Words of advice from Daryl

“Give me the strength to be weak.”

Words of advice from your older brother, “Daryl.”  Most of you that know me, know I have spent a fair amount of my time in and out of First Descents programs because I cannot imagine not having the opportunity to spend time with some of the most courageous people around!

I know, I am already aged out of most of our First Descents programs and although I have a whole plethora of them under my belt, I continue to learn valuable life lessons from our participants.  Today’s lesson is on humility and how I seem to have to keep learning that one at least 20 times everyday and I still wake up again behind the gratitude curve!

I owe whatever pathetically small amount that I contain to the hundreds of FD alum that I can call friends as they have had the patience to share with me the constant reminder that life is a gift, it is incredibly fragile, and while we act like we own the world at times, we are really just stewards of both the environment and the interconnectivity of all of our relationships on this crazy planet!

“Give me the strength to be weak.”

As enigmatic as that sounds, it seems to be underlying tenet of humility and thus a valuable lesson for us all.  In our lives it is so important to have as much gratitude as we can muster.

So, in a world (and maybe a universe) that seems to be indifferent to our individual struggles (and elations) it is easy to get caught up in ourselves and our individual plights.  Given the nature of what First Descents stands for and who we serve, sometimes one can ONLY get caught up in those individual challenges for survival’s sake and that is okay.  What seems important is to someday get back to the gratitude and to keep our sense of humility (and humor) as close to the surface as we can.

I was reminded of this lesson yet again in a recent FD program that I was honored to attend when I made it a point to try and get each and every participant’s life story (or at least the brief version of it!)

I was astonished at the richness of the fabric that each and every person wove as a life story.  I was humbled (yet again) by the fight for both life and grace that each camper exuded.  And I was mesmerized by the sheer strength and passion that each participant had to share in the week’s adventure as they helped each other maximize their time together.

Everyone has a story.  We often forget this notion in a world that has become so fast-paced and so caught up in so many “other” things but everyone has a story and often it is so inspiring that it brings tears to our eyes just to listen.

“Give me the strength to be weak.”

In a culture dominated by ego it is a refreshing approach to simply just be.  Just listen.  Just wait.

I know that I strive to be a better person because of my time at FD but I also know that I am human and I fall from grace occasionally because life happens.  I am okay with that but it does not mean that I won’t continue to work to be present and humble in all aspects of my life because of the inspired lives of all those that attend FD.

So, when I say,  “Give me the strength to be weak,” I mean it and I have my entire FD family to thank for this life lesson.

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Surfing 101 with Daryl

“Surfing’s the source man… swear to God.”  That was exactly what Bodhi (played by Patrick Swayze) said to Johnny Utah (played by Keanu Reeves) in the hit movie, Point Break, when asked why he surfs.  Yes, the movie came out in 1991 when the world was still recovering from the bad hair and questionable music of the 80’s; yes, Keanu Reeves had not become the powerhouse actor he is today (really?); and yes, any surfer worth his or her salt probably grimaced at some of the surfing sequences in the movie BUT it did capture the essence of surfing and it actually showed the progression of how to surf!

The premise (and the hairstyles) of the movie may be a bit dated now but the message is clear, life is precious and it is important to follow your passions and thrills wherever and whenever you can!  Equally as important is that the movie taught us that even a bada%& like Keanu Reeves (playing a rogue FBI agent and ex-football star) can get humbled by the sport of surfing.  As Johnny Utah progresses from complete Barney (a term used to describe a beginner surfer too big for his or her britches) to stud surfer he learns a lot of valuable lessons that we can take away – he starts off on the wrong foot with a poorly chosen surfboard and a surf break that is too big for his novice skills (add to that no sense of what is going on around him and you have the recipe for a disaster a la 1991).  Perhaps his faux pas can be played to our advantage!

Since we have to start somewhere, let’s start with the surfboard.  As you make the move to begin your surfing career getting the right board is critical.  A board that is too small is never going to provide the stability that you need to initially stand up and get the “feel” for actually surfing a wave.  Too big, and you will be wrestling to just get the board to the water and will spend the next hour battling waves out and getting exhausted before the real surfing begins.  A good rule of thumb (aside from actual professional instruction, of course) is for women – choose a 7-8 foot board.  For men – choose a 9 foot board.  These are considered “longboards” and will help make the transition from landlubber to aquatic acrobat.  It will also help if they are “softops” or foam boards because they have a way of pummeling us even in the smallest waves and the foam aspect of these boards just softens the blow a bit!

Naturally, as with any new sport (especially one that involves the awesome forces of the ocean) it is nice to find a place where the consequences of limited skills and ability will not result in a major catastrophic learning event!  I liken this to anyone who learned to ski by renting a pair of skis and poles and then proceeded directly to the black diamond run only to limp away with one broken pole, a gash in the forehead, and the vow to NEVER ski again for as long as one lives.  It is therefore, paramount to find a beginner break where long, easy waves roll in and the tumbles end up on a sandy beach (known as a beach break) rather than a reef or jumble of rocks.  The other good news about learning at a mellow beach break is that you are usually surrounded by other people also learning to surf (or at the very least they understand your situation and can give you ample space to practice).  This will save you a lot of apologizing and maybe even a bloody nose (as Keanu found out when he found himself outgunned at a local’s only break that he should have avoided given his current skills).  You can sit on your board in relative peace between sets, watch other surfers and learn, and generally avoid major wipeouts and continuous pummeling brought on by too big of waves and too little understanding.

With these simple strategies and a whole lot of wave time, your surfing will move fairly rapidly from the beginner, what-the heck-am-I-doing-here? phase that Johnny Utah found himself struggling with in the beginning of the movie to the catching-a-wave-and-sitting-on-top-of-the-world phase that Johnny’s zen-like mentor, Bodhi, exuded throughout!

And despite the obvious overtones of testosterone and manic-like thrill seeking, the movie does teach us to find some excitement (in whatever form you choose) and go, “OUTLIVE IT!”