How to: climb your Leash - Frosty Hesson
Frosty & Jay
Frosty Hesson is a widely respected veteran big wave surfer, who started surfing Mavericks in the late 1980’s. He took Jay Moriarity’s under his wing. Jay grew up to become an iconic big wave surfer, partly because of the notorious “Iron Cross” wipe-out at Mavericks.
It landed the then 16 year-old surfer from Santa Cruz on the cover of Surfer magazine and kick-started his surfing fame. The story of Jay Moriarity’s life is depicted in the Hollywood movie “Chasing Mavericks.”
Jay is known for his fluid surfing style, positive attitude, and contagious stoke. His tragic passing (during a solo freedive session in the Maldives) sent shockwaves through the surfing community, felt to this day.
Jay Moriarity’s spirit lives on in the memories of the people who had the privilege to meet him and honor him with the “Life Like Jay” motto, through the work of the “Jay Moriarity foundation” and with the “Jay Race”: an annual paddleboard race in Santa Cruz.
“Making Mavericks” - Book.
In parallel with the release of the Hollywood movie “Chasing Mavericks”, Frosty release a book titled “Making Mavericks”. It is a treasure of knowledge and inspiration for anyone who wants to become a better surfer.
“Making Mavericks” tells the story of the life of Richard Hesson, AKA “Frosty” and the events that shaped him. It’s an inspiring read. The 308 pages hold a wealth of knowledge for anyone interested in surf history, surf training, becoming a better athlete/coach/competitor or finding some guidelines to becoming an overall decent human being.
“Making Mavericks” holds many great stories for surfers: Frosty’s upbringing and the people who shaped him, his first sessions in Hawaii, how he forecasted surf using a weather box, his first time surfing Mavericks and of course his close relationship with Jay Moriarity.
But for focus sake, we’ll highlight just one part of the book that is helpful for all surfers:
The Secret Power of Visualization.
How Frosty was able to avoid being sent to Vietnam is an incredible testament to the power of visualization. He had read a book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz and used this technique to improve his swimming records, then his surfing and ultimately as an escape route from being drafted for the Vietnam war.
“I focused on a section about a technique called visualization that some American prisoners of war had used in World War 2. The POWs Maltz was writing about had been held for eighteen months and more, and, during their captivity, they developed the ability to get away from the horrors of the camp by going somewhere else in their minds. One of the places that some of these guys went to was a golf course. Every hole, water hazard, and sand trap was laid out in their mind’s eye, and they would go there mentally, playing through all of the action stroke by stroke, going through the game detail to detail. When the POW’s where finally sent home and brought back to health, they found out that the better they had been at visualization, the better they were at actually playing golf when they returned to the course.”
“Following the book, I saw that I had to think about what I wanted to do as a whole, and then break the whole down into small, achievable elements.”
“Since I first needed to approach it as a mental exercise, independent of a physical workout, I went home to my bedroom after practice and focussed on each element and aspect of a lap, each stroke. I tried to fully imagine how each of them felt, the sensation of the water flowing around my hand and fingers. I concentrated on where my hand was in relation to my chest, paid attention to the angle of my wrist.”
“For surfing, I started to visualize what was going on by looking at magazines. The pictures showed me what the athletes at the elite levels of surfing looked like as they pulled off their maneuvers, and I was trying to make those connections myself. What I found was that I could not be in the water and try to make improvements. All I could do when I was in the water was surf. What I needed to do was go back to someplace quiet - my bedroom again, or the living room if nobody was around - and then visualize what I was trying to create.”
When Frosty is drafted, he learns that one of the possible ways out might be physical, which seems ridiculous to ask for, as fit surfer in his mid-twenties. He does it anyway and uses the power of visualization to create so much fear in his mind that his body turns to panic mode, sending his blood pressure through the roof. The army doctors don’t believe the test results and sent Frosty back to his doctor to be tested every other day, hoping to catch him. The doctor reads the same high blood pressure over and over again.
“What no one knew was that I had started visualizing being in Vietnam. After i’d failed the test the first time, I realized that I could recreate the fear and make it stronger. In my mind, I was imagining being in the jungle and having people trying to kill me - and my family back home with that empty look in their eyes. When I thought about it to a point where I could see the details in my mind it scared me so badly that my blood pressure went through the roof.”
The book “Making Mavericks” is also available as an audiobook and is highly recommended for your work-out or commute playlist.
This is the transcript of Frosty Hesson explaining the experience of climbing his leash back to the surface at a Mavericks wipe-out.
“For leashes, the thickness of the leash is dependent upon the size and power of the wave you are going to ride. Not all waves are incredibly powerful. If you’ve seen the shore pound, the shore break at Waimea… that’s ugly.
So large waves have a tendency to get ugly. You need to have something that is relatively thick.
People don’t understand, these things stretch incredibly far.
So I think that this is… this is only a… it’s not 12 feet.. so… it’s like a ten foot, eleven-foot leash. And it will stretch to over thirty feet. And when you are underwater, especially at Mavericks and it is all dark, and you don’t know how far under you are, and you’re getting tumbled and turned and finally all that turbulence passes, and it is time to come up, and you have no reference point, because you can’t see. So you know your board is still attached because you are getting drag and you know your board is under some sort of angle, but you know you still have that direction to go, you reach down (this is around your ankle) you reach and grab hold of this.
Except… it is piano string thickness now, it’s soooo tight!
You can feel the vibration of the water on it. And you know you can’t pull it, because that might just be enough to break it.
So you are very calm, very zen-like and you’re holding on.
And then, when you feel it expand a little bit, and you can, you’re going “Oh!” and then you kinda like begin. Only fingertips, because there is no grip there. And you follow it. You are following your way up to where the surface is. At some point, the wave will let go of the board, and you can actually feel it really expand and get back to normal, and now you can grab it and pull yourself up.
Now you also have an idea where up is. And then you can start swimming.”
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