Note: Flying over to the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship last October, I wrote this post about my recent experience with Scott Rigsby and his unthinkable venture into high surf on Memorial Day. Whatever “high surf” you currently find yourself in, I hope you’re encouraged to persevere through whatever stormy seas you’re in. If you think you can’t persevere, with God’s strength, think again…In the video below, watch Scott exit the water after his two and a half mile swim at the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship. Read the story. Watch the video. Not every race counts!
Last Memorial Day weekend, Scott Rigsby was in town to speak at North Coast Church in Oceanside. He was also planning on swimming in the 25th Annual Oceanside Pier Mile Swim in preparation for the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Scott was prepared to swim. What no one was prepared for was big surf.
Scott was swimming and I was his “handler.” A more accurate definition would be “gear holder” or “junk holder” or “leg holder” like a soccer mom who holds all their kids stuff while junior chases that little ball around. If you’ve ever met Scott, you know he travels with suitcases the size of shipping containers. Have you ever traveled with three sets of legs?
Scott is an unthinkably courageous friend who swims, bikes, runs and speaks for a living. That makes him a “quadathlete.” Especially when he has to navigate through the TSA lines at the airport. No, these are not missiles. They are my legs.
Anyhow, Scott and I stood on the beach next to the Oceanside pier. We were checking out the surf and it was big. On the drive down from our home in San Clemente, I told him a big swell from New Zealand had come in. It was a powerful, long period swell that tested the best of watermen. I didn’t mention the fifteen foot waves that were cresting the tops of piers up and down the Southern California coast.
As hundreds of swimmers milled around getting ready for the race, I gave Scott a few tips about swimming out in big surf. He’d swam in plenty of warm water/cold water triathlons before, but it’s a wee bit different getting through the lineup with ten foot sets pile-driving you to the ocean floor.
The start sounded and Scott tore into the water with dozens of other swimmers. Unfortunately, this wave of swimmers got hit with an incoming set. Wave after wave came crashing in. The surfline was at least a quarter mile and it took the pack at least ten minutes to get past it. Many swimmers were caught inside, getting thrashed and MayTag’ed in the full rinse cycle of God’s washing machine. Including Mr. Rigsby. (The picture doesn’t do the size of surf justice…think BIG!)
I grew up swimming at the beach and most ocean swimmers instinctively know this: Right before that wall of whitewater hits you, you duck dive to the ocean floor and spring off the bottom back to the surface. That’s good and fine with your two legs.
Well, what happens when you don’t have two legs to leverage off the bottom? This was Scott’s dilemma as wave after wave came crashing down on his head. Like a cork bopping in the ocean, Scott couldn’t low enough to get under the whitewater. That New Zealand swell just kept slamming and clobbering him like a Maori MMA fighter.
As I stood on the beach, I tried to yell at Scott to just keep going, but every wave that hit him just twisted and spun him around. No Dory-inspired Finding Nemo “Just keep swimming…just keep swimming” motivational speeches were going to help. The surf was relentless. One wave after another dumped on Scott’s head. He got out about seventy-five yards and that was it.
On the way home we stopped for giant egg burritos at Pipes Café. Scott was in a surprisingly good mood. I was more bummed and disappointed for him than he was himself. I was thinking, “Geez, if that were me and I was training for Kona, I’d really want that mile swim.”
After having a couple dozen salt-water anvils push the Pacific Ocean down his throat, Scott’s attitude was like, “Oh well…” He tried his best and that was the best he could do. Pass the salsa please.
You see, whether you have two legs or not, surf setbacks, obstacles, problems, difficulties and challenges are all a matter of perspective. The old line ‘Life is two percent what happens to you and 98 percent how you respond to it.” Scott couldn’t control the surf or the currents, but he could control his attitude. His perspective. His outlook on life. You and I have the same choice. It’s what separates the champions from the chameleons. Adversity will always reveal our true colors. The Bible says not “if” the day of trouble comes, but “when” the day of trouble comes. Big surf will come. That’s a promise.
How we respond to adversity makes all the difference in the world. Scott has lived through years of unthinkable adversity and he just keeps swimming. I love how he lives what he tells everyone else: Today’s unthinkables are tomorrow’s realities.
Big surf. Oh well. Lord, thank you for this massive egg burrito.
Pass the salsa please.
Six weeks later, Scott Rigsby crossed the finish line for the second time at the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship. One bad swim didn’t set him back…a lesson for all of us.
Questions: What unthinkable challenge are you facing right now? Where do you need to persevere? How can trusting God AND persevering make all the difference in the world?
Read Unthinkable: The Scott Rigsby Story available on Amazon. You will laugh, cry and be inspired by his remarkable or should we say, unthinkable story!