This past year, while tackling the infamous Jaws in every which way I could, I had a small epiphany; I realized that I was finally coming back to who I was as a kid. Perhaps it happened because every day, I’m either on the water, and then I subsequently go home to play with my kids, or I am in the water teaching my kids to swim, kite, and surf. As a result of this simple daily practice, I was awoken to the fundamental purpose of my existence: it is only to have fun.
Several months ago, while emptying an old storage unit, I came across some decades-old footage of myself as a middle schooler, deeply embroiled in my life as a budding professional kitesurfer. The only thing that mattered to me at that point was being the guy, out on the water, with the biggest smile on his face.
A little later, as I entered my teenage years, I found myself thriving under the pressure of competition, winning multiple world titles, a high which created a cycle of adrenaline addiction with seemingly high rewards. I became obsessed with being the most extreme athlete in this niche sport. The bigger the risk, the wilder the stunt, the more accolades. It built a fire within me that enabled me to flourish under the most stressful of circumstances. Now, I wanted to be the guy that won every single discipline of kitesurfing imaginable, the guy who would do any and every trick that the freestylers would, but way higher… and with a kiteloop! The guy who would go out at the gnarliest waves in the world even when the best surfers thought it was reckless. The guy who people looked at and thought, “Man, he’s crazy.”
This fiendish hunt for the most extreme, eventually and predictably, was accompanied by a litany of drawbacks. I was constantly pushing the limits of my sport and my body to the point of breaking. I suffered countless severe injuries and spent months out of the water recovering, only to heal and start all over again. The dark hole that you descend into, as an athlete, when you can’t do what you love and what you’ve spent your whole life training for, is a genuine despair, that is familiar to most in this arena. This is an untenable existence filled with a lot of loneliness, second-guessing, and loss of purpose. The idea of taking a huge risk in exchange for one split second of thrill (a thrill that mostly comes from playing with the idea that you could live or die) and, as a result, jeopardizing the next 6-12 months of movement, of freedom, of joy…that wasn’t getting me high anymore. Simply put, I was missing too many days on the water for one split second of thrill.
Recently, and, in part, due to my increasing responsibilities as a man and father, it dawned on me that I don’t have time for these shenanigans, and they are not worthwhile. They throw me off course.
I want to be on the water every day of my life; I want to never miss a day. In a sense, my desires have become more sophisticated and fine-tuned with time. Longevity is the name of the game. Just like I no longer have time to be hungover, I don’t have time to lay in bed injured. What is the point of doing all these crazy things if, at 60, I can’t even walk down my stairs to just sit in a beach chair because I am so cobbled together from injuries and traumas like a kite surfing Frankenstein that can barely move? To be in a semi-state of disrepair, permanently? One cannot live like that; I want to be shredding until the tender age of 104; once again, the guy on the water with the biggest smile on his face. All I have time for these days is waking up feeling incredible, being a ninja at life, and tip-toeing on the tightrope of balancing everything perfectly. There is so much more thrill and confidence and titillating science to mastering these water disciplines in a thoughtful and calculated manner than in a reckless and turbulent one. The feeling that I am mastering myself and the elements that I live for like a monk and a warrior by incorporating risk assessment, meditation, flow, and intuition is the most gratifying approach to life that I have indulged in thus far. Doing everything mindfully and calmly so that the beast within never has to be tamed but can be channeled forever and so that I never miss a day.
Filmers: Slater Neborsky / Soul Creations Hawaii Quincy Dein / Makana Creative Jackson McMuldren / Nahoia Kai Productions Marc Chambers Wes Walker Edited by Orion Owens Additional footage: Elliot Leboe / ACL Cinema KPWT Susi Mai Pablo Garcia Forrest Dein And finally, a special Thank you to my fiancée Juliette & our wonderful kids Lou & Ride. Not only do you put up with my wildness but you support me every step of the way. www.JesseRichman.com