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Tyler's Parachute Never Opened, But His Life Did

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Tyler Farnham is a world traveler, international lifeguard, and public speaker. In 2009, Tyler suffered a horrendous accident, which changed his overall perspectives as well as his life decisions.

As an EMT Ocean Rescue Captain, the physical rehab meant not only walking again but getting back in shape to pass the extremely rigorous physical tests to regain his active duty status. In one year, he achieved that goal.

Still learning and still growing, Tyler shares the stories of his own personal development through visualization and motivation using surfing, yoga, meditation as tools for happiness, self-discipline, and emotional growth.

Tyler's new book, Journals From Cloud 9, was released in April of 2020, along with his second edition Reaching Cloud 9.

Current Location: Indonesia

Topics Discussed:

  • Tyler's skydiving accident where his parachute did not open, he tells the story.
  • The epic story of Tyler's recovery.
  • Did you ever want to give up?
  • What was your thought when your parachute didn’t open?
  • The odds of a parachute not opening are 1 in 1000—these seem like high odds?
  • Do you think skydiving and surfing create similar feelings?
  • What is the number one thing you learned from the experience?
  • Tell us about writing your book.

Links & Connect

Transcripts

Hey! Good afternoon. Welcome, Tyler to the Saltwater High podcast. Tyler, how are you doing, brother?

Yeah, I'm doing good, Derek. How are you?

I'm good, man. It's been almost a year since we saw each other. Can you believe that?

That's right. I forgot about that.

Yeah. And the interesting part of this whole--I mean, you're going to get into your story, but I was actually sitting off to the side while you were talking. And so I wasn't part of that group, remember, until the very end...

That's right.

...and I came over. And so I'm really excited to hear the story because I was trying to hear it, but trying to pay attention to the people at my table. So I'm really stoked to hear the story again, bro.

Oh, yeah that's right. I remember that you were there and you had your team with you as well, right?

I had a couple of my team members, that's right. Yeah, from the Philippines. Yeah, dude. So you're in Bali, yea?

Yeah, I'm still in Bali. I never left since I saw you. Well, no, I left for Lombok to finish up a couple seasons of work, and then, that was the last time I saw you and I came back to Bali and I've been here since December.

Oh, nice. How are things during the COVID time?

In the beginning, they shut everything down around their holiday Nyepi day, which is the silent day. That's kind of when everything really got real here because that one day of the year is so special. It's the only place in the world that shuts down their airport for the whole 24 hours. But then when they open back up the island the next day, it was like everything kind of stayed closed and then from there on out, it was just like full ghost town.

And it's gotten even more eerie since that time and was it April or actually late March. Even just going around Kuta just the other day and just riding my bike just around the streets it was like, I just want to go and explore and it was just this like, you know man, you get energy from certain places. And it used to be this real like, just kind of grimy energy in Kuta. It was fun, a little bit wild, but just going through there was just sad, man, and just empty streets. So you can definitely tell the effect on what it's all done just from the amount of places that are closed. That's just one of many things.

Yeah. So are restaurants open or they're just closed?

Well, some restaurants are open just depending on the location if they're going to have traffic. There's a few of them around Seminyak that are open. It just doesn't seem like they're getting much business at all and a lot of them are just chopping down prices like half price with meals that are already so, so inexpensive. And now it's unreal. But there's some that are open. But so many of them had to just remain closed just for lack of business, lack of tourism.

Well, there must be one silver lining, which is nobody's in the--well, less people in the water for sure.

Yeah, that's definitely a big one. It's a big one. And I think with more exploration, which I've told myself to really start doing here in the next couple of weeks, to take advantage of that. There's people doing trips at the desert point. And I got a buddy who just recently went out there and you hear these stories of, "I haven't seen deserts like that, 50 years" or whatever they say. That experience with Uluwatu a couple of weeks ago, and that's another place how I said about Kuta, in going there being so empty, it's like going to Ulu's--I thought I was going to get just so pumped to just see it empty. But man, it was hard to go up there and speaking to the locals that are telling me like, "We haven't seen it this empty in 20, 30 years.", so many of them. So it's like, it's this real weird, double-edged sword, kind of bittersweet feeling like you know you can go out there and get really good empty waves but then when it comes to the people relying on that crowd so it's a double-edged sword for sure.

And is the government helping out at all or that's not really happening?

The government's helping a bit, but it's just not enough. Unless you're really looking for it or you're going to different places, it's hard to tell. If you go to Canggu, where you and I met, in that area, it's like nothing's really changed. They just actually incorporated the mask rule yesterday, whereas if you don't have a mask on, you're going to get fined. And that's also just kind of another viewpoint of how it's affecting people, and who wants to play by the rules and who doesn't.

It's weird. But then I do think the government's helping out, but it just doesn't seem like it's enough. It seems like most governments that are helping it out still just doesn't seem like it's enough, you know?

Yeah, bro. Crazy times, man. I would have never known a year ago when I was in Bali. I've been coming to Asia for the last seven years every year at this time. And now I'm not coming this year so I kind of bummed out but stoked to talk to you. And I got a couple of buddies that are there. Just like you said, it's kind of bittersweet. Pretty much it's like that everywhere. Even here, I'm in Southern California. I just see a couple of close buddies and that's it. Like nobody else. Just trying to stay in small pods, right?

Right.

To make sure everyone's safe. But anyway dude, let's pivot and hear about your amazing epic story. I won't give it away, but let's just say you were flying like a bird and you continued to fly like a bird until something else happened.

Yeah, man. Well, the story basically it starts with in March of 2009, my mom had sent me this random email out of nowhere saying that she wanted to go skydiving with me. And I had been skydiving at that point for seven years. I was influenced when I was eight years old by the one and only Point Break. I saw Bodhi and his group and I wanna be one of those guys. I was infatuated with that movie as a kid. They surfed, they were just these cool group of guys. Got influenced to do it. Started jumping when I was eighteen. Twenty-five years old, and then I get this email from my mom and said, "Yeah, I want to go skydiving and try this out. My best friend wants to get involved."

So we picked a date. We picked the date April 11th, I think I'm pretty sure it was Easter Sunday.

Wow.

We went to the drop zone in Skydive Sebastian in Florida about forty-five minutes outside of my hometown, Cocoa Beach. And it was early afternoon, I did one skydive before I went up on the plane, the same with my mom. And that skydive was fine. And then when I went up with my mom, that's when things went bad because I was just recently telling a friend of mine about the whole idea of visualization. How you want to visualize and how you hear all these people talk about visualizing and how it can lead to success. And I do truly believe in that.

For years, I'd always visualized my skydive and shut my eyes and I just see myself exactly what I want to do when I'd exit the aircraft, what I'd want to do in the sky to the point where my feet would touch the ground. I do this every time. And it was so weird to think like that jump, I didn't do it. I was so excited and pumped up for my mom, but yet nervous as well for my mom.

And halfway up there, I'm thinking to myself like, "What the fuck am I doing, man?" My mom's jumping out of a plane, but by no means was I freaking out. But it just felt almost like my first time skydiving again, had my mom with me.

Was she, I assumed she was doing a tandem or first time?

Yeah, that's right. So she was doing a tandem skydive and her best friend was also doing a tandem. And then the way that you board into the aircraft is most experienced skydivers board last. So then tandem's are always out--well, so boarding last means that you exit first so experienced jumpers jump first and then the least experienced and/or tandems exit last. So I exit before my mom and her friend. And then as I'm exiting the aircraft, they get a shot of me because they knew my mom was there and they had a group of friends that were there to watch, just spectators on the field.

And my skydive was really nothing like--it was no different than most of the skydives that I've performed. I exit the aircraft and I really liked what's called sit flying. So you're falling basically like you're sitting in a chair with your arms out to the side and then also standing straight up so your feet first and flip around head down. So you're going as fast as you can. You're hitting terminal velocity like 180, 200 miles an hour.

Wow.

So that was always my thrill.

What height did you go out at?

So 14,000 feet was the exit altitude.

Wow!

Yep! So I thought to myself, obviously prior, I knew that I was going to deploy my parachute a bit lower than I usually would. Usually, I'd deploy around 4,000 or 4,500 feet. And for this jump, I wanted to get down to the ground before my mom and I wanted to be able to get photos of her landing and really just be able to be standing there right when she touches down.

Because I've told so many people, my friends that go skydiving for the first time, I said it's a rush but you have these different stages of feelings when you do it. When you touch the ground, when your feet plant on the ground, it's like you get this rush of euphoria over you. For one, you survived it, and it's just like you get to really kind of soak in all the feelings. So I was like, "Okay, I'll deploy my canopy around 3,500 feet". 500 feet lower than I usually would.

And then from there, just come in for pretty--I wouldn't call it high-performance landing by any means, but just like, nice low turns and get in pretty quick.

So if you deploy at 3,500, how long does that give you normally before you touch the ground?

So usually what would happen, like I'd give an example if I were to jump out 14,000 feet and say that I was deciding to deploy my parachute at 4,000 feet, if I chose to do the free fly technique which is sit fly, head down, feet first, my freefall time will be about 30 seconds between getting from 14,000 feet to 4,000 feet. Versus if you're just flying on your belly, you know what you usually see in videos especially in films, you'll see people that will be belly to the earth. That's more of a 50 to 60-second freefall because you're flying at about 120 miles an hour.

So it really cut your time in half really, when you're deciding to free fly because you're going at higher speeds. But then when I get to 4,000 feet, deploy my canopy, takes about--I could be wrong, but I want to guess around two to five hundred feet of altitude lost for your canopy to leave the bag. And they call it the snivel of when your parachute leaves your backpack or your bag, your deployment bag. It's first released by a pilot chute. So very, very small parachute that is connected to a bridle. The bridle pulls out your main canopy and then it just kind of unravels above your head.

And then from there, so say you lose two to five hundred feet of altitude with that opening. And then after that, depending on your choice, like I do usually fly for around 2 or 3 minutes above the Earth if I just want to kind of nice, cruisy wind pattern and just take in the sights, enjoy my time being up in the air, where you'll see pros as soon as they deploy their canopy. They're under a canopy at 3,000 feet and they get to the ground in 15 seconds just because the turns that you can perform, I mean, you can go so fast once you get sideways and it looks like you're freefalling sometimes. So to how long under the canopy, it's really your choice. But for me, typically, it would be anywhere from a minute and a half to three and a half minutes.

So I get to 3,500 feet, now I deploy my canopy, and so again another rule, when that snivel effect is going on, where the canopy is being released over your head, you're meant to count to 5 and then you look over your shoulders, look up and make sure you're flying a square, stable, steerable canopy. And so, as soon as I deploy that canopy, it just felt off.

And as I deployed, I looked up and the snivel was just kind of like not stuck, but it just wasn't as smooth as it typically would be. So I look back down, I just kind of hold on to my risers, which are the lines, more like straps, or straps lines that connect your bag to your main canopy. Hold on just for a couple of seconds, look back up, and my canopy had inflated. It was square, it was stable.

Well, actually, it wasn't stable. Was square, but it looks stable, but it wasn't steerable. So what was happening was my canopy looked fine although I started to have this clockwise spin and so I was spinning clockwise and my first reaction was, "Okay, a malfunctioned parachute. I want to correct this problem. I don't want to have to cutaway my reserve and use my reserve canopy if I don't have to." So I reach up to my risers on my right side and I start pulling down. And by pulling down, I was actually able to slow the spin to a point where I could fly straight.

So I was kind of gliding straight. And I was breaking two rules simultaneously. So the two rules I broke, the first one is you always, no matter what, want to stay altitude aware. And so when I deploy my canopy and I went into the spin, I went straight coz I was really checking my altimeter. I went straight to try to correct this problem. And then the second problem that I, or the second rule that I broke was that I tried too long and I tried more attempts than I should have to correct the issue.

Typically, you're meant to try only two attempts to fix any sort of malfunctioned canopy and if you can't fix it, then you cutaway, use your reserve. So I'm sitting here, holding down on the rear risers and I'm able to fly straight and then I see what's wrong. The issue with my canopy and one of my steering lines had come undone. So it's unstowed. So basically, since my steering line was out of reach, that's what put me into the spin.

And for some reason, it was just like I started having all these thoughts rush in like, "Okay, is this something that I can correct? Is this something that I can fix?" I didn't necessarily remember that malfunction being any of the ones that I was really trained to see and spot right away and go, "Okay, that's something I need to cutaway". Because some of the malfunctions that you may experience, there's high-speed malfunctions, low-speed malfunctions, and some of them are very obvious to where you go, "Okay, I need to ditch this parachute. I can't land safe." Whereas this one, I took too much time to think, really. And as I'm trying to pull down, pull down, I start losing my strength. And then I get to a point, because it took a lot of strength just to hold that riser steady and just fly straight, so then once I ran out of strength, I let go, I went back into the spin, and then I started spinning faster and faster and faster to where I was sideways. And from that point, I had a couple of thoughts but my last real thought to myself was, in my mind I calmly said to myself, "I think I'm going to die." And then from that point, I just lost consciousness.

Oh, so you lost consciousness in the air?

Yeah, that's my theory. I feel like from that centrifugal force and the fright in general, I think I lost consciousness, but I could have just blocked out the memory.

So you're spinning and the chute doesn't have the ability to deploy in a way that holds your weight. Is that how it works? And so you're just kind of pulling the whole thing down.

So it's funny because it took about, I want to say six weeks until I actually heard from the guys at the drop zone and I discussed the malfunction and what had gone wrong. And I still to this day, it's like it's something that I feel, but I'm not really explaining a hundred percent accurately. I feel like I'm more like 80, 90 percent accurate at what really went wrong. But I've always owned up to it and said for sure it was my fault, it was something that I should have recognized, and I should have went right into what I was trained to do.

But from a bystander point of view, a friend of mine who's an experienced skydiver, she told me that what it appeared from anybody who was watching from the ground, it just looked like I was coming in for a high-performance landing. So you could see like any sort of malfunction parachute, but you can imagine somebody who's under a canopy, but instead of necessarily being under it, the canopy and your body is sideways.

So I was spinning. You know those rides at the circus where you sit in a swing and you start swinging sideways? Think of that. So I was basically like on that swing set where I was sideways and the canopy was above my head, but the canopy and my body were both sideways to the ground.

Wow. Wow, bro.

Yea, it was a heavy one.

And had your mom jumped yet?

Yes.

She had jumped.

Yes. With mom, she was in the air when all this was happening. She was, of course, she was probably 30 to 60 seconds out of the airplane after myself and a friend of mine was taking her on the skydive. And of course, you'd think to yourself, anybody that's doing that, it's a new experience and a really intense one as well. So it's like, your awareness factors are not going to be the highest as to what else is going on, especially on the ground. Whereas somebody who's been doing it thousands of times, it's like if there's anything that's even just a little bit off, they're going to know right away. So the tandem instructor with my mom knew as soon as he deployed his canopy, he said he looked down at the ground and he saw crowds, he saw people running out, and he saw my canopy. And he knew my canopy. So he knew that was me. And just from the urgency of people running, he could tell right then and there something had happened.

But of course, he didn't say anything to my mom. So they had to fly under a canopy for probably, say, around 5 minutes before they came into the ground for the final approach. And by the time they were getting to the earth is the time they could hear the sirens coming and they had dispatched a helicopter as well.

So when my mom was coming in for her final approach to land, she was waving at her friends and none of her friends were waving back. They just kind of have these stone-cold looks on their faces. And she said as they came in for that final approach like that last 20, 50 feet, she said that's when she knew that something had happened to me because of the crowd and the sirens.

And so as soon as she touched down, she said that her legs were like pegs just from being in the harness and oftentimes people have that same complaint. But so her legs felt numb. But once she got out of the canopy, her best friend who is also on the ground as well, they held hands and they walked over to me past the crowd. And there was even somebody there that said they knew that she was my mom.

They said, you probably don't want to see him right now because it was rough. Like if someone had photos of how I looked on the ground, I mean, my legs were both pointing at different directions. And because I'd hit the ground on my right side and I'd actually indented the grass field where I landed and landed on my left side. But the femur breaks and my legs were so bad, my legs just stayed in these two awkward angles.

And then my arm, my right arm was folded in two different places. So my arm was just in this mangled look as well. And then my face. I had blood coming from every orifice of my face, my ears, nose, mouth, eyes, and I had broken teeth in my mouth. I couldn't talk. I was gasping for air. So it was like the scene to paint the pic, the scene was so intense that even when I wrote about it, it was hard because I had to interview my mom to get the description of the details of what had happened and even the instructors that were there by my side, they gave me the details as well. Like one of them had to perform a finger sweep in my mouth because I had stopped breathing and he had to scoop the blood and the teeth out of my mouth. And when he did that, I coughed. And when I coughed, I spit blood all over him. And this was Easter Sunday at one of the most notable skydive places on the planet. So it's like here this instructor is a whole blood all over his shirt from pretty much just saving my life.

And then the helicopter arrived. And when they loaded me into the helicopter, that's when I stopped breathing again. They had to revive me with the AED or the defibrillator.

The defibrillator.

They used the defibrillator on me in the helicopter and that's when they transported me to the hospital.

My mom was real strong the whole time. But once the helicopter was flying overhead, that's when she told me, she's like, "That's when I kind of broke down." And she made the calls to my family and my close friends and the lifeguard chief because I was a lifeguard captain. So the chief got news. He's my best friend. So that's when the alarm bell sounded in my community with my family and friends.

Hmm. Wow, bro. That is intense, bro. So when you hit, were you still sideways when you hit?

Yeah, so...

Yeah, you must have hit sideways.

Yeah, so that was the other thing. I was wearing a full-face helmet and then other than the full-face helmet so I landed about between 8 and 10 feet from the paved runway and I landed in the field. And when I landed in the grass field, I landed directly on my right side, which is why I don't have any back injuries and I didn't have any--I'm shocked to even just to say I don't have any internal injuries as far as broken ribs or any internal organs, damaged, brain injuries.

That's amazing.

So my landing was, I've always compared it to like if you have somebody who gets in a car accident that's just drunk and they pass out at the wheel and they just go limp, I think that between my landing and just my state of mind and being limp is why not only I survived, but I didn't sustain any sort of back trauma.

Wow, you're lucky bro.

Oh yeah.

Yeah, man! Wow, dude. That's quite a story, bro. Quite a story. I was kind of looking at statistics before the call and I came across one that said that 1 in 10,000 chutes don't operate properly, which seems to me like super high odds, right? Like one in ten thousand? Had you ever had a circumstance where you had to cutaway or was anything close to this?

I did. So on Valentine's Day of 2004, I had a cutaway and it was a severe line twist. And a line twist is when you open your canopy and your risers are just--how would I describe it--just the lines are completely twisted, but your canopy's perfectly intact. Your steering toggles are in reach. So basically the way that you clear is you pull apart your risers and you kick your feet like you're in a swing set, and then you can unreel that line twist. But mine was such a severe line twist that I didn't have enough altitude to get out of it. So I had to cutaway my canopy then. And that's an example of a low-speed malfunction. But oftentimes, the number one fatality in skydiving is low turns. It's not even a malfunction canopy. It's being under a perfectly capable, steerable canopy, although you're doing such a high-performance fast maneuver too close to the Earth that you land wrong.

I believe that's the number one--I know it was when I used to read the magazines--the number one fatality was skydiving. Definitely not base jumping, but skydiving. That's a whole another world.

So what was the first thing you remember when you woke up, and when did you wake up?

Yeah. The story is pretty trippy. I woke up on my birthday, I woke up on April 16th. So 5 days they put me in a medical induced coma when they basically had to rebuild my body in so many ways. But they had me nasally intubated due to all the oral trauma for my teeth and the broken jaw. And so what I remember was just this awful pain from my nose, because once the drugs and I was coming out of that medical induced coma, I reached up and because I felt something on my face and I grabbed the tube that was coming down my nose and I pulled it out. So when I pulled up, that's when I guess that was the time they're like, "Oh, he can breathe on his own now. He's awake now." But I remember that pain.

But then after that, I remember waking up real hazy. So many cards and balloons and presents and birthday presents and also get well cards, happy you survived cards. And so that was the first real memory I had, was waking up to that.

So now how long were you in the hospital and what were the things you were feeling or thinking about when you were there?

Yes, well, the first thing the doctor told me, because my injuries were just absolutely insane, as I was laying there and I could wiggle my toes, but I can't really move my legs without severe pain but he told me he said that they managed to save my right leg because my femur had fractured so bad that it was--said it was like a small bomb went off in my right thigh because the bone was just completely blown to pieces. And they had to put in one of those permanent metal rods in my right femur and they also had to put a permanent rod in my left femur, because my left femur had also broken in half.

And then my right ulna the lower arm broke in half, the right humerus upper arm broke in half. My mandible broke in half. My condyle which is the hinge of the jaw, my right condyle shattered. My left condyle fractured, dislocated. I broke nine teeth that had to be extracted. I fractured my skull, suffered a concussion, and lacerations to the face.

So once I heard and I knew the extent of my injuries, that's when I looked at my dad and I asked him if I was ever going to surf again. Just very dazed and confused but obviously that was the first thing I was thinking about was, "Hey am I going to be able to surf again?" And he's just like, "Bud, we got to focus on you walking before anything else".

And so as far as how I felt, it was confusion in those first few days for sure. And then I spent a total of 12 days in the hospital before being sent to my first rehabilitation center. And then once I got to the rehabilitation center, it was a non-weight bearing center so anyone and everyone that was in there couldn't put any weight on their legs and majority of the people in there were very old people. So all of a sudden I felt like I was living in this 26 years old, living in this old folks home. And then, not too long after being put in that rehab, I had to go back for another surgery for my leg, for an infection. And then two days later, I went back for another surgery on my jaw. I'd woken up and my mouth had then been wired shut. So at my worst in rehab, I had 57 staples in my body, I was confined to a wheelchair, my mouth was wired shut and would have to remain wired shut for the following 2 months.

Dude, I'm never complaining again.

No, bro.

Yeah bro, I'm never complaining again.

Yeah, that was a heavy one. Even now I still think about it. My buddy who I talked to almost on a daily basis, he came in and he'd always get me laugh and then just like trying to laugh and especially trying to sneeze when your mouth is wired shut is very, very unpleasant. But lots of different feelings being in those rehabs. I wanna say that rehab was about a month and then I spent another 3 to 4 weeks in a second rehabilitation center once I was able to walk. In total was around 6 to 8 weeks in rehab centers.

Really wanted to walk, use my right arm, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and then just day by day just trying to figure out how it was going to be for the future when I really never knew. And it was just constant things that would just make me lose hope. At one point when I was at my worst, I had this guy's, a PT, his name is Tracy. Avid rock climber, I think a few years older than me, real nice guy. And he was helping me transfer from--I'll always remember this moment--he was helping me transfer from my wheelchair to the toilet because it was even hard for me just to get my legs out of bed. So he helped me get my legs out of bed and I'd use a sliding board to slide from my bed to the wheelchair. And then once we get to the bathroom, I'd use that same sliding board and he'd help me out to have to wedge from my wheelchair over to the toilet. And my right arm wasn't functional either. So I just had this one, my left arm, really to utilize and he was trying to get me over to the toilet.

And I was constipated because of pain meds. I just broke down crying. I'm already skinny as a rail mouth wired shut man. I just looked so frail. And then just happened to everyday push through, go to those rehabs and I've land a cot, and old man next to me or old lady next to me and always look at me like, "Who's this young guy covered in tattoos like, what's his story?" Definitely felt like a fish out of water in that rehab, that's for sure.

Did you ever want to give up?

I never wanted to give up, but there were just times I'd questioned myself. It was hard to stay positive. It was really hard to--because when you go through something like that, obviously there are some people that have to go through something that horrific multiple times on more than one occasion. But the first time you ever go through it, it's like you have no idea. You don't know if it's going to get easier, if it's going to get better. But I never want to give up. I know a lot of it was just because my age, first and foremost. I still felt like, "Oh, man, I've got my whole life ahead of me" and plus my lifestyle. I felt like if I would have given up, I wouldn't be able to get back to anything because my whole life revolved around sport really and just being active.

Yeah. And were your buddies, I guess, was it really beneficial to have them coming around? And how important was community to you during that stage?

Oh, for sure. The support I had from my friends, that was number one. In my family as well, like just having people come in and visit me and some of the lifeguards I worked with, it took them some time before they could come visit me because, they said they were like--even just like what I said, I was so used to having such an active life that there's a couple of them that didn't come in for a while.

And they said, we're just kind of worried and we're afraid to see you and we didn't know how to act or how to feel. And that's something you don't really think about as a friend like, "Okay, well, how are they going to feel with me walking in there on my two legs and chat with somebody who can't even get out of bed?" But it helped me and just that emotional support and being surrounded by people that I loved, it was for sure so beneficial. But once I was out and I didn't go to the beach because watching my friends surf or anything like that, I was hanging on it. Too soon for me.

Yeah, that's awesome. Man! So when did you decide to write the book and how did that all kind of come to you?

So about I'd say about 6 months after the accident, I was already back home. I was living with a couple of my buddies in Satellite Beach, Florida, which is 30-minute south of Cocoa Beach and I got back to working but I was in the office and I was rewriting our standard operating set of procedures for the Brevard County Ocean Rescue. And that's when things just started to kind of, I was like, "Okay, all these just really strange events started to occur in my life." Well, I take that back.

Some of them were strange, but some of them were just really special and impactful as far as how long it took me to get back to being able to surf again and skydiving was eleven months. I was back to surfing, skydiving in March of 2010 and that was also the same month that I passed my two-mile run and my 500 meter swim to get my job back on the beach as an ocean lifeguard.

In the first day back on the beach as a lifeguard, it was the first day of spring in 2010. So it was March 27th, 2010. First day back, man, and a surfer had an accident, broke his neck on a shallow sandbar and it was myself and the other lifeguard, Captain Johnny, that I was working with, it was the two of us that responded with all the BLS equipment and then our two lifeguards that were on the scene, Jason and Victoria, they helped pull this man out of the water.

He was already unconscious and we had to perform CPR on him once we arrived with the equipment. And we saved his life from leaving the beach but once he got to the hospital, they had him on life support. And I think eventually, after 7 or 8 days, they took him off life support. But it was that day, it was just like, whoa, it was a team effort but I played a part in that team. So I was like, "I wonder how this would have acted if I wasn't here." If it was just Johnny on the scene that day or if it was just one of the other guards and that was the first thing that happened that just was like, "Oh, wow, this was a kind of a strange occurrence for this to happen on my first day back on the beach." And then that same summer, I started working with surfers for autism, teaching autistic children to surf.

And I gave a speech at a kids fest or a kids play in my hometown. And so between the surfers for autism, my first day back on the beach, all the hurricane rescues we had that year, those were the things that was like--my uncle who passed away, he was my mentor, he's like, "Hey, you need to think about writing these stories. You have some pretty unbelievable stories that have come after the skydiving accident." So that's what really got me thinking about doing it. And then I'd start just writing out the stories and it just ended up turning into a book.

Amazing, bro, amazing. We'll have a link to the book in the show notes too, anyone out there. And I can't wait to read it myself. Man, so what do you think the number one thing you learned from the whole experience? I know you probably learned a bunch, but when I heard you talk in Bali, it seemed like, obviously, it was a life-changing experience, but it seems like you had also some perceptual shifts about life from it. And, giving back obviously is a huge one by the speeches in the book and the things you've done. But how is your life different? I guess that's a good way to put it.

Yeah, it's a great way to put it. As far as what I've learned in everything that has happened, I ended up writing a second book as well about everything. But to really tie it up into what I've learned, into what I've been really talking about lately is, even the speech I have come up, what I'm opening with, is basically my routine. So meditation, journaling, surfing, creating, learning, and gratitude.

I feel like that's such a good recipe for a meaningful and productive life. And I didn't really learn about that recipe until my mid-thirties. And I'm 37 now. Of course, the skydiving accident was 10 years ago, but as far as what I've learned, it's like if you were to ask me 5 years ago, I would have told you something different. But that's that recipe that I've learned that I put into practice nearly every day.

Say it again? One more time?

Yes, so meditation, journaling, surfing, creating, learning, and gratitude.

I love it, bro, love it.

Yeah. And then the big one, man, and I've been saying this so much lately, and it's definitely something that I learned and advice that I was given when I was in that hospital bed 10 years ago is one day at a time, take it one day at a time. And I feel for anyone that's even just healthy, that's doing well, it's like okay, well, if you're living one day at a time, it all really kind of goes back to just mindfulness and awareness of being in your present moment. But just going, "Okay, let's just take some time."

Instead of being so fearful or upset about what could happen tomorrow or in the future, it's like now how about you just focus on today, make sure it's a good day, whatever it is that you have planned, make sure you do it, you execute it and you enjoy it and you just have some meaning for your days.

I love that, man. I love the idea of journaling, too. I've been journaling for a couple of years now and it's interesting because a lot of people think journaling is like for somebody, but it's not, it's for you. Like it's a conversation with yourself where you can--this is how I approach it--where basically I can kind of try out things or I think through something, right? Slowly because I usually do it--I handwrite it actually I like to do it in a regular old school book.

So journaling is super powerful. I would recommend anyone out there that hasn't done it. Start it because it's amazing. And of course, gratitude is just huge.

The journaling, too. I've spiraled into so many different ways of like I've just been brainstorming for the past month. I've been brainstorming and I have these, I'm looking at them now, these just big poster boards that I've just started writing on and just squaring them off, just little sections of what it is that I'm thinking of and I do the same with the calendar. I'll make a calendar for the whole month and I'll just put in whatever it is I'm going to do every single day and gets highlighted one color. Events get highlighted in another color. And I've just become this man obsessed with, whether it's calendars or brainstorming posters. But it's just funny because I still do the one day at a time. But I like to have the day plan so I can manage my time properly, you know what I mean?

Yeah, totally. It's hard for me to do that. As you know, dude, being surfers, the first thing we do, what's the tide? What's the wind? What's the swell? What's the swell direction? And then, I can start to think about what my day is going to look like. But I feel like a surfer's perspective on life and time management is totally different because we're not choosing it, right? Like nature's choosing our focus. But creating structure around that focus is definitely helpful.

You'll love this, man. So what I've been telling my friends recently with the routine, because they tell me that. They say the same thing and I'd say my best friends don't even surf but when they ask me about surfing, I say, "You know what? My routine is constantly shifting with the tides. So whether it's going to be an early morning for me to get all that done or whether it's going to be afternoon, it's always shifting with the tides."

Nice. Yeah, that's so true bro, so true. All right, I'm going to shift it here a bit. I got a couple more questions for you. I know your time is precious. Describe your first surfboard.

Oh, my first surfboard. I'm also the 90s guy, you know?

Yeah.

Like born in '83. But my first surfboard, my dad, he actually won it in a Miami Dolphins football game. He won a bet. And it was this little yellow Quiet Flight. It's a 5'5 Quiet Flight with these real 80s look in neon with these zigzags going across it.

Right.

And man, I had that thing for, I think I had that board for like--oh man, I don't even know how long probably 15, 20 years and like an idiot, I sold it.

Ooh, dude! We all sold our first ones. We wish we had them.

Oh, man. I'm so bummed because that board was--I saw pictures of 'em but I'm just like man, "If they stop, they can return it and I'd pay anything for it."

Did it have like the Miami Dolphins helmet on it or something?

No, it didn't. It was an original. Quiet Flight was Kelly Slater's first sponsor. So that's our hometown or was our hometown surf shop in Cocoa Beach. It was Quiet Flight. And then they sold to Billabong a number of years ago. But it was just this little Quiet Flight. Freakin' shortboard, neon green with different neon zigzags across. The thing was sick, man. I loved it.

Was it a thruster?

Yeah, it was a little thruster.

Yeah! Nice bro, nice. All right. What's the best wave you've ever surfed? And you can't think about it too long because you'll come up with twenty waves. So just like what's the first one?

I hear you. I'd say the best wave I ever surfed was Supersuck in Sumbawa. I surfed it with a couple of my buddies a number of years back and we showed up to a small swell and it was just us three out in the water as the sun was going down and just getting best barrels of our lives. Definitely best wave I've ever surfed

Dude, that's sick. I haven't made it out there. I look forward to that trip sometime.

Beautiful.

Maybe we'll have to do it together.

Yeah, man.

Yeah, dude. So are you hanging out in Bali now pretty much full time? Are you going--because I know you were working at a surf camp, right? From what I remember in Lombok?

Yeah, so I was working the surf camp in Lombok and then in December I got offered a job in Sumba at a resort...

Sumba.

...company. Yeah. So most surfers would know of Occy's left, which is the wave that breaks right in front of the resort. And it's a privately owned wave by the resort, they have a deal with the government and had a deal going with the government for quite some time. And so I got hired on to that resort in December.

And then, I had an injury that kept me from going over there to start. And then COVID happened and now the resort's closed until next year. So until then, I'm hanging out in Bali until April next year. And then I should be going and starting at this new gig in Sumba.

Nice, bro. Well, I think I have to come there instead, it sounds like...

Exactly, man.

Yeah, dude. There's so many waves to surf in Indo. A lot of people know about Bali. But Bali, it's just really the jumping-off point to some insane waves.

Oh, yeah.

And you know way better than I do. Maybe that can be another podcast, where we're just talking about all the good surf spots around Indo.

Yeah, dude.

Yeah, man. Did we miss anything, is there anything else you want to say or plug, or? I'll put your Instagram link and links to your book on the page. But anything you want to kind of shooting shots out to the to the tribe, the Wave Tribe.

Oh, I definitely always like to say how surfing really--what it's done for me is, just give me a reason to live a very, very good life. And when I say good life I mean staying out of trouble and not getting carried away with booze or you know. For me, I always had to have that struggle with pain medication on numerous occasions through my life. But I found surfing just to be such an outlet to be able to have a healthy lifestyle. It gives you a way to get out in the ocean and man, I just love it. So, surfing definitely saved my life on more than one occasion, so I just want to mention that.

Yeah, dude, me too. The greatest gift I was ever given is surfing in the ocean by far. That's why I'm dedicated to creating a cleaner and a better world for all of us so that hopefully we can continue to enjoy it and others can too, for sure.

Oh yeah.

Yeah, bro. Well, thanks again, and I really enjoyed the conversation, and I definitely want to have you back sometime soon. So take care, bro and selamat pagi.

Selamat pagi, bro.

Yeah, selamat pagi, bro. All right, man.

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