Face your fears and surf your way to success

Our best moments lie on the other side of our fears − this is the motto of big wave surfer, Matt Bromley.

He hails from the deep south, where he began his professional surfing career at the age of 16.

He was inspired by two classic big waves that are visible from Kommetjie.

He is married to Jade and has two small boys, Benji and Reilly.

He got into big wave riding at the age of 17.

His journey began as he paddled out to Dungeons and was caught by five 25-foot waves in a row, which was his worst nightmare. Yet, as he paddled to get out in a safe channel, a beautiful big wave came straight to him and at the last minute he caught the biggest wave he had ever surfed.

It sparked his love for big waves and that has grown into him being one of the top 24 big wave surfers who “chase” storms around the world. These storms produce these massive waves.

Matt embodies someone who has learnt to face fear, step through it, and truly live those “best moments”.

He has a clear and structured way of preparing to surf big waves, and these include rigorous principles and processes.

These principles are appropriate for entrepreneurs as well. The metaphors are drawn from the ocean and surfing, but I trust they will be as inspiring, informative, and applicable to your situation as I believe they are to mine.

He pointed out that everybody gets fearful, nobody is exempt.

His personality is risk averse and conservative.

After 16 years of surfing these waves, he still gets scared, however, he found that all surfers share this fear… but push through anyway.

He then went on to share three ways to overcome fear, as being in the frontline for many years he has built a process for mitigating fear.

The first of these is having a sense of purpose. He believes he has been created to surf these big waves. Thus, when he faces the noise, chaos, and presence of these big waves, he has a sense of peace and purpose, which causes him to act in faith.

The second principle is positive self-talk. Matt pointed out that he could either fill his mind with thoughts of fear and anxiety, leading to doubt, or he could fill his mind with purpose which seems to unleash energy for the task at hand, by saying things like “I was born for this”, “I can do this”, “this is my chance to go to the next level”. He finds that he is able to approach every situation being positive.

A big part of his preparation is to fill his mind with positive energy. He becomes excited for the storm as it could offer up a wave that could become the ride of his life.

He remarks that this is a huge help, and he can feel his body responding to his mind being filled with positive thoughts, charging him with energy and purpose.

The third principle is to visualise your hero moments. Whether it’s a big wave that you’re facing or a big meeting for a big business pitch, you must put yourself through every little detail of that situation.

He sees himself paddling into the wave with confidence, dropping into the wave and cutting into it to begin his descent. This helps to cut through all the nerves and chaos so that he can hone in on his goal… his big wave.

I asked Matt about a life lesson. He reflects on his motto, “our best moments lie on the other side of our fears”.

Sometimes he has been on the edge of crying and feeling anxious but as soon as he paddles out and commits to the wave, he has an amazing feeling of being on the other side of fear. The lesson? Commit!

A second life lesson, he attributes to his wife, Jade.

When travelling around the world, there are many things that can go wrong, from struggling with two 10-foot surfboards at airports to expected waves not materialising and a host of other variables.

Matt used to become weighed down by these things, but Jade encouraged him to think about these things that he couldn’t control as an adventure. That perspective has made a big difference to his life.

Another lesson that he reflected on was that of failing forward. This means that when we fail or make a mistake that we make it count towards our goals. He let’s these mistakes and failures help fuel the fire so that next time he encounters a similar situation, he takes hold of it and moves forward to redeem the situation.

Finally, I asked Matt what he would say to young people in the Western Cape. He shared that we must face fear in life, and if we run or refuse to face our fear, we could end up living small lives. Yet when we face our fears, our best moments lie on the other side of our fear. He went further to say he truly believes “we were born to go through the storms, and when we ride the big wave that is in the storm, that’s where we feel most alive”.

The last piece of advice is to make sure our dreams are big. They need to scare us; they need to stretch us. There is an element of stepping out in faith.

He never could imagine himself surfing waves like Jaws (Hawaii) and Nazaré (Portugal) or Dungeons in Cape Town, because he is conservative and risk averse in nature. Yet he has a huge dream and took lots of little steps, out of his comfort zone. And little by little, he pushed that fear back, and before he knew it, he was out there in the big stuff.

Matt concluded: “My hope is for everyone to face their storms and step up to ride your big wave of opportunity. We all have our big waves to ride… and fear is the thing that holds us back. When we move through that fear… we will not only merely survive the storms, but we can thrive in them.”

● Steve Reid runs his own business in support of entrepreneurs, leaders and incubators.

He can be contacted at stevereid1406@gmail.com

Big wave surfer, Matt Bromley, shares how he faces his fears in pursuing and riding these big waves. PICTURE: GIORA KOREN