Orange Mud podcast – featuring my ocean row last year in June 2016

So happy and humble to have participated in this podcast, featuring my ocean row from California to Hawaii, among other things.

Listen to Episode 20: Cyril Derreumaux, a Guiness World Record holder, endurance paddler, motivator, and overall wild man! from Orange Mud Adventure Channel in Podcasts.

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/orange-mud-adventure-channel/id1206428899?mt=2&i=1000389233352

Google play: https://play.google.com/music/listen?u=0#/ps/Iamxcdhixiadqrcdoehpnmbclpi

On the Orange Mud website: https://www.orangemud.com/pages/episode-20-cyril-derreumaux-a-guiness-world-record-holder-endurance-paddler-motivator-and-overall-wild-man

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Orange Mud Adventure Channel

Episode 20: Cyril Derreumaux, a Guiness World Record holder, endurance paddler, motivator, and overall wild man!

Released: Jun 27, 2017

The man who believes and proves there are no limits!

In this episode we dig into the passion and focus of Cyril Derreumaux, a Guiness World Record holder for endurance paddling. Last year he and his team set the record for the shortest time to paddle from California to Hawaii. They paddled in teams of 2 for 1 1/2 hours on, 1 1/2 hours off, for over 40 days. It’s an amazing accomplishment and his energy is simply infectious!

“On the values of embracing discomfort”

When I was preparing for the Ocean Row, I really was thinking on how to get best prepared, and that included being prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally. That entailed a lot of parameters. So many it is overwhelming. Where do I start? Who do I ask? What questions do I even have to ask?

I knew I had to be ok being tired, being salty wet, being hungry, being hurt, being in a confined environment, being exhausted, being frustrated, being injured maybe, being helpless, being…. All these are not comfortable, I think you would agree. They have physical, mental and emotional triggers. To get prepared for the row, I had to find a way to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Getting comfortable with discomfort was vital to the success of this expedition. To get there, I had to ask myself many question: What does it mean to be uncomfortable? What does it mean to be comfortable? Why are we as humans searching for comfort? What do we consider comfortable, and is it good or is it bad?

I believe there are good things in being comfortable. But I also believe there are good things in being uncomfortable. I think our perception of both feelings has a lot must do with our immediate environment, our own perspective on things and how we can trick our mind as we try to classify on things being one or the other.

For instance, when you work on something you are passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work, right? What some people could consider uncomfortable, you don’t see it as such, for some reason. At the same time, it still takes you effort, and patience, and determination, and drive. It’s not easy so I guess it must be uncomfortable in some ways. But it is still comfortable in other ways because your mind knows why you do it. So, I guess that’s it, it’s all a question of what happens in our mind when we do something, and if it makes sense for us or not, according to our own parameters and judgment. Making the uncomfortable comfortable…

Let’s not think about a crazy endeavor for a moment, let’s just take a random daily activity: vacuuming the house. You could approach it in a few diverse ways: 1. Do it with a negative energy: You do not want to do it and it’s a hassle. You’re dragging your feet to do it. (that was me when I had to do my chores as a kid…) 2. Do it with a neutral energy: you do it because it has to be done. It doesn’t bring nor pain nor pleasure. 3. Do it with a positive energy: It’s still not pleasurable, but your trick your mind in such a way that the experience becomes positive. For instance, you focus your thoughts on how you will feel when you’ll be done. Or how someone you love will feel once the house is clean. You can see that, for both 1. and 2., you will gain the comfort of having a clean house, but you will struggle for it. For 3., you will gain comfort, but you will like the process. Making the uncomfortable comfortable…

But then I started to think that instead of just trying to make the uncomfortable comfortable, I just had to start embracing discomfort as a whole.

When I am competing in a canoe race. It is long, it is hard, I push myself and I push the team, I breathe hard and I pant, I clinch my teeth and I grind, I push and I push, I resist and I struggle, I thrive and I go, I push but I fail, I come back and I breathe through it, I push and do it, I cheer and I hope, I push and I push. And I finally make it. Happy. It was not comfortable in some ways. It was effort. But it was pleasurable. And the result is pleasurable because I surpassed my pains and my discomforts so I feel good about myself. And it was pleasurable because I shared the experience with a team and we felt united in the effort. And I’ll do it again because the overall reward is awesome. Embracing discomfort…

Let’s take another look at the power of mental perspective. When you are running in the sun, it is comfortable because the sun rays are warm. We think it is positive energy and it’s easy to do. When you are running in the rain and it’s cold outside, it is uncomfortable because the signals in our body tells us it is. But I have found that I actually feel more energized after a run in the cold rather than in the hot. Cold temperatures trigger something in my cells that feels so good. Once I’m back home after that cold rainy run, I feel so pumped. Kinda like when you swim in that cold ocean. Don’t you feel like superman when you walk toward your towel?  I guess it’s a question of perspective, and how one is able to trick his own mind. What if we consider hot and cold as energy rather than comfort and discomfort. Hot is energy. Cold is energy. When I run in the hot I feel energized. When I run in the cold I will feel energized. Maybe not at the beginning for sure, but we have to be strong in our mind to know that the end result is what matters. We have to sacrifice the harshness of the moment for the result. Do something we don’t want to do to feel like we want to feel, or go where we want to go. Embracing discomfort…

The problem is that we get used to comfort. And there are many types of comfort. It depends on our standards, wherever we are in life: in our personal history, in our education, in our culture…. In poor countries, washing yourself from a bucket of clear water is much better than a cold bath in a muddy river, so that’s comfort to them. For me, a warm shower with potable water is a standard and I sometime forget that it is a comfort. I feel so thankful to be reminded of this. When I did my trip around the world, I could see that my standards growing up in France were not shared with 80% of the world’s population. I felt thankful for that and it made me appreciate how lucky I was. When I did my ocean row and didn’t shower for 40 days, I felt thankful for the hot shower I took back on land, which I had taken for granted before. I like to put myself in hard conditions, just as a reminder that I have to be thankful for what I have. And how lucky I am. Embracing discomfort…

It’s in the nature of the human being to be constantly looking for comfort. I guess it is in our roots and back in the early ages of mankind, it was more comfortable to live in a safe cave, away from rough climate and danger, rather than in the wild outside where life is miserable and a lion could eat you up.  Searching for comfort is good, but until what point? Here is what I believe: I think that too much comfort will lead to weakness and to laziness. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to feel weak and lazy, I like to feel strong. And to be strong you have to embrace discomfort. That’s probably why the army creates toughness in soldiers by training them to be accustomed and even embrace discomfort. Training hard to be hard. Personally, I really feel the “need” to embrace discomfort every once in a while, to oblige myself to do things “I don’t feel like doing”, in order to wake myself up from the lethargic state that life in my comfort zone could put me in. Nothing better that signing up for a race or a challenge that I feel I can’t do, and that will make it mandatory for me to bring up my game. Embracing discomfort…

Now how far should this idea of embracing discomfort go? We still have the chance of living in a developed society and there are some advantages to that. It’s ok to use a washing machine instead of washing your cloth by hands. It’s ok to use a car instead of riding a bike. But I think using the drive-in instead of walking to the bank is ridiculous. I think using your car instead of walking 10 minutes is silly. And I do it myself. I’m lazy to cook my food so I go out to eat, or I even order food to be delivered to me…. And if I do it, my kids will see it. I can’t stand the thought that I am teaching that to them. Am I teaching them to be lazy? Noooo! From being comfortable, we are going to easiness, and then crossing that subtle line to laziness. Too much comfort brings numbness, physical and mental numbness. And again, I admit that I might be guilty of crossing that line myself of course. But as a father, I have to make sure the education I give my kids, and the example I give them, helps them understand that there is satisfaction to be found in effort, and occasional discomfort. But how do I teach my kids not to be lazy. How do I teach them resilience? How did my parents do? Since I find so much reward combatting my own laziness, with the feeling that I am back in control of my own fate, I need to give this to my kids as well. Leading by example, that’s the way, so I have to be tough on myself. Embracing discomfort…

I better stop or I would start to be too philosophical about this whole idea…. To conclude this blog post, let’s read a few quotes from much smarter and experience people than me…:

  • “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Discomfort is very much part of my master plan” – Jonathan Lethem
  • “I feel like every five to seven years I really need to put myself in this position of discomfort and exploration, just to survive. Otherwise I feel like I’m falling asleep, like I’ll go crazy if I don’t do it” – Karen O
  • “Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort” – Peter McWilliams
  • “Buddhist practices offer a way of saying, ‘Hey, come back over here, reconnect.’ The only way that you’ll actually wake up and have some freedom is if you have the capacity and courage to stay with the vulnerability and the discomfort” – Tara Brach
  • “Sometimes, discomfort is very uncomfortable. Anybody can get occasionally tired of it, and then it can change fast, where it’s comfort that disturbs you” – Jim Harrison

Essay on the so-called Mental “Strength”

“You don’t need to be a rower to row an ocean. It’s all about mental strength”, so they said.

After having rowed from California to Hawaii, I guess I must have it, that thing called “mental strength”. But what’s funny is that I would not call it “Strength”. I would call it many other words: Mental flexibility, mental malleability, mental adaptability, mental understanding, mental “trick-eability”, mental “discipline”, etc.

I feel like “mental” isn’t that much about “strength”, which would call for a muscle and physical solution to issues encountered. I think “mental” calls for more of an “intelligent” solution, originating from our brain. I feel like reaching Hawaii was more about winning 1,000 small mental battles. It was more about control, patience, consistency, perseverance, resilience, which are more “cerebral” qualities.

Here are a few tricks that will make you mentally “performant” when you need it:

  1. Be balanced in all compartments of your life: be balance in your work, relationship, love, family. Surround yourself with strength and support. You can’t perform at your best if you start unbalanced.
  2. Train your mind. Look straight at your own weaknesses, and anticipate your answers to them. For instance, I didn’t know how I would react in the confined, hot and humid environment of our cabin, with low oxygen and no possibility to open the hatches. Would I be ok or freak out? I decided to train for it. I started meditation to quiet my mind in stressed time. I started to stay longer and longer in the sauna and push my time limits and heat resistance. Be creative: how about staying in the trunk of your car, longer and longer time. No matter what you think you will face, find ways to train your mind for it, pushing that threshold again.
  3. Train yourself to suffer better: yes, you can train yourself to suffer better. It’s all a question of threshold. Everyone suffers, what you must do is suffer better. Better than your competitor. Better than yourself a few years ago, better than a few weeks ago, better than a few days ago, better than a few hours ago. Train for being able to sustain your suffering to another level. “The sweat you put in your training will save you from the blood in the race”.
  4. Train hard so you don’t weaken your mind at any point: Make sure you arrive at your event with your maximum potential. Nobody likes to arrive unprepared at a meeting. Train as hard as you can, according to your own personal potential. You don’t want to ever think: “I wish I had trained more”. Knowing you could’ve done better would weaken your mental.
  5. Practice self-awareness. At all times, be aware of your body, your feelings, your emotions, your actions and reactions. These are clues you have to follow. Use them to anticipate your immediate and future needs. Be 100% one with your body. See when you’re having a tough time. See when you’re having a good time. Give yourself a break. Reward yourself. Feel yourself, attend yourself, and treat yourself.
  6. Practice patience to the extreme, “before”, so that you are ready “during”. Be philosophical about being patient. Imagine yourself being the quietest monk or zen master. Accept whatever comes at you without reacting or even thinking. Stay in control mentally. Be physically stressed maybe, but be mentally peaceful and in control.
  7. Focus on the now. Don’t let your mind drift and think too much. Just be in the moment, be in the now. Do what you do, now. If you are rowing, focus on your form and the excellence of your technique. If you are walking, just walk and focus on putting one foot in front of the other, in your best energy saving pattern and the best balance. Practice awareness of your actions, to the max.
  8. Trick your mind: See the issue from a different point of view. If it rains, trick you mind in loving the rain. If it shines, trick your mind in thinking you need the sun rays. No matter what happens, trick your mind in thinking that it was exactly what you needed.
  9. Remember that time passes, and whatever you face will not last. Every suffering or pain has an end. Even if it’s hard, it will not last. Focus on how you will feel looking back, once you’re done with the suffering. You’ve done this before and you’ll do it again.
  10. Find your real motivations: when times are tough and you question your own reasons for doing “it”, through suffering and pain, remind yourself the “why” that took you there in the first place. Remember that what took you there can take you out of there.
  11. Do you best, no matter what. Even if you are tired and underperforming, doing your best is always the right choice. If you are slow, it doesn’t matter if you do your best. You can never regret any action if you always tried your best.
  12. Laugh about it. Humor is my best tool against any adversity. On the ocean row, I hated to be wet during my shift and have to go back in the cabin wet with salty water. One day I had a shift on the oars for 2 hours and I was super dry at all times,… just to receive a big rogue side wave just as I was changing team. Arghhh. I just laughed about it and it became “the” joke between Thiago and I, on how the ocean would play tricks on me.
  13. Focus on smaller, intermediary goals. Rowing 40 days is hard. At first you focus on reaching the first half of the distance. When it gets tough, you focus on finishing that week. Then focus on finishing that day. Then that first half-day. Then that next shift. Focus on smaller targets, and keep going once you reach them.
  14. Be grateful: I remembered during the row that I had chosen to do this. I can’t really complain as I actually searched for that situation! How about those who suffer and didn’t chose it? They must be even tougher, they have no choice.
  15. Remember other battles you have won: Pick moments in your life when you have struggled and how you overcame those struggles, and how they made you stronger. Could be a divorce, the loss of a loved one, losing the company you started, a friend batting an illness, etc. Find comfort in remembering that this fight is smaller that these other battles.
  16. Find a higher purpose: Do it for others that are following you and getting inspired by you. Do it in remembrance of your lost ones. Do it as an example to follow, for your kids. Do it for a higher purpose, which ever it is.
  17. Do it for the team: Be altruistic. Go the extra mile for your team. Look at your teammates that are sharing your adventure and be there for them. Find energy in feeling how you impact them and make them feel , seeing them being touched by your positive actions. But,… remember that sometimes working for the team will mean focusing on yourself first. Just like they say in the security videos in airplanes: “wear the oxygen mask on yourself first, then help the kid next to you”. If you allow yourself to be weak, you will under-perform, then you are a detriment the team and you are not helping. Focus on yourself, get better, then focus on the team again.
  18. Pick your fights: Ask yourself: “Can I control this?”. If you can’t, change your focus right away. For example, the bad weather, the cold and stormy conditions on the boat. There is no need to be angry or fuss about the weather or the size of the waves. They are not changing for you no matter what you say or think. Instead, focus on parameters that you can control, like being well dressed against the grain. Like being ready to be wet and welcoming it! Like laughing about it…
  19. Be realistic. Something bad or tough is going to happen. You don’t know when, but it will. Don’t let fear or anticipation paralyze you. Be ready for any event and you will just have to deal with it when it arrives. Not before. Not after. Once it’s dealt with, just leave it behind and move on.
  20. You’ll never be 100% ready. Just know you’ll have to adapt and modify your plan. Even with the best preparation, you will have to adapt. And again this time, you will be successful, because adapting is your biggest strength.
  21. Be proud. Be stubborn. Decide soon what lines you will not cross easily. For instance, I decided very soon that I wouldn’t allow myself to lose one shift of rowing. It doesn’t matter if I were tired, hungry, not ready, not willing, not happy, struggling, hurt or injured, etc…. I would keep going. Just be proud to never give up.
  22. Raise to the occasion: remember that you are one that loves challenges and you over-perform when challenged. Raise yourself to the occasion. Just do it.

All this being said… It’s not because you know all these tricks that it’s not gonna be hard. You are going to hurt. Everyone hurts. You are going to be miserable. You’re going to face challenges. Because it’s the nature of being human and life itself. When you do, use those tools above. Over and over again. And you’ll be just fine.

Unreasonable

One amazing trait of us humans is that we are probably the only animal on earth that takes endeavors that have no “real” useful purpose. We run marathons, we climb mountains, we swim across lakes, we bike continents, we cross oceans.

I happen to have done the later, this last summer of 2016. For a grueling 39 days, 9 hours and 56 minutes, I rowed in an ocean boat, in a team of 4 men, each from a different nationality, from Monterey, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, as part of the Great Pacific Race.

Why would anyone want to do this? Why would you risk your life when you have no reasons to do so? Why would you spend so much money and time for this adventure that will not bring you anything tangible? Why would you risk your life when you have the responsibility to care for a family, kids, and loved ones? When you have a good job and a comfortable house and a cozy life?

Why would you row for up to 12 hours a day, on 90-minute shifts, 24 hours a day, all day, all night, day-in and day-out, for a month and a half, in the heat of the sun and the cold of the night, forcing yourself to ingest up to 8,000 calories a day but still losing 20 pounds when you get there, risking storms and hurricanes, avoiding at all cost collisions with the numerous container ships, eating cold rehydrated freeze dried foods that become tasteless, drinking bland desalinized water from a machine that could break down at any time, sleeping in a damp sleeping bag in a tiny cabin where you can only sit down, overcoming seasickness and fighting fevers, pooping in a bucket and using only baby-wipes to wash yourself, hurting every muscle and joint and nerve of your body, making your mind go crazy and hallucinate out of sleep deprivation and effort, when…. You can just fly there in a mere 5-hour flight?

As human, we like to search for answers, to measure ourselves to nature, to push our own limits, to challenge our routines and look for something “better”. Of course, not everyone is made for those extreme endeavors, I didn’t think I was a few years back, but each one of us, at our own level I believe, has an inner call for this kind of life experience that could be judge by some to be “senseless”, “irrational”, or “unreasonable”.

We seem to do it just for the sake of it. For the experience. For the thrill of it. For feeling alive. For reasons we might not even know ourselves.

I can’t start to enumerate to you what I have learned from my ocean rowing experience, and how I felt when I finally made it to shore in Hawaii, welcomed by my loved ones, with a Guinness World record to hang at the wall. What I can tell you is that now I am different in a way that I can’t really describe. Better? I don’t know. I do enjoy the simple pleasures of life such as a soft pillow, a warm shower, a hot dish or a cold ice cream, a fresh fruit, a soft kiss or a loving hug from tiny arms.

Did I really need to be so unreasonable to learn all this? Maybe not. Maybe I did. Maybe you don’t, maybe you do?

My advice to you, should you wish to take it, is that no matter what type of endeavor you decide to pursue, one thing remains true which is that we just have one life, and I believe it is worth living to the fullest, even if it at times, it means being a little bit….. unreasonable.

Letter to my beautiful kids

This is a letter that I wrote to my kids, several years ago, June 23, 2012 to be exact, just before going to the Yukon River Quest, a 444-mile canoe race — www.yukonriverquest.com. I am posting it here today.

Dear Oliver and Simon,

You have seen me going training countless hours in the past 6 months, you have seen me lost in dreams and thoughts and questions over this race, you have heard me tirelessly speaking about it, and you have seen me prepare my luggage today.

With this letter, maybe in a few years once you will have grown a bit more, you will be able to read the main reasons why I decided to do this challenge, what it means to me, and what in the process I’d like you to humbly learn from me.

The “Such A Blast” feeling: At the end of my first Molokai Hoe race (42 miles, Outrigger Canoe 6 men, 6 hours), I felt what I now call “The Such A Blast” feeling. When you reach your limits, after having trained hard and given your best, being exhausted by the physical and mental effort, emotions certainly are overwhelming. After crossing this finish line October 10th, 2010, tears of pure joy fell from my eyes as uncontrollable emotions invaded my whole body. I felt immensely happy, and I realized that emotions like that makes life so beautiful. That day, I promised myself to seek this feeling again, and again, and again. After having trained for 6 months now, I am SURE this “Such A Blast” feeling is waiting for me after these 55 hours, in Dawson, Yukon Territories, Canada. I can’t wait.

Converting a vision into reality: I have always considered myself a dreamer, always listening to the craziness (and limitless) of my heart’s dreams. Travel around the world, live in various countries, etc. “Follow your heart!” have I always told myself. But remember being a dreamer is not enough if you do not convert your dreams into reality. It is important to be a doer as well. Once you make it happen, that’s when the dream takes all its dimension and you feel this powerful feeling that makes you want to go even further.

Doing your best to reach a goal: If you give yourself high challenges, you will find that “good” is not good enough. You have to give your best. No goal is too high for you. The higher the goal, the more you have to bring up your game for it. You will be surprised by your own capabilities. Aim high, do your best, never quit, you’ll get there.

Believing in yourself and breaking the barriers: Once you have set your mind on a project, there will be plenty of reasons to change your mind and NOT do it. Sometimes the reasons might be coming from yourself, sometimes these might come from others. Don’t listen to the people that don’t believe in your dreams and tell you it’s not reasonable. That’s because it bothers them for you to be limitless while they are not. Believe in your own capacities, believe in your purpose, believe in yourself, and break any barriers that come in front of you.

Life is an adventure: For me this statement is SO true and we must never forget it. We are so lucky to be Alive. Life itself is an adventure and we tend to forget it, being caught on our daily routine. Each moment of life should be an adventure and let’s look at life like that each day: let’s be optimistic, daring, challenging. It is your decision to make your life an adventure, nobody else’s.

Step outside of your comfort zone: “Life waits for us outside our comfort zone”. I don’t remember who said that quote but it speaks to me. The more you go off the beaten path, the more you will find rewarding feelings. Saying where you are and playing what you know how to play won’t bring you happiness. The more you step outside your comfort zone, the more you will feel Alive. This challenge sure will take me outside of my limits!

First time of unknown challenges: it does not matter the size of the challenge you chose to take. What matters is that you take them. The first time I did a 40-minute race, that was a challenge. The first time I did a 6-hour race, that was a huge challenge. The first time I did a 9-hour paddle, that was another challenge. Now I’m going for this 50+ hours race, that sure is a challenge. Who knows what will be coming next? What is sweet is to push your boundaries and reach for new challenges each time, no matter what the challenge is. If it is a challenge for you at this time in your life, it is worth taking.

Just one life, live it now: I feel like I am kind of repeating myself, but how louder could I be? Enjoy the moment, enjoy the people you meet, enjoy the simple things, enjoy the luck you have to be alive and harvest this life of yours!! You have just one life and you must live it 100%. This race is about 1 week in my life. It is not much compared to my 35 years of existence. But this week, shared with great friends, is representative of the intend I have to “embrace life”! I intend to live life at full and I wish you to do the same.

Meeting The Being, feeling the Oneness: One more big reason to do this race. Some call it God, some call it differently. After reading Eckhart Tolle’s books, I like to call it the Being. I like Eywa too. I wish that during and after this experience I will have a greater sense of the oneness of this world and my position in it. Is it linked to the “Such A Blast” feeling? By reaching my inner limits and being closer to raw emotions, by being immerged into Nature, by being surrounded by people I love, I am going into a condition where I am more sensitive and sensible to the existence of the Being. I truly hope I will feel it and I look forward to that.

To my kids, to my family and friends, and as my friend Matt asked me earlier this year, I am asking you today: “What would YOU do if you just had one year left to live?”

Yours in Adventure,
Cyril — www.CDXpro.com

Podcast “The Paddler’s Pulse” featuring my ocean row adventure

So happy and humble to have participated in this podcast, featuring my passion for paddling and my ocean row from California to Hawaii, among other things. Great conversation with the fabulous Greggy of Cali Paddler.

Listen to this one and subscribe to all their other podcasts by following these links below:

iTunes: http://thepaddlerspulse.libsyn.com/rss