your mind  (depending on where you’re positioned)…. Damn it I’m going to get pummeled… Hopefully I don’t get caught inside…. I’ll eat shit if I go for this… This could be the ride of my life… The only real worthwhile thought of all of those is the last one. But it doesn’t mean that the other ones won’t run through your head at least a few times in every surf session. Unfortunately the worst of all those thoughts only lead us to one soul sucking, dream crushing mental state: hesitation.

The Evolution of Hesitation

Hesitation is an insidious little animal because it likes to sneak up on us by jumping into bed with other negative emotions.  Steven Pressfield might even call it the resistance.


I’d be lying to you if I that after 1000 days of surfing, I don’t still have to confront fear.  Even though logically I know that it’s just water and you have to just muster up the courage to take off, when I look down a 6 foot drop my heart skips a beat and my head conjures up images of worst case scenarios that never come true.  And hesitation is right there along with it lurking in the background.



When fear asserts its dominance, it likes to invite its friend doubt over to the party going on in your head. And doubt is like the loud obnoxious drunken asshole that everybody at the party wishes would just shut the fuck up. But since fear is the host of the party, the rest of the voices get drowned out.

Eventually fear and doubt jump into bed together, realizing that it would make a perfect threesome if they just had hesitation in the mix.  And now hesitation is the dominant voice in your head.

The problem with hesitation is that it likes to facilitate half assed attempts at everything you want to do…

When you’re hesitant and you go for a wave regardless it’s always a risky proposition.  You set yourself up for subpar performance. It’s a bit like painting a masterpiece or writing a novel with your hands tied behind your back. You have it in you to be great, but not when you hesitate.


If you Surf, You’re Going to Wipe Out

I remember the first time I came across a youtube video where some buff, blonde, bronzed guy was saying “If you surf you’re going to wipeout.” I thought  no shit Spiccoli. How  much weed was involved in coming up with that brilliant observation? But it turns out the joke is on me and his observation was quite profound and a great metaphor for pushing the limits of what’s possible in our lives

As I’ve said before anything worth doing requires the courage to fail. Chances are the first time you try to do something that you’ve never done you’ll experience some degree of failure. In fact you’ll fail a little bit throughout your journey. But since there are no grades in the school of life it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you keep showing up.  Be careful that you don’t make permanent decisions based on a temporary circumstances. Even after you’ve achieved mastery at something, you’ll screw up.  You can either your wipeouts define you or shake them off, learn from them and move on.


After it’s all said and done, all it takes is one good wave… And damn that’s worth it. 


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