Surfers Village Interview
NorCal writer experiences fear so you don’t have to
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 14 January, 2018 - Writers usually don’t make for good interviews. They are introspective beasts who tend to give lengthy well-thought out answers spiked with unfamiliar words. (Read: boring AND vaguely intimidating).
Who makes a good interview? Loud extraverts short on common sense and lacking that thin membrane in the brain that distinguishes between “what one wants to say” and “what one should say.” These people say anything and tend to be more daring, dangerous and ultimately entertaining.
But writers? They don’t actually do much except for typing on a keyboard. What they type on a keyboard is mostly about other people doing stuff. Fun, exciting stuff. But the writers themselves, they’re sitting at a computer.
Except for this guy, Jaimal Yogis. He actually does exciting things and then writes about them. His most recent writings are about putting himself in situations where he was scared shitless. (Before that he wrote about meditation, and somehow made that sound exciting.) He's thrown himself over the ledge at Mavericks for the sake of his art.
His book “The Fear Project” along with “Salt Water Buddha” have earned him a solid fan base. He has written for the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Men’s Health, ESPN Magazine and others.
He joins us for this week’s Surfersvillage Interview...
How would you describe what you do for work to a very small, inattentive child?
Write books that allow me to pretend I surf for a living.
What is that you do professionally that you are most proud of?
My wife and I have three boys (ages five, three, and one). I'm most proud of being a professional dad, especially being able to play a beach baseball game that includes all of us (the one-year-old is usually umpire). Often we avoid blood being spilled.
What are you currently working on that you’re really excited about?
We're touring the Saltwater Buddha film - a feature documentary that's based on my first book. It took so long, I'm just proud that it's finally out there and streamable (Vimeo). I'm also stoked we're using music from underground artists that deserve a lot more play - Sully and the Benevolent Folk, AJ Abberton, Silas Hite, Bird Courage, Gregory Allen Isakov, MC Yogi. I'm proud of footage of the footage we got of shredders like Holly Beck, Danny Hess, Jay Nelson, and Andy Olive. The surf footage of me is less impressive, but I write for a living. I get a pass.
I'm also just putting the finishing touches on All Our Waves Are Water, a new Harper Collins memoir that picks up where Saltwater Buddha left off. In my first two books, I felt like I was holding back a little bit. Being a parent makes you understand you truly are mortal. You need to just say what you came to say. I think I do that in this book, which spans trips to Mexico, Indo, Jerusalem, the Himalayas, and New York and profiles some of the most influential characters I've met. I've got a story about an 80-year-old nude body surfer in San Francisco, a ripping Padang surfer who taught himself to surf again after being in a coma for months, a Tibetan monk I tried to smuggle out of India and back to Tibet via America. They're all characters that taught me so much and it feels good to be able to sing their praises.
Tell us what has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from that mistake?
Oh geeze. Far too many. But the one that comes to mind is from fourth grade. I grew up with Urijah Faber, the UFC champ. We were best friends and in fourth grade we walked to school together and we were getting bullied by some older kids from a different school. After a while, we decided we would get revenge by storing up all our spit loogies for a week - and the bodily fluids of our friends - in a jar and throw this gnarly brew on the bullies. I guess the bullies got wind of this and started walking to school with their mom.
When the jar was full, we were hiding in the bushes and this huge woman yanked us out and said her kid was terrified and couldn't go to school because of us. We explained our side of the story but we felt bad. That taught me that everyone is human and has fears. And usually people who intimidate others are scared themselves. It also taught me to never try to throw a jar of spit on someone.
Share with us your biggest Rocky Balboa moment (you know, punching meat in a freezer then running up the steps of City Hall with your own special theme music blaring.)
Definitely surfing Mavericks. I'm not a Mavs surfer by a longshot, but when I was reporting The Fear Project, I forced myself to go out there and see what confronting real fear is like. I think I may have screamed Adrienne when I pushed over the ledge and didn't die. I'm glad that project is over. I'm just fine with head-high Ocean Beach.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Selling shoes?
Selling shoes sounds pretty good. Especially Indosoles (sponsor plug). Hard to say though. Back-up dancer for Beyonce sounds about right.
OK, you get to drop into five moments in history – surf or otherwise. Please name them and why.
These aren't so much moments but eras.
Axial Age. Jesus, Socrates, the Buddha, and Lao Tzu were all dropping their best wisdom.
Cretaceous Period - Life was simple then and I really want to see an Argentinasaurus.
New York in the 20s. I just want to wear a pinstripe suit earnestly.
Hawaii just before Captain Cook got there. No flies, mosquitoes or chirping frogs. Plus, uncrowded Makaha and naked surfing.
Dancing at Donald Trump's impeachment party. That's the future moment, but it can't be long now.
You can check out Jaimal’s latest work, All Our Waves Are Water, here