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Chasing spiritual mavericks

Although Jay Moriarty, the inspiration for the movie "Chasing Mavericks," began surfing at age 9 and became a Santa Cruz, Calif., phenomenon, his desire to surf at Mavericks was an entirely different proposition.

Mavericks is a surfing spot about two miles from shore outside Pillar Point Harbor, north of Half Moon Bay, Calif. After powerful winter storms, the waves break sharply and crest between 25 and 80 feet. The force, pummeling and chaos of the waves is ferocious and can shatter not only surfboards but human bodies.

Two world-class surfers have died at Mavericks. In 1994, Mark Foo, a well-known Hawaiian big-wave surfer made the pilgrimage. He had a late takeoff into an 18-foot wave and, when he caught an edge, was catapulted forward into a wipeout at the base of the wave. His body was missing for several hours until it washed close to shore with a part of his surfboard still leashed to his leg.

Sion Milosky, another big name and big wave rider from Hawaii, drowned in 2011 after his body was held under water for nearly 20 minutes, finally surfacing at the mouth of Pillar Point Harbor.

Obviously surfing Mavericks is not for the faint of heart and when 16-year-old Moriarty approached Mavericks surfer Frosty Hesson and asked for training, Hesson was leery. He finally agreed if Moriarty agreed to a rigorous training regimen. In the film, the demanding and arduous schedule pushes Moriarty past the brink of his endurance. However, Hesson knows and wants Moriarty to understand that, if he is to survive Mavericks, he must recognize and be prepared for the enormous challenge. He gives Moriarty four pillars of preparation:

  • Mental: Moriarty had to know what he was facing including conditions, surroundings and circumstances, and be able to make adjustments as different challenges presented themselves. That way, when all "Hades" broke loose, he would be mentally prepared.
  • Emotional: Moriarty had to be in control of his emotions. He could not afford to under- or overestimate any situation. Because fear is paralyzing he needed to identify and suppress it, and then replace it with calmness and confidence as he assessed and met whatever might be thrown at him.
  • Physical: Physical conditioning was essential. Moriarty had to become stronger so when confronted by the strength and power of a wave, it would not overcome him.
  • Spiritual: Moriarty had to be connected to a power that made him stronger and greater than he was on his own. Making this connection required enormous effort but was essential to success.

A few challenges were when Moriarty had to develop his lungs to hold his breath under water for four minutes, increase his upper body strength so he could paddle his board 20 or more miles, and complete writing assignments that forced him to confront the essence of who he was and what made him tick. As I watched the movie, I reminisced on my teenage years, which included many days spent on the beaches at Santa Cruz where I gained a healthy respect for the force of waves and the pull of tides. On a few occasions, I was pummeled and tested by that unforgiving force of nature, leading me to respect nature and take nothing for granted.

My mind was also drawn to a consideration of the forces that are arrayed against us in the world today. There is a God in heaven, Jesus Christ is his son, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and Satan is real and powerful. Can Christians foolishly suppose they can blithely and casually go through life disregarding God’s commandments, that it will not take rigorous obedience to God’s laws and complete dependence on the Savior to achieve salvation? Do we imagine the enemy arrayed against us is not bent on our total destruction and will not do all in his power to destroy us?

Each individual must understand and rigorously prepare for the powerful, pummeling, monstrous and rampaging enemy before us. As it says in 2 Nephi, we cannot be “pacif(ied), and lull(ed)…away into carnal security, that (we) will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth (our) souls, and leadeth (us) away carefully down to hell.”

We cannot be “flatter(ed) away, and (believe)…there is no hell; and (there is) no devil…—and thus he whispereth in (our) ears, until he grasps (us) with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Nephi 28:21-22).

We must recognize the enemy is real and every day we must adhere to rigorous spiritual pillars as we face Satan. We must know who we face and be prepared to adjust as challenges come. We need to avoid under- or overestimating situations, avoid fear and embrace faith to find the calmness and serenity needed when all “Hades” breaks loose. Every day we must fortify ourselves and become stronger so we are not overcome. We must depend on Christ who will assist us when our strength wavers, who will make us more capable than we could ever be on our own.

According to Ephesians, we must “put on the whole armour of God, that (we) may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

“Wherefore (we must) take unto (us) the whole armour of God, that (we) may be able to withstand in the evil day…. having (our) loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And (our) feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”

Above all, we must take “the shield of faith, wherewith (we will) be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17).

At 16, Moriarty survived what some have described as the worst wipeout known in surfing history. He became the youngest person to surf Mavericks. He was able to succeed because he knew how serious an undertaking chasing Mavericks was and what would be required of him, and he rigorously prepared. We too need to rigorously prepare for the spiritual Mavericks we face in our lives.

Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World." She teaches part-time at BYU. Her views do not necessarily represent those of BYU.