Joe Rogan learns to surf

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Joe Rogan is an autodidact who excels in disparate and seemingly incompatible fields, including interview podcasting, stand-up comedy, mixed martial arts, acting, business, and even UFC commentary.

His podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, is one of the most downloaded in history with guests such as Elon Musk, Jamie Foxx, Russell Brand and Jack Dorsey having joined for extended format interview sessions.

Despite an exterior hardened by disciplined physical training, Joe exudes curiosity and loving kindness. He switches effortlessly between topics ranging from neuroscience to jiu-jitsu, connecting dots and providing experts with insights they may not yet have uncovered themselves.

Perhaps most importantly, Joe is not afraid of saying that he doesn’t understand what someone means. He gives us all permission to be ok with not knowing and asking the question: why?

His insights into the meaning of life, why we’re here and where we’re going, are enlightened. Joe values evidence but is unafraid of venturing beyond the realms of science into his own perspectives, shaped unapologetically by life experience, psychedelic adventures and conversations with the world’s foremost thinkers.

When Joe says something is blowing his mind, it is worth stopping and listening. He often refers to himself as a dummy or chimp, but behind the veneer is a sharp mind that cuts through pretence like a well-fashioned samurai sword.

8 Ways to Improve Joe Rogan’s surfing

Joe has alluded to the fact that his 2019 Sober October Challenge is learning to surf. In previous podcasts, he has mentioned that he would love to surf but is terrified of sharks. He also has shoulder injuries, which will hinder progress.

Learning to surf in middle-age is difficult but not impossible. I know people who have been barrelled upon reefs in the Indian ocean after surfing only for two years.

Here is a list of things Joe can do to prepare for surfing.

1. Practice Yoga

Yoga is the perfect way to improve flexibility, strength and balance. Joe regularly practises hot yoga and this means he will have well-developed proprioception (sense of balance) and flexible joints.

This will be immensely helpful when getting into some of the more contorted and awkward postures surfing demands. Continued yoga practice will complement the steep learning curve of surfing and help Joe to recover from demanding surf sessions.

Focus on the standard Vinyasa Flow, i.e. Downward Dog to Warrior, Warrior to plank, plank to Cobra and back to Downward Dog. This simple routine encompasses many movements and positions that are beneficial to surfers.

2. Get a Balance Board

Joe Rogan has the ultimate man cave. Elon Musk has shot flamethrowers there. Beyond the video game booth, samurai swords, state of the art recording gear, and velvet curtains it appears that there is enough room for more fitness equipment.

A balance board – sometimes known by the brand name Indoboards – will be a worthwhile addition to the space. They are small and easy to stash away but force the practitioner to get used to balancing on an unstable surface.

3. Master the Fear of Sharks

Fear is a perfectly reasonable response to the potential threat of sharks in an environment. Unfortunately for surfers, these apex predators are part and parcel of the experience we love, unless you choose to surf in Kelly’s wave pool.

Getting to grips with Galeophobia (fear of sharks) will allow Joe to exponentially increase his enjoyment of the surfing experience. This requires acceptance of the fact that death by shark bite is a reality, albeit an unlikely one. Most surfers agree that the risk is worth the reward.

After Joe gets his first few waves I’m sure he will understand. I suspect he will become infatuated with surfing and will question why he spent so much time grappling men in dojos while waves peeled along shorelines so close to home.

A technique for counteracting sympathetic nervous arousal (freeze, fight, flight mode) is to breathe diaphragmatically with a focus on a long exhalation. Try 5 seconds out, pause, 3 seconds in. This slows down heart rate, rebalances Oxygen and CO2 and helps us find a state of coherence, i.e. feeling calm, focused, connected.

Avoid getting spooked by not surfing too late at night or at dawn. Also get out if birds are diving and feeding nearby.

4. Protect the Shoulders

Surfing is tough on shoulders. An average surf session is probably spent in this way: 40% paddling, 57% waiting, 3% riding waves. We spend a lot of time in an incredibly unnatural position, lying prone on the belly, rotating our arms with cupped hands so as to propel ourselves towards where the waves are breaking.

Shoulder injuries plague surfers around the planet and can be a complete show-stopper. No paddling means no surfing unless you have a Jetski, which is cheating unless the waves are at least 20 foot.

One word of advice for Joe: keep your fingers loose. Tightly cupped hands might seem like they’ll get you more leverage and momentum but they’ll also strain your shoulders.

Ensure the fingers are loose and focus on using your back muscles to power each paddle stroke. When you’re tired you’ll start paddling using shoulder strength. Be conscious about switching to the lat (Latissimus dorsi) muscles stroke-by-stroke.

Also, relax your neck occasionally by looking down when the ocean is flat in front of you. Look up regularly to check for waves and other surfers.

5. Watch Surf Movies

Surf films are the ultimate education and inspiration for surfers. Watch clips of professional surfers to understand how they approach waves, all the way from take-off to completion. Watch Go Pro footage to see what the wave looks like from first person POV.

Personally, I find watching women’s pro surfing to be the most technical masterclass in surfing performance. Steph Gilmore pretty much will show you the way.

6. Wear Sunscreen

This goes without saying but starting surfing in mid-life is risky from a sun exposure perspective. We have less growth hormone racing around our bodies and the ageing process is exacerbated after forty.

Joe, get some Surf Mud (my new favourite) or similar zinc and protect your head and face.

7. Have Fun

Joe is naturally competitive and will want to be the best surfer in his crew. Being competitive while learning to surf might not be effective. The ocean is an indifferent master and will provide you with opportunities only when you learn to identify them.

For the most part, you will be rewarded infrequently and frustration is inevitable. Surfers are often regarded as being laid back, at least out of the water. I suppose recognising our own insignificance is a major part of the surfing journey. When you see someone getting aggro in the water they more than likely are either really good and frustrated by crowds or a kook who is frustrated with him (or her) self.

Surfing teaches patience and, while inherently opportunistic, engenders gratitude. I can’t count the number of times a wave has peaked up and I’ve asked the question, “Are you real?”

Paddling back out after a wave well-ridden is perhaps one of life’s greatest experiences.

8. Surf in Kelly’s Wave Pool

For most of us, spending time at the Surf Ranch is simply not feasible due to geography and/or budget. Joe, you, however, have a direct link to the GOAT (greatest of all time). Get your golden ticket and go surf the ranch. You’ll improve super-fast and will develop confidence as you work on paddling, pop-ups and stance.

I’m not sure how pool surfers transition to the ocean, where the environmental variables are inconceivably complex. But learning the basics in a pool will undoubtedly provide a solid foundation upon which to build.

Bonus: surfing-related interviews from the Joe Rogan podcast

Joe Rogan interviews Kelly Slater

Joe Rogan interviews Shane Dorian



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