Koa Smith has a certain way of putting things. Forest bathing isn’t just a walk through the woods. “It’s a car wash for your body, mind and spirit.” Drinking coffee isn’t just ingesting caffeine. “It's like I'm turning on my energy faucet full-blast. My energy's just pouring out.”
The globe-trotting pro surfer and accomplished big-wave waterman from Kauai isn’t your typical one-track-mind athlete. He is thoughtful. Deliberate. He’s in tune with himself—and nature—in a way that’s surprisingly rare amongst pro surfers.
So how does a guy like him keep his “car,” as he puts it, running smoothly when he’s busy scoring record-breaking 27-second-long tubes in Namibia and blowing minds at the Banzai Pipeline? A fluid routine with plenty of grounding pre-surf rituals.
Koa’s mindful approach to well-being has, at times, also included the careful use of psychedelics, which he turned to for healing after suffering a traumatic brain injury. That journey is the focus of a new documentary by MUD\FILMS called Resurfacing: Koa Smith, which you can watch at the bottom of this article.
Trends w/ Benefits caught up with Koa in anticipation of the film’s release to hear about the daily habits that keep his mind and body strong.
“I would say my favorite routine right now is waking up and not looking at my phone. I’m very sensitive in the morning, so I like to build a little bit of strength in the morning before I let things, or other people's opinions or news, affect how I am doing. With all the surfing I do, and specifically surfing big waves, I’ve realized that I need to be as clear and strong mentally and physically as I can be, or else I'm putting myself in dangerous situations. That [thinking] led to [realizing] if I eat better, and organic, and just cleaner, then I tap into a whole new level. If I take krill oil, and I minimize my coffee and alcohol intake, I start discovering all these little things that end up making a big difference in my life.”
“I like to meditate. I've been on a 10-day-in-a-row meditation run and … I've already noticed that I'm more in control of my thoughts and my emotions. I'm also able to realize throughout my day when my mind is going crazy, or if I'm thinking about the future, or the past, or I'm worrying or tripping out about something too much. I've noticed that, because I've been meditating, I can realize that I'm having those thoughts and then reset, and be like, ‘OK, I just need to focus on my breath and what's happening around me.’ That has been extremely powerful for me.”
“My family and I are really into the Wim Hof breathing method. That's actually another form of intense meditation, whether you have a busy mind or not. You just force yourself into this wild space.”
Hot and Cold
“Also, the ice bath and the sauna—we do that probably five times a week. That whole experience is just crazy. Fifteen minutes in the sauna, then three to five minutes—or as long as you feel Zen—in the ice bath. Doing two to four rounds of that is pretty psychedelic in itself.”
Less Blue Light
“I’ve been minimizing blue light after sunset. I have these Philips lights in my house that turn red. I'm naturally a really good sleeper. I go so hard during the day that I normally sleep right as my head hits the pillow, at 9:00 or 9:30. But I have noticed that if I'm on my computer and I have all the lights on, all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Shit, it's 10:30 and I'm barely tired. Uh-oh …’ And then I sit in my bed and think for a long time. The next thing you know, it's midnight. Blue light will do that to you.”
“I surf a lot. I've found that if I surf too much without balancing that with fitness—whether that's Pilates, yoga or just functional weight-training—then I find that surfing will tend to beat the shit out of me. You're so off balance and tight, and you just have so many little weird issues. But I found that if I focus on balancing the surfing with training as well, then no matter what I’ll feel optimal. So, some type of stretching or training is definitely part of my morning.”
“I think of my energy as like a faucet. And I notice when I drink a lot of coffee, it's like I'm turning on my energy faucet full-blast. My energy's just pouring out. But it pours out whether you like it or not, until you're exhausted. Drinking MUD\WTR, though, it’s like you have control of your tap and you can have energy if you want it, or you can be Zen if you want. I love drinking :rest, which is before you go to sleep. And then :rise in the morning. It's got a fraction of the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, but is so much better for you.”
“One other of my favorite little hacks is just a forest walk. If my mind is feeling out of control, and I'm feeling low energy and I need to think about something, I just go into the forest and walk and process everything. I feel like it's a car wash for your body, mind and spirit. You go in there and you're just tripping out. By the time you leave the forest, you're so light and clear. I really love that.”
Watch "Resurfacing: Koa Smith"
When a devastating accident leaves pro surfer Koa Smith with a traumatic brain injury and depression, he searches for answers where ancient rituals meet modern science. Brought to you by MUD\FILMS.
Read more: The Paradox of Busy