Just finished Jaimal Yogis' new memoir slash research thesis called The Fear Project. On the surface it comes off as a standard memoir that chronicles a given gamut of time and follows a thematic thread along the way to an eventual epiphany that illuminates the journey he has just taken. That was the thoroughly enjoyable approach Yogis took in his freshman effort, Saltwater Buddha. Buddha is a spare yet satisfyingly rich delving into the author's own mission to find spiritual meaning in classrooms and books while his own obsessive-religious devotion to riding waves guides him along a meandering path to true suffering and enlightenment. He nailed it: Short, pithy chapters dripping with surf laden sound and fury. But The Fear Project embraces a different aesthetic. Yogis plays researcher as he delves into the history and reverberating effects of human fear through exhaustive references and interviews with prominent scientists, doctors, and extreme athletes all set to the rhythm of his own mission to surf giant Mavericks. It's Saltwater Buddha all grown up...definitely worth the time.
The Fear Project got me thinking about the place of training and preparation in surfing. For the most part, just surfing a lot is enough prep work. But when things get heavy, Yogis makes the point that only mental and physical training can improve confidence and overcome fear. Even if massive amounts of paddling and wave riding keep you loose and strong, taking big wave surfing seriously by learning the wave, swimming laps, and doing underwater breath work gives you that extra edge when the waves get real. And that makes all the difference when you are caught in a rip or pinned down by a macking set because fear uses more oxygen.
But make no mistake. Surfing is not about fear. It's about fun and the outdoor experience, but sometimes, there is nothing like finding a new limit and pushing yourself to another level as long as you're still smiling. And getting prepared will keep you smiling and keep you safe.