Jaws, Adam Amin & The Human Spirit

About a week ago I was sitting reading BBC news at the end of what had turned out to be an awesome week and I saw some surf story had made the most read chart.

Now before I go into this I should say I’m a very average surfer; but I love it.  Not living by the sea means that I maybe get to go surfing for 2 weeks of the year when we make our family pilgrimage to Woolacombe, Devon (England).  I’ve been going for about 22 years so I guess I have nearly a years experience in total.  What I’m trying to say is that I’m writing this with some knowledge of the sport, but it’s not meant to be some expert commentary of surf technique and etiquette.  I'm more interested in the human spirit element of what happened and what followed.

So I’ve seen this article and am immediately drawn to it.  If you didn’t see it I’ll just give you some background.  It was about a man called Adam Amin from Sidmouth, Devon (UK).  He was 19 and had 5 years surfing experience and followed his dream to ride one of the most notorious waves in the world - JAWS.

He had been travelling on a shoestring, sofa hopping and generally living a simple lifestyle after just saving enough money from his lifeguard work and surf repair job to get out to Pe'ahi, Hawaii in his search of one of the biggest and baddest waves in the world.

Amin was out there at the same time that the Pe'ahi Challenge contest was being held.  Big wave riders from around the world converged on the break for a competition.  It was a dream come true for Adam to even be there, never mind think about paddling out.

He went down to the shore at 0530 on the morning of the competition to secure a place and was turned away by security.  Undaunted, he travelled 5 miles down the coast to a spot where boats were ferrying competitors and the media to the surf area.  He was turned away again being informed that all the boats were full.

Now this is the bit that starts to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.  Adam decided that he wasn’t going to miss this.  He wasn’t going to take no for an answer and he started to paddle the 5 miles under his own steam.  When he was about a mile or so into the paddle a jet ski came by and the rider started to chat to Adam.  After a short conversation he decided to give Adam a lift.  What’s even more awesome is that the rider was Greg Long.

Greg is an American surfer from California.  He’s the only surfer to win the Quicksilver big wave international, the Mavericks surf contest and the Red Bull big wave Africa event.  To say he was something of a hero to Adam would be an understatement.

So Adams luck had started to turn.  When they arrived at the surf area he quickly realised that he was surrounded by big wave surf legends;  Pro surfers from around the world.  It’s the stuff dreams are made of and he nearly didn’t get to be there.  How many no’s does it take for the average one of us to bow our head, and turn away from our goal?

The surf was good on this particular day.  Sets of waves were rolling in and the surfers were paddling around saying in a safe area waiting for everything to start.  It was at this point that Adam saw his opportunity and went for it.  The following is Adam’s commentary of the experience:

"Yesterday was one of the best days of my life, if not THE the best!!!!

I knew the contest for jaws was going to be on and therefore the road which leads to jaws was going to be closed off to the public. So I tried sneaking past security at 5.30 in the morning but they beat me there.

I then decided to go to Malico Harbour which is five miles away and try to get a ride with some boats heading that way.  They turned me down and said there is not enough space therefore I decided that this was not going to stop me from fulfilling my dream.
I decided to attempt to paddle around 3 headlands to get there. I started and got quarter of the way until a jet ski came up beside me and not only did they give me a ride with my board to jaws but the guy in the ski was Greg Long which is my hero and is a huge pioneer to the sport of big wave surfing!

We got there after much turbulence and I witnesses 40-50ft waves breaking in front if me! I paddled out with not much safety equipment with 5 other of my heroes sitting right next to me. We all spotted a huge wave in the distance and we all paddled out and I saw my opportunity to prove that I can surf jaws so I turned around while all the others were paddling over the wave and caught this monster.

I caught it and rode down what seemed like riding down a liquid mountain. I got to the bottom and looked up.... It was the size of two houses above me.  I then noticed that I was going to make it until there was a bit of white water blocking my way.  I got taken out by this white water just after riding along the face and it felt like the ocean collapsed on me.

I held my breath and took the beating as long as I could and finally made it to the surface of the water.  I then noticed huge waves coming towards me again and I got pounded again and again by huge waves.  I then got very tired and ended up very close to rocks until suddenly a jet ski rider picked me up and took me to safety.

What a legend, he took me to the channel and the contest started.  Moreover I watched the entire event from the channel for five hours while talking to all of my heroes of the sport in one place!  I was in heaven ;D

After the event I went home and noticed the awards ceremony was going to be across the street so I went there and talked and got pictures with all of them."

Now this story moves my heart.  It has everything I love about the true spirit of the human race.  The never say die attitude demonstrated by significant game changing people though out history.  Kinship and kindness shown to strangers as demonstrated by Greg Long giving Adam a lift to the channel.  A man following his dream and despite setbacks getting there to experience the sweet feelings of accomplishment.

It’s for these reasons that I was dismayed to read commentary from someone who described Adam’s actions as “reckless” and made other similar statements around him not having the right to be there.  For the surfers out there the picture I’ve attached here provides the perfect analogy of how I feel about this person.  I’ll call them “Warchild” for the sake of this article and I guess that there’s another lesson in here too.

The internet makes it very easy for certain personality types to act as “keyboard warriors” and put people down for doing things that might go against that persons belief systems.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone has a right to their opinion, but I feel that the practice of what I’d call cyber bullying is rife and I pity the person behind the keyboard every time I see an example of it.  Highly negatively skewed commentary should be avoided at all costs in my opinion.  Needless to say I don’t want to dwell on this aspect of the story and only mention it as it strengthens my feelings of respect towards Adam.

The Strength Temple are a firm believer that successful people are not defined so much by their achievements, but how they handle setbacks.  It’s this that sets people apart and transforms great people into legends.  Adam's response to the article is below.

"I just want to say something I have read recently about my story.
I have recently read an article about my actions. I have and always will respect people's opinion but this was hilarious when it came to them speaking about big wave surfing and how much they do not know about it. They specifically wrote it was "reckless or stupid" yet I knew for a fact that there was going to be an entire safety team before the competition.   They were sitting there on jet skis, on standby just waiting for it to start and I spoke to the ski riders to keep an eye on me, only if I go too close to shore but to leave me if I take a bad wipeout.

Billy Kemper & Adam Amin

Billy Kemper & Adam Amin

There is an etiquette which still stands that if you can surf big waves without all the safety equipment and withstand horrific wipeouts then you are accepted to be a part of the scene and should only then be accepted to wear safety equipment such as, inflatable vests. That is exactly what I did and that is exactly what every surfer did before all the fancy gear came out just like the story of Jeff Clark who surfed mavericks for 15 years on his own with no equipment like that.
It does not matter whether I have been surfing for five or fifty years but it does matter to respect the ocean and how much it is a part of all of us. Someone reminded me that Kelly Slater grew up in mushy waves for his childhood just like me and maybe that teaches people to look at the ocean differently.

At the end of the day people need to remember that surfing, whether small or big, we have to respect the ocean."

So once again, for me Adam has turned a negative into a positive.  He’s used the haters to spread a positive message about the ocean that we all need to hear and head.

I hope that The Strength Temple can meet Adam soon and hear more about that day.  We already consider him to be one of our #TempleTribe as he stands for everything we hold dear in the human spirit.

Adam - you have our upmost respect and thank you for doing what you did.  Stay grounded and calm in your approach to your next challenge, whatever that will be.  Whenever a “Warchild” comes by (and there will be others), stand tall and proud as we know you will ;-)  Just as you did before; do the work, do your research, consider the risks and make your play with respect and dignity.  We can’t wait to see what you get up to and want you to know that you have our deepest respect and support.

Rich Davis

Director - The Strength Temple