Richard "Frosty" Hesson, a living legend with a message

Publicado por Emilia Cagnoni · 05/09/2014 ·

Emilia Cagnoni // Fotos: Cortesía de 'Frosty', Patrick Hill y Surfer
In this life almost all connect with something that allows developing our strengths, abilities, gifts, skills, or simply our personality. Some people can achieve with art and others with the culture, science, the wheel, fire, snow, etc. Richard "Frosty" Hesson, connected with the water since birth.

The importance of this is to realize what element connects with you and then we have to believe in it and make it happen.

Thus Frosty Hesson followed and believed in his connector instinct which led him to become today one of the most important icons of surf history.

Frosty has a turbulent past, lost large part of his family. He was 19 years old when his mother committed suicide and his father died just six months later. His second wife, Brenda, mother of his two children, died suddenly of a stroke. After so much tragedy, his closest pupil Jay Moriarity (see movie Chasing Mavericks) dies one day before turning 23 drowning in a diving accident.

Jay Moriaritywas instructed by Frosty at 12 years old for 4 years in order to surf the waves of Mavericks. In the movie you can see the development of the story. Jay was the first surfer of 16 years old who dropped the brutal waves in Half Moon Bay.

Frosty Hesson worked with dozens of young surfers teaching them how to become not only great surfers but also great people, and this is his new book, Making Mavericks.

In this book we can learn about his experiences but also use it as a guide to principles for our lives; how we can better focus on that goal or connector element is what makes us strong to difficult situations we can face.

Richard Frosty Hesson has been surfing waters of Northern California since 1963, he was among the elite group of surfers who first began riding the colossal waves at Mavericks in Half Moon Bay in the 1980s, one of the most feared and respected big wave spots in the world.

I had the honor to meet Frosty on Zippers one of his favorite beaches in Baja California Sur, where I could chat with him.

First of all I want to thank you for the nice chat we had in Zippers and the awesome opportunity for this interview!  I know that the last place you've been was the Land Sailing World Championships in Nevada. How was it?
Landsailing was a blast. The World Championships, countries from Europe, South America, Asia, and States representing all of the US. Conditions varying from marginal (10 mph winds) to over the top (45 mph) great for all. The beach sailors (mostly Europeans and South Americans) had never gone so fast for so long. Miles and miles of wide open dry lake bed of Smith Creek, Austin, Nevada, with pylons barely visible on the horizon. Camp was a mix of language rhythms, states of organization and food. Shared lunches were anticipated with expectations of food bliss. Friendship and competitive bonds started. Non competitive rides in the early evenings to explore the vastness of the area, no rules. Some travelers stopping in Santa Cruz, Ca on their way back home.

Where do you live most of the year?
Santa Cruz is my home base and I stretch out from there. I had two cats that I need to return to and check in with. Cats, so independent you know. Baja offers so much for me to explore, and I have for years but I keep finding more. I focus mainly on Baja Sur. The mountains, deserts and beaches, mostly uncrowded if you know where to go. Culture and civilization available if required. This year I have done exploration of the Western US. I have a 4x4 van and I enjoy camping, biking both road and MTB, and hiking. So much to find, good food and great people everywhere.

Santa Cruz has a community of surfers and mountain bikers well consolidated. It is a great place where you can start the day surfing and end it up with a bike session in the awesome wood forest with sick trails. I know that you practice MTB, have you had one day of surf and bike the same day?
When I am home there is a crew of us that surf and MTB. Rides are Sunday afternoons and Thursday after work is common. Our coast is made up of rising grassland terraces into tree lined ridges. There are two sides of the ridges, scattered oak groves and the dark towering redwood forest, offering shade for me to cool off. Trails vary from unclimbable steep to rhythmic rolling speed runs with natural and man-made attractions. Often we end with a family type Picnic or BBQ.

Congratulations on the movie and the book! Both are a must. While Chasing Mavericks is the story of Jay, do you think on the possibility of a movie documenting your life can be produced? I really would like to see it on the big screen!
"Chasing Mavericks" was the story of Jay and I working together to help him grow into becoming an accomplishing human being who had learned to be respectful, caring, and compassionate. My story has so many levels and is too complex for a movie. "CM" captured the interest of families, great grandparents thru kids, providing meaningful subjects for family discussions and having enough impact that the family wanted to return to the theater the next night, very cool. I make appearances at many places, the beach, schools, and bookstores. I am always told of the impact the movie and book has had with families, so huge to me.

You've been coaching and guiding young surfers as the Paraguayan National Surf Team and Soquel High Surf Team with John Hunter, tell us a little bit what this training is about.
Self-discovery. Exposing, teaching someone to accept who they are today with the understanding changes, improvement is in their future if they chose to do the work. People need to learn they have choices and to value themselves. That we matter, and can and will have an influence upon ourselves, our families and communities. When we recognize that we matter, important, but are only a part of the larger picture then we find being humble, giving us strength in our self and family. From that discovery of strength and compassion in our self and family our communities become strong, caring, respectful and compassionate. A nice place to be.

You come from the old surf school, what radical changes you can perceive on the new generation of surfers?
As people we the sum of our experiences, knowledge and expertise. It is the same for athletes. That is dependent to a degree upon those who came before us, opening doors. The continuity of the flow of information, communication of ideas and dreams. Some people are visionaries in moving a sport forward, new elements, maneuvers, inventing or re-conceiving perceptions and or tools. Now where can things go? Athletes are now moving the bar of flexibility, strength, conditioning, nutrition, education and self-imposed limits. People are re-thinking everything as it should be, very exciting. I am looking forward to discover where the kids will move and take us. And that introduces us to traveling. In other places there are differing influences, perceptions, priorities - new thinking. A challenge and entertaining to see where others take the same stuff and tweak it a little differently.

In the 80´s when you started surfing Mavericks tow-in didn´t exist, the paddling was hard and intense. Do you think the tow-in makes it easier?
Interesting question. Tow-in gave safer access to huge waves. That opened the door for attempts at paddle-in, under the right conditions, to those same waves. A nice progression. We do not yet know people can do - maybe never will. Good by me, Dream On.

Talking about the past in your life, you've lost your parents at a very young age, but at least you could receive enough support and education you needed with 19 years old to form your personality. Does this have anything to do with the vocation for coaching?
Coaching is me, what I always wanted to do and be. It is in all that I do, my nature.

I enjoy helping people achieve their Dreams. Working with me is not easy. It is my intent to challenge you to the core of you, your Being and what you want to become. That is what you will do to me. Challenge me to become more than I am already. Nice exchange. People usually do not see or reach the fullness of the Dream they have created. It is difficult to attain by yourself.

One of your jobs now a day is the coaching of surfers not only as athletes but also as a good human being. You mention in your book the three R: Respect - Responsibility – Reasoning. In this direction I would like to talk about some issues. While credibility and self-confidence are important so is humility but many people fall into the sense of ego and there are some situations that take place like the very well known “localism”.  In some places the surfers turn difficult to get along with the non-locals. This creates a hostile and aggressive environment. Drugs are another issue. They are everywhere but considering the environment of surfing there are young or not so young who use drugs for some experiences or to escape from something that sooner or later have to be faced. What do you think about this and what would be your message?
It is easy to be a di-- and an a--hole, any place, anywhere, anytime. Does the term ugly American seem to fit. Why, why be that person? We do not own or control much in reality, certainly not the Ocean or waves. Early Hawaiian lore, our history, tells us that the Best surfer in the water is the one with the biggest smile. Everyone loves to hear about "the Duke", surfers and non-surfers alike. Why? He was a giving, caring, respectful, generous human being. Kind to All. A great example for all of us. Truly what we could attain if we stayed focused. A man with a huge heart putting others before himself, so comfortable and confident with himself he did not need an ego. He knew who he was and how he wanted to be any situation. Just himself, humble, helping others, being kind knowing the abundance that surrounds us. Sometimes you just need to look. There is a rhythm in us. When we are out of tune, rhythm, we are lost until we get back to our harmonious place. You hear this in sports all the time. A very true statement larger in scope than understood. We just need to be in our rhythm, especially when things around us are out of tune or rhythm. Then things flow. He had rhythm both in and out of the water. He was connected to himself, in tune.

Women are increasingly showing more bravery and commitment against strong and difficult challenges that only men could face before. Dr.Sarah Gerhardt was the first woman in 1999 who surfed Mavericks. Have you ever coached or would you coach a woman for these situations?
Competent, respectful, people rock. They are fun to hang with and play. That statement is not exclusive, but inclusive, including women. Women bring a different interpretation to life and surfing. They have style and grace that guys do not have. Most women are not as strong compared to a guy. They could not overpower waves so they had to learn technic to be successful. Waves are to be enjoyed, observed and maybe surfed, especially huge waves. Trying to find that blending of All of the ocean energy and a surfing line that expresses the dance of surfing.

I was with Dr. Sarah Gerhardt and her husband Mike the first day they were at Mav's. Mike surfed and Dr. G watched with an analytical eye. I told Bob Pearson later that day I believed I had met the first women who would surf Mav's.
I have worked with a number of women. Some large wave surfers. Over the last several years because of Zeuf's illness I have not actively worked with anyone. I wanted to spent time with Z while she was still here. Now is a different time.

What advice can you give to those who are learning to surf and suddenly comes a set of big waves and panic appears.
Always observe conditions before entering the water, always, regardless of size. Know what is happening with tides, crowds, swell and have an exit plan with a backup in place. Know your comfort level. Have a plan and follow the plan. The ocean is wild and unpredictable to those who do not observe the patterns. A very real adventure that could turn into a most unpleasant experience very quickly. There are safe areas, sometimes temporary, in the water, learn those places and go there when you are not comfortable, regroup. Remember it is so nice to be able to come back and play again tomorrow. Plan well.

What was the size of the biggest wave have you surfed?
I have two 45 ft. waves on my ledger. Having these under my belt gives me a reference point for what these guys are doing in the 50 to 60 ft. range, unbelievable. Dancing on the edge of all that energy. It alters you. At least for me, my being was changed for a period of time, Enhanced. And then to think Mav's has had two 100 ft. waves come thru. That potential is out there in the world. Makes one wonder.

What are the sizes of the surfboards that you use?
Over my career I have learned the value of learning to ride, and have, multiple wave riding and water craft. I have kayaks, paddle boards (prone and stand up) body boards, surf mats and ever so many surfboards, longboards, logs and performance, short board quads ranging into big waves tools. It is hard for me to travel and have only so few boards, just three or four. Traveling with boards is inconvenient and expensive. And what really sucks is knowing that at home you do have that perfect board for "That Wave and Day". A nice challenge to make it work anyway, oh yeah.

The next trip you'll do will be in Europe next September. Tell us what countries you are going to be surfing and visiting?
I was going to southern France and northern Spain for the fall. But, I feel now is the time to be writing another book. This will be about "Zeuf, Cancer and Me, our relationship". Zeuf passed last Dec. She had a most notable life and journey, touched so many people in her shortened time. She was a caregiver and inspired folks. Together we reached and touch many. There are choices and decisions we made to become stronger as a couple, to bring us closer together during these challenging times. I have been encouraged to share some of this. So I will travel at another time. Many places, people, food and wine to discover, or so I have been told.

To purchase the book go to:

Lea la entrevista en español / Read the interview in Spanish

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