The Surf Strong Show

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Emily Hightower discusses her love for outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, bow hunting, and kayaking. She explains the concept of skinning in skiing and the unique experience of being in nature.

Greg and Emily also discuss the power of water and the importance of being present and connected to the environment. They touch on the challenges of attachment to outcomes and the need to focus on the process rather than the result.

Emily shares practical tips for staying present and detached from outcomes, including visualization and down-regulating the nervous system. In this conversation, Emily Hightower and Greg Finch discuss the importance of regulating the nervous system and the role of breath and movement in managing stress and trauma. They emphasize the need to shift our perspective on stress and view it as an evolutionary tool rather than something to be avoided. They also highlight the power of reconnecting with nature and engaging in activities like surfing to improve overall well-being.

Emily and Greg share their experiences working with first responders and military personnel and how these individuals can benefit from breath work and movement practices. They also introduce their company, Shift, which focuses on helping individuals understand and interact with their stress physiology to optimize healing and performance.


  • Outdoor activities like skiing, hiking, and kayaking can be powerful anchors for mental health and well-being.
  • Being present in nature and connected to the environment can provide a sense of joy and fulfillment.
    Attachment to outcomes can hinder performance and learning, while focusing on the process can lead to greater growth and satisfaction.
  • Practical techniques like visualization and down-regulating the nervous system can help cultivate presence and detachment from outcomes. Regulating the nervous system is crucial for managing stress and trauma.
  • Breath and movement practices can help downregulate the nervous system and improve overall well-being.
  • Engaging with nature and activities like surfing can have a profound impact on mental and physical health.
  • First responders and military personnel can benefit from breathwork and movement practices to manage stress and trauma.
  • Shift is a company that focuses on helping individuals understand and interact with their stress physiology to optimize healing and performance.

Full Transcript

Greg Finch (00:00.618)
Emily, thank you so much for being on the Surf Strong Show. I really appreciate you taking the time to be here today. Yeah. So where are you right now? Where are you recording from?

Emily Hightower (00:05.176)
Thank you for having me.

Emily Hightower (00:09.784)
I live in Carbondale, Colorado. So we're about three and a half hours from Denver in the front range. We're on the western side. So all of our water flows to you guys in California. Yeah.

Greg Finch (00:21.77)
We'll try and take shorter showers. That's my pledge to you.

Emily Hightower (00:25.112)
Thank you. Well, it doesn't bother us at the headwaters, right? We've got to take care of you guys better, actually.

Greg Finch (00:28.49)
Right. So for you personally out in that, like where do you get your movement outside? Are you, is it snow during the winter? Is it hiking? Like I know you have some river background, which we'll get into. Like how, how do you enjoy nature where you are in Colorado?

Emily Hightower (00:44.888)
Thank you.

Emily Hightower (00:48.92)
Oh man, all of it, all of it. I mean this year I broke my distal fib, so my ankle, and I tore up my knee. So my ski season was cut short and I'm really noticing how my outdoor life is such an anchor point for my health, my mental health, my mood, because that's been my doorway since really my whole life. But especially in my 20s, I live to ski, I love to skin and

ski you know back country when I can but even front side skinning up. Love to bow hunt and hike all fall all summer scouting for animals getting off trail and using navigation and using all of my senses to find animals and I love to kayak love to be on the rivers so that's a huge part of my relationship to this place.

Greg Finch (01:45.898)
I want to circle back to what you just said right there for those that don't really familiar and I don't have a huge background in it, but skinning is on skis, trekking up, taking skins, the skins off to then be skiing down wherever you've trekked to. Is that right?

Emily Hightower (02:02.072)
Yeah, they're brilliant. You know, they used to be actual skins and the fur would slide uphill and then catch downhill, like the direction of the fur. And so now we have these fancy actual synthetic skins with special glue that you, you know, are cut right to your skis with special alpine touring or telemark bindings. And it's really comfortable, lightweight gear that you can, uh,

hike. What I love about it is you don't have to really focus down as much. You on the snow you're gliding and setting a trail or following someone's trail and you can really look up and be in the environment in a different way and then you get to ski down.

Greg Finch (02:33.162)

Greg Finch (02:44.906)
as opposed to like downhilling where you're really paying attention to what's happening within the terrain and everything. So your vision kind of comes down a little bit closer.

Emily Hightower (02:53.304)
Maybe I'm thinking more like in the summer when I'm hiking uphill and I've got to pay attention to roots and rocks and trees that are down, especially off trail. But when you're skinning on snow, you have this blanket of white and you can get into this rhythm with the mountain.

Greg Finch (03:00.124)

Emily Hightower (03:10.808)
it's amazing and I know you've got surfers that listen to this. I imagine it's that any kind of water frozen any any form of water snow ice or actual water or even steam to me is like a privilege to get to interact with.

Greg Finch (03:28.106)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think there's something to be said to about, we've talked about this on the show before on other episodes where I think something about seeing horizon lines too in distance. It's not something you just would like jump to your forefront of your thoughts on like what you're missing or what's not benefiting you, but.

Emily Hightower (03:41.017)
Thank you.

Greg Finch (03:52.33)
Obviously we're recording this on screens and sometimes we'll have something that's like the perception of depth, but it really doesn't give you that. And what that does or doesn't do towards the way your senses are. I can just, I know when I'm surfing, whenever I'm out and I'm really looking out at the horizon line, like I just know that that is giving me something. And it's all those things together. You're right. Large bodies of water of just being part of something larger.

Emily Hightower (03:59.16)
Mm -hmm.

Greg Finch (04:19.114)
And then that distance horizon, I think is something, and like you're saying, looking down into something and just being able to open up, it just gives you something intangible almost.

Emily Hightower (04:27.48)

Emily Hightower (04:31.512)
Totally, it's and yet it's so biologically wired and the way we're now living with horizon lines obstructed by cities and skyscrapers and moving ourselves across the country. I just drove from California back home. I was in Cali last week and look, I moved my body thousands of miles without moving my body. I just sat there in a car and the one thing I do love about driving is the horizon. You know, it does, it's a chance to soften your gaze and kind of just be.

in a different zone than day -to -day life. But you just nailed it with like the ocean horizon last week when I was there. I just was astounded by the power of the ocean because I'm a landlocked girl. So it really impacts me. You guys are really blessed.

Greg Finch (05:21.066)
Yeah, no, I don't. I always am trying to remind myself, even on the small level, like surfing takes me there, right? I don't have to think about it. I have to motivate myself to do it. I'm there. Like if I get any opportunity to surf, I'm going to do it. But there's times, of course, where it's blown out. You can't do this. And then I'll go like, wow, I haven't even walked on the beach in a week. It's literally right there. You have to be very...

Emily Hightower (05:31.192)
Mm -hmm.

Emily Hightower (05:45.4)

Greg Finch (05:51.114)
cognizant about that because like anything else you you you get into your rhythms and so surfing is what motivates me so oh I'm doing it consistently okay now I have to go do these other responsibilities that I have and so there's no surf so I'm gonna take care of this and then you stop and you go no no no this is not only is it a privilege it's it almost feels like a responsibility like it's two blocks from my house you need to get down there every day

Emily Hightower (05:52.568)
Mm -hmm.

Emily Hightower (06:16.728)

Yeah, it's easy to take what we have for granted in the environment. I feel that way in the mountains and I'm a wannabe ocean surfer. I've spent a lot of time surfing in the ocean, but it's not like a part -time sport I've learned. And what a friend of mine who surfs a lot highlighted for me is that when you're surfing on the ocean, this is obvious to all of you guys, but you're being, you're moving with the wave and I surf a lot on rivers. And so when I'm surfing in my kayak,

on a river wave, it's like you're surfing uphill. It's coming at you the whole time. And there can be logs coming down if it's like a huge spring runoff. There can be ducks. There can be other people, rafts, paddles, shrapnel from upriver. And you are surfing uphill, responding all the time. So the last time I got to surf was actually in California with our good friend Danny Nichols who runs Operation Open Water.

Greg Finch (07:17.29)
Oh yeah, I know Danny when he was still involved with operation surf, we've been, we've done a lot of events together. Yeah. He's a great guy. Yeah.

Emily Hightower (07:23.448)
Oh, nice. I love Danny. Yeah, I forced him. I'm like, you are taking me surfing. And I think that's an excuse. No.

Greg Finch (07:31.114)
I didn't have to force him very hard, you know, to get us in the water is not too difficult.

Emily Hightower (07:35.992)
Yeah, I asked the right buddy, you know, to get this Colorado girl on the water. But I think it was Danny that was like, yeah, you just have to kind of shift your orientation to the horizon. As you're surfing, when you're standing, you're moving with this wave. And that's not a small thing to me. I really sensed that change in my orientation. And it helps me so much in the ocean. It's like, oh, I can just let go.

Greg Finch (08:00.522)
even within like your balance and your stability and the way you were responding to the energy even in that way.

Emily Hightower (08:07.928)
Absolutely, it's different and here we have a lot of...

actual board surfers that will ride our spring runoff. We have a standing 20 -foot wave here and it'll come up but it's short -lived, you know, it's not like a swell, it's like spring runoff and when the snow melts it's done and so people travel from all over and come to this wave and we've got short borders, long borders, river right has like a sweet longboard wave and river left becomes like a gnarly pile and it's just a it's a cool

feature and it changes based on the sunshine. Like if the sun comes out that day more water is coming and you'll watch it over the hour the wave will change and these guys that ride it I can just see when I watch ocean surfers on the ocean there's this like you're moving with it and you're responding in time with the wave that you're on. On the river you are it's a very nimble quick thing because it can change like that it can surge you don't have that sense of

of like rolling with the wave that's surging, it can just suddenly get a bump and just slam you. So yeah, it's super fun. Maybe there's some river surfers listening.

Greg Finch (09:22.73)
Um, well, I can, I can, uh, relate to that in opposing when we went, um, I was on a trip to Germany and we were in Munich and I was like, well, I'm going to go check out this river wave for sure. So I was like, I had my, I brought, um, I think I brought like my booties and my hood or something with me. Cause I'm like, well, I can't take my full wetsuit with me. That's too much. And I went down and then they have like a surf shop in Munich specifically for that.

that RiverWave and it's just, it's right, it's pretty much right in Munich. And enough to where like I rented a board and rented a suit and like was on their version of the subway with my bar. It was, it was really awesome. I was like, I'm going to make this happen. And I was with my dad and my sister and they're like, when are you going? Like, okay, well, yeah, we'll do it. You know, we'll go see you do it, you know? And, and then I was like, okay, I gotta go now because it's this window, blah, blah. Like long story short, they're like, we'll meet you there.

Emily Hightower (09:54.936)

No way! Oh wow, that is awesome! That's dedication!

Greg Finch (10:21.226)
So I'm like, I took a picture of me on the subway. I'm like, I gotta get a picture of this. And I got down there and it was the same thing. It was like a flow. Like somebody walked up to me, started speaking in German. I was like, I'm sorry, I don't speak German. And they were like, well, are you going to, of course they speak English, you know, the arrogance of us. I'm like, I'm sorry. I'm like terrible German. I was like, I'm sorry, I don't speak German. And he's like, I'm like, are you going to write it? And he's like, and he was about my height, maybe a little taller. And he said, no, it's the flow isn't enough for me. Like,

Emily Hightower (10:21.368)
Thank you.

Emily Hightower (10:37.368)

Greg Finch (10:49.034)
it's, you'll be able to do it, but it's going to be hard. And you're exactly right. Like that was so difficult. Like I stood up, thank goodness I stood up, but it was so difficult because part of it was the flow was like, you know, I'm bigger. So it was like just trying to do it. And then you're right though, like my natural response to like be cutting through the water and making a turn and the inertia of what you're doing. You don't have any of that.

Emily Hightower (10:52.184)
You're in.

Emily Hightower (10:59.224)

Thank you.

Emily Hightower (11:17.432)

Greg Finch (11:17.674)
You're just responding to the water and it's totally do do do do it's like that.

Emily Hightower (11:21.496)
Yeah, micro micro adjustments make a huge difference depending on the size and all the fuel.

Greg Finch (11:25.866)
I was laughing. I was laughing at myself. It was so fun. And then of course, like I'm watching like these other people that ride it all the time. And there was this one woman she was, I couldn't really tell how old she was. She was probably in her early twenties. She was ripping that wave. It was so, I probably stood and watched her like there wasn't too many people so they could cycle through. I probably watched that, that woman ride that wave like four or five times. And I could not believe how much she could cut back on that. After I had just done it, I'm like,

Emily Hightower (11:32.792)

Emily Hightower (11:41.4)
I love it.

Emily Hightower (11:53.848)

Greg Finch (11:55.882)
I don't know how she's doing that. Like it was great. And I also asked them, I was like, how many of you, there was like maybe six or seven of them, how many of you have surfed in the ocean and only one of them had ever surfed an ocean way? Yeah.

Emily Hightower (11:59.384)
Thank you.

Emily Hightower (12:07.256)
We're kidding. Really? That shows a lot about river surfing and how far it's come. That's wild. These play parts have a little geography.

Greg Finch (12:13.866)
And it's probably just it probably was that, you know, because I would imagine like, if you're doing that, like, your pants travel, I would imagine that's probably an anomaly that only one had done it, you know, but um, but yeah, it's like, hey, you ride what you what's near you.

Emily Hightower (12:23.864)

Emily Hightower (12:28.824)
Yeah, that's right, for sure.

Greg Finch (12:31.37)
So tell me more about your river experience. Like how did you get exposed to, you know, kayaking and did you do whitewater raft and guiding? Like tell me like a little bit of your history within that.

Emily Hightower (12:42.456)
Well, did a family river trip with my mom and my brother. A commercial trip was given the full wetsuit and the safety talk and was the asking all the touristy questions. I was 15 years old, you know, how deep is the river, chest high on a duck, all these things that, you know, it just was really new. I'd grown up fly fishing with my dad and going to the mountains and being on rivers a lot. But I had friends that were my age, 15, 16 years old.

old kids that were river guiding, three boys that we went to high school with that were just these Colorado mountain kids and they were influencers for me because I fell in love that day with the whole experience of being moved down river. We flipped, we swam, it was exhilarating, we were fine, but just that force of not just standing fly fishing on the water but being immersed in the column of water, I'm so glad we swam and flipped that day.

because it really was a powerful experience. And so that next summer, I linked up with those friends that were living on the river, and I spent like two weeks just paddling and then decided to become a river guide. So a bunch of my other friends did the same. It's a Colorado thing. We just naturally have access to these resources, and some of us actually take advantage of that, which I'm lucky I had friends to influence.

me. But for me the the relationship to water and kayaking was it no kidding like saved me. I was an at -risk teenager went through a ton of trauma between the age of nine and 16 and

Through the river, I just felt like I met people who were living a different lifestyle that felt real. It was like stripped away a lot of the bullshit. Everybody was connected to something bigger. Not that we were naming it that, we just are. You're taking these wonderful risks every day. The river doesn't care about you in a great way, just like the ocean doesn't care about you, but you're part of it. So you have to take responsibility for yourself in that environment.

Emily Hightower (15:00.202)
environment and choose who you're learning with and doing it with.

And I had great, great friends that passed that torch on. And so long story short, it took me years to get a role in my kayak. That was back in the days when if you saw a kayak on another track, you would pull over and talk to each other. No, there were not many whitewater kayakers. But we'd go after work and get into trouble and swim and chase gear and laugh and have beers under the stars that night, rinse, repeat, guide the next day, and then boat after work long summer and

nights. But I ended up guiding in California in long ago, 1998 to date myself, I just turned 50. And that year was the 100 year flood. They closed all the commercial boating for weeks, because the rivers were too high, they were too dangerous. And that was the summer that I cut my teeth and like, got my role. And it was really a defining summer of like, you're either gonna do this,

and I didn't have all my safety people that I usually paddled with that kind of held me at a certain level. And so that was my break free summer. And I continued to get a certification to teach whitewater kayaking and spent about 10 years teaching and traveling and paddling a lot.

Greg Finch (16:25.578)
It's very much another distinct subculture, right? Like when you get together, I mean, you could say that about surfing on some level. It's all grown, of course, but I imagine during that time, like you're traveling to a different place and maybe you're working professionally. You're coming across a lot of the same people, right? So you're reinforcing connection, the connection to the river and to water, to this community. And that's just...

I mean, it's powerful, of course. And it's also to circle back to what you said before too, is there's something about that idea of nature for sure, but water specifically, that you are part of this thing and it has zero regard for you. That there's something very empowering about that, which seems almost counter intuitive to somebody that hasn't experienced that before.

Emily Hightower (17:11.256)
Mm -hmm.

Greg Finch (17:20.202)
But it really is that feeling of like, Oh, I have to internalize this. This is about what I'm doing in the actions I'm taking, whether it's preparation within an actual event of something, what I'm thinking about it after I have to process this and to be able to be prepared to be part of this thing that is much larger than me will always be more powerful than me and doesn't care about me at all.

Emily Hightower (17:47.96)
Yes, that's it right there. It does not care in the best way. It's not going to hold your hand and give you a medal for trying and you get taught really quickly by water.

Greg Finch (17:52.586)
Yeah, yeah.

Emily Hightower (17:59.832)
that it always changes to. So it teaches fluidity, it teaches presence, it teaches reward through real risk and that wonderful flow state that's only available when there's something real. When skill meets a little bit of risk and a lot of presence and you're right at the edge of your capacity, I mean there's nothing better for our experience of this one precious life than having access to a doorway to that.

Greg Finch (18:01.61)

Emily Hightower (18:29.304)
So for all you guys that are surfing in the ocean, like I, I mean, I have so much respect for the ocean and I've learned that before I go on into the river or into the ocean, I always touch the water, thank the water. I sit and I watch.

Greg Finch (18:29.322)

Emily Hightower (18:47.352)
what's happening for a while before I get in because it's not the same even if I surfed that morning or paddled that morning it's not the same body of water right now so it's it's infinitely powerful that way.

Greg Finch (19:03.914)
And that is, this is a theme that comes back, of course, over and over and over again, when we, when, when I have these conversations, because it is that universal piece, which is it almost saying being present almost doesn't do it justice. It's like you, you absolutely have to stop. You have to stop and really evaluate where you are. What am I bringing to this? That's both positive.

Emily Hightower (19:23.096)
Thank you.

Greg Finch (19:32.33)
And like you said, skillset preparation. And what am I bringing to this that is going to be counterproductive to what I'm trying to achieve, which is to be part of this energy and to experience it. And so I guess somewhat do it justice and at the same time, um, make sure that I stay safe and everybody around me stays safe. It presence doesn't convey that.

Emily Hightower (19:59.96)
Yeah, it doesn't really. Yep, it's a good call.

Greg Finch (20:04.074)
But you're right though, you have to stop and you have to really evaluate. I had this experience just recently and it's, it's, it's happened several times before, but I had something, it was a business thing and it was a schedule thing and they had to reschedule. And so, oh, it was like, okay, this window opened up. And then I was like, okay, well I should maybe go do this. And I was like, well, let's go, let me go check the surf. And I went and checked the surf and it was like, okay, I got a small window right here. Cause I have something else to do.

And I went out and went surfing, but I didn't do that check. I didn't do that check in. And I was in that mode. I was in the head in my head. I was still in my business and the responsibilities I had to take care of that. So when I was out there, I was like going through this filter. I wasn't even recognizing that was happening. And I, I got away and fell and you know, it's like, I've never served before. And I was like, okay, you either either focus right now, you're either going to continue to do.

Emily Hightower (20:35.8)
Mm -hmm.

Emily Hightower (20:50.136)
Yep, that's amazing.

Greg Finch (21:01.322)
this right now be here, or you need to get out. And I tried to waver to and I was like, No, I got to get out. And that really bummed me out.

Emily Hightower (21:04.856)

Good. Yeah. Yeah. It's a, it is an instant humble pie that you take a bite of every time that that happens. And I love that experience just because you just brought forward how easy it is in most of the things that we're engaged in, in modern life to not have that reality check.

Greg Finch (21:13.61)

Emily Hightower (21:28.056)
the rules still apply. If we're thinking about something else while we're doing one thing, we're actually not doing anything and we're not present with what we're doing. But we don't have something raw, powerful, and real to check that, except our long -term health.

which is really hard to see in the face of dopamine and addiction and desires and patterns. It's really hard to check the constant busyness and instant gratification dopamine cycles in when you have something like surfing.

or the river or skiing that's a raw natural power that is going to kick your ass if you are multitasking or you think you're multitasking. It's beyond presence, it's physiology. You're training the physiological state of paying real attention.

And it's a felt sense, it's a practice that water demands. So when you have that, it's a training tool that absolutely translates to the rest of your life because you get, at the very least, you get an understanding of how shitty it feels to try to do 10 things at once and not be anywhere at once.

Greg Finch (22:41.706)
Yeah, yeah, that, um, that real time feedback of like something as simple as blowing a wave or really just getting smacked down. You, you can't hide from it. It's not, and you can't place blame anywhere. That's that essence right there. You want, you're like looking around like, who am I getting, like, who am I blaming? Like, Oh, there's nobody here but me.

Emily Hightower (22:52.472)

Emily Hightower (22:57.272)

Emily Hightower (23:07.32)
Yeah, and look, if you do your humility moment and you thank the water, whatever your practice is, I'm sure surfers are just as superstitious, some of you, as I am. You got to thank nature for a moment. You do all that quote right, and you still get your ass handed to you, and you get trashed, at least you were in choice around it, and you were conscious. And it's just a different experience than most of the things we get. It's not like tennis.

Greg Finch (23:31.658)
Yes. No, I love that. I love that when you do that check in, you're right. It's still going to happen. But your experience of that moment is different because it's like, okay, there was, there was a lesson here that I needed to learn. And I did everything I needed, could do, or better said, did I do everything that I could do to

Emily Hightower (23:38.168)
Mm -hmm.

Emily Hightower (23:43.576)
Mm -hmm.

Greg Finch (23:57.834)
Make sure that my skills were ready for this. Make sure that my mind was straight and ready for this. And if you are able to honestly say yes, then you go, okay, there's a lesson in here that I needed to learn and carry with that. And yeah, it's not blame. It's just, um, progress. It's just allowing yourself to be open to continually learning and not looking for why necessarily.

Emily Hightower (24:09.336)

Emily Hightower (24:14.616)

Emily Hightower (24:24.44)
Well, and how about talking about the fact that maybe there's nothing to learn. You actually just got your ass kicked and you had the experience fully of that. And that's part of what we're asking for when we dance with water. We're saying, I understand where I fit on this scale. And the thing that I've observed is that things can go wrong in class two rivers. Things can go wrong on two foot days. And sometimes we do.

do everything quote right, but you're still going to have this experience that smacks you into present time reality. And there is no lesson. And like you said, there is no blame. You just finally are living. You're living a full life that includes pain. That's, that's part of what we're saying with the risk piece is like, and there's an ego piece to that too. Like,

If you're attached to the performance and all that, you're going to get out of that physiological presence and that deeper experience of reality.

Greg Finch (25:24.97)
Yeah, talk a little bit more about that. That's something that's really interesting that I would have to say, like, I think I understand this in an intellectual level, but as far as experience or really being having some training with it is a little bit less where you basically you've said like, we're getting attached to the outcome and we lose touch with the process. Just talk a little bit more about that.

Emily Hightower (25:49.912)
Thank you.

Well, I have the fortune to get to be business partners with Brian McKenzie. And I know you just had him on the podcast and maybe you guys touched on some of this. I'm excited to take a listen. Uh, but one of the things that we have really evolved in our work together and that he's taught me so much about too, is this attachment piece and how that impacts performance. You know, Brian works with very elite athletes from all over the place and I'm working with more now that I'm a part of shift with him and I help.

about with rapid optimization with Dr. Andy Galpin and Dan Garner's team. And so I'm meeting more professional level athletes and elite athletes. And what I'm observing that relates to the work I do with trauma is that when we are, for very valid reasons, attached to an outcome, the way that we train changes. The decisions we make when we're engaged in our sport.

are now rooted in outcome instead of the process and that can deprive us of real learning and real high levels of performance. And the people who have had the best experiences, the gold medals, the podiums, etc. They no longer have that underdog energy of I've got nothing to lose. Now there's an ego attachment of this is who I am, this is my identity and all these people care which no

Nobody does, but we like to think that everybody's judging us and we have something to prove. And so a lot of the work that I do with neurophysiology is disrupting that. Hold on, did that sound bother you? Okay. A lot of the work that I do around neurophysiology is helping people identify what signals of threat are coming through the nervous system when your attachment is activated.

Emily Hightower (27:47.352)
and start to learn how does that change your cognitive process, your motor skills, because if you're attached, you lose agility, you lose nimbleness, you lose the ability to respond authentically. And that, you know, so it goes beyond just like attachment to outcome, and it starts to impact the way you think, feel, and behave.

And then you're, however you perform, let's say that you win and you have a great performance, somehow despite all that threat response going on and anxiety, you just reinforce how important it is to win the next time.

If you lose, you just reinforced how terrible it feels because you were so attached to the outcome instead of the learning. And you're not going to learn anything from how it went, which is really valuable because being in the process is where the joy and the actual feeling of connection comes from that we lose when we're attached.

Greg Finch (28:50.922)
So an understanding of that, how those connections work, what are some, and this might be a larger question that can then can really be answered in just a few points. What are some practical applications of practice of that? And again, maybe from more of the recreational athlete, we still have these things of like performance and.

Emily Hightower (29:12.888)
Mm -hmm.

Greg Finch (29:16.714)
looking around and I don't want to fall on this way because of this. Those are all very similar gold medal or falling on a wave amongst my peers, you know, probably has the same responses. What are some of the practical approaches that we can do to empower ourselves to remain in the process and detach from the outcome?

Emily Hightower (29:21.464)


Emily Hightower (29:34.968)
Thank you.

There's so much there to discover and talk about because this goes into technique and skill building. Like if you're building a skill, how do we learn? The best learning happens in a creative process where there's non -attachment, where you can fail because failure is not failure. It's actually something called learning. It's how you test in that real element with sports about balance and movement and eye focus, all of it, right? So to develop

it's important to have an environment where there's creativity and joy. And I think community is a part of that. You know, having friends that laugh with you when you eat shit and things go wrong and reinforcing that like, this is fun. This isn't super serious. And then there's a piece of learning and reinforcing that that requires participation with the nervous system. So we learn things 15 times faster if we stop.

after training a new skill and spend 10 to 15 minutes visualizing what went right and how to repeat it well. So for higher level athletes or people who are really engaged in skill development even for healing for like vestibular healing or anything just understanding the way our brains and bodies learn is through through play creativity and then rest.

down regulating and imprinting on the nervous system, look, what you just learned, I'm going to take the time to hit save and kind of defrag the noise of what wasn't valuable and consolidate and file away the information that we want to turn into knowledge. And that requires a reset of the nervous system. So whatever skill you're learning could be any sport.

Emily Hightower (31:29.048)
Jiu -Jitsu, golf, tennis, surfing. You go and you practice a skill, take that 10 to 15 minutes to soften your eyes, extend your exhales, visualize what you loved about it, what was working, play some mini movies of running through a specific part of the technique that you're wanting to encode, and you'll learn it 15 times faster.

Greg Finch (31:50.986)
Yeah, that's amazing. In that sequence that you just said right there, where you said a term that really kind of stuck to me, which is down regulating. What do you mean by that?

Emily Hightower (32:03.736)
Well, upregulating the sympathetic nervous system is activating our fight or flight response. And when we feel threatened, the survival brain, the brain stem and the limbic systems come online to create sympathetic stress that creates arousal. And in that state, we can do a lot with fight or flight to help ourselves survive. But it does shut off some of the more parasympathetic connections around

fine and gross motor skill, broad visual field, recruiting new learned skills, those will go offline in favor of old patterns. So when you're activated by a threat response from something like performance anxiety, or you decided that sleep isn't really that important and you can eat whatever you want five days before, you know, your physiology, your body is the instrument through which these stress responses live.

And so managing your physiology and your health gives you a more finely tuned instrument. If you can read sympathetic activation, then you can down regulate to deactivate some of the fight or flight tension.

And when you upregulate the parasympathetic, so upregulation can happen in both. So it used to be taught just as like parasympathetic is the brakes. We don't love that because it implies that it's stopping something when in reality, the parasympathetic system has tons of dynamic actions in the body that are associated with the things I just mentioned with motor skill, cognition, memory, recruitment, learning,

new decision making, rationalization, logic. So when you deactivate fight or flight and the threat systems get dampened,

Emily Hightower (33:58.552)
and we bring on more vagus nerve tone, more parasympathetic activity. Now we are in a totally different state and the higher brain is wired more into the system. We can access the prefrontal cortex, our decision making, the motor function, motor cortexes. So down regulation is something that's missed a lot.

in training and performance and it's used on the fly when you read anxiety or attachment and it's also really important to train that when you don't need it so that it's a skill that you've bookmarked in your nervous system you know what it feels like to do it.

Greg Finch (34:40.138)
That's great. And I really love in there that one line where you basically just said, take that time to hit save. Like, what do you want to learn from this positive action that you just have? We'll just use surfing. You did something, whether it was a maneuver or a drop or something that really resonated, like stop, relive that and save that so you can call back to it.

Emily Hightower (35:06.584)
Thank you.

Greg Finch (35:08.906)
What was that positive thing? I don't think we do that enough. Like just in the practical terms, like within clients that I work with, I'm like, you need to celebrate your wins. What we've talked about here for the last 15 minutes is all the things you think are going wrong. And we will, we need to focus on those, of course, and we need to give some resolution and some solutions for that. But how about this list of things right here that are going so great. You need to celebrate these things. You can't just always be focusing on.

Emily Hightower (35:22.136)

Emily Hightower (35:33.88)

Greg Finch (35:37.066)
what you feel is not bringing you to towards your goals. Like focus also on the things that are taking you closer to that step. I think that's just a human nature response, which is again, you could go back to the fight and flight part, like, uh, like what's good, what's wrong. I need to make sure that I reduce my risk. And in my case, in this thing, like I need to conserve calories.

Emily Hightower (35:56.28)
Thank you.

Greg Finch (36:01.322)
Like, that's why I tell clients all the time, like, these are the two things that your primal brain is really focused on in this realm, which is conserve calories and reduce risk. That's it. It wants you to sit on that couch and eat sugar, salt and fat. That's it.

Emily Hightower (36:01.463)
Mm -hmm.

Emily Hightower (36:07.32)
Yes, yeah.

Emily Hightower (36:13.112)
Mm -hmm.

Yeah, yeah, and it's not willpower, it's biology. And the more dysregulated you are, the more those survival patterns kick in.

Yeah, that's, I love that piece of your coaching because like, I'm just laughing, thinking about one of the times I was surfing in Hawaii and I, my friend noticed that I kept dragging my, I'm goofy, and I kept dragging my inside foot and it was a subconscious paddling thing. It was like, I'm like creating a rudder.

And so I couldn't even see that I had another fin. It was like this instinct as I'm dropping in, I would like drag to set the board the way I wanted it to go.

Greg Finch (36:48.586)
You had another fin!

Greg Finch (36:55.243)
Oh, I'm supposed to - I wanna turn that way. Oh, I gotta - I gotta turn -

Emily Hightower (36:56.984)
Yeah, so I would drag and it took me a long time to repattern that. It was so deeply ingrained and but the play and the creativity and the laughter and then I would sit on the beach and I would watch these amazing, we had a great swell come in, way too big for me to be out there and I just was like I am going to watch and learn because now I have the sensation of the couple times I did it quote right where I felt

like oh I dropped in and I caught the glass instead of the foamy bubbly you know I actually caught the wave I'm going to study that and you can learn so much through the visual cortex if you're like you said focusing on the positive reinforcing a piece that you just got one piece at a time oh I'm going to work on this and I'm going to just soak it in visually and then I can't wait to go practice it you build that momentum and stoke for your play.

Greg Finch (37:30.922)

Emily Hightower (37:57.176)
And then you get to surf again instead of, oh, I'm not doing it right. And I can't figure this, you know, the negative bias in our brain can just really ruin some of these sports because of that.

Greg Finch (38:09.002)
Yeah. And I think it's important, like you said, to, for all of us to, um, have give ourselves some grace, which is this is biology and, and evolution and is not about willpower that doesn't get let you off the hook. Like, again, it's only, it's up to you. You have to create patterns and reinforce those positive patterns to reach.

closer to the goals that you've set for yourself. But at the same time, understand like, you're not going to learn this and then have it. Those things are still going to come back to that. Again, for in my in my term, when I say to clients, I simplified it's like conserve calories and reduce risk, that's never going to go away. So once you can recognize that that's happening, and you're

Emily Hightower (38:57.08)
Mm -hmm.

Greg Finch (39:02.378)
creating patterns that is that are going to positively influence the choices you're making in the present you will and you're choosing positive Way more often than having that negative influence in it You're gonna win more often and again wins probably the wrong wrong word. It's not about winning and losing it's just about moving towards growth and positive progression and

Emily Hightower (39:26.808)
Mm -hmm.

Greg Finch (39:28.362)
The other thing too, that we're so fortunate for, like the clients, I only work with surfers now and that part of it we have at the center of how we self identify is whether we're a surfer or a skier at the center of us. What drives us is still movement. And to have that at the center is really, really a powerful gift because without that, I think by self reflect back on my life and.

Emily Hightower (39:48.28)
Yes. Yeah.

Greg Finch (39:57.994)
different times and different things where maybe it pulled me away from the ocean a little bit more just because life and what like it still was everything was driving me back to movement. And if you don't have that in your life, what we're describing and keeping ourselves moving is so much more difficult.

Emily Hightower (40:14.904)
Everything is harder when we're not moving and we're wired to move so much. And again, Brian's really diving into this in his work with walking and just low intensity movement. But a cool story from last week at Laguna Beach is that I took my day off between working with Laguna Beach Police Department to do some skill of stress training. And I went out with Danny Nichols group with Open Water and we did an open outrigger like a team canoe.

And so we did the hut co, you know, team canoe thing, which I've done every time I'm out there with them. I try to get, get in and paddle. And it was with the first responder wellness group, um, actually inpatient, uh, first responders, just getting support for PTSD and complex trauma issues. And, um, what I wanted to share about that was that I've got this leg injury and it's, it's taking a while to heal because I didn't have surgery. So I've got ligaments like that keep my kneecap on and.

like all around the ACL tour. Anyway, the ankle broke. It's taking a while to walk smoothly. And it's been nine weeks. So some of the limping and pain is now just an encoded pathway. It's an efficient pathway that my brain has figured out. So when I'm depleted and haven't been moving very much, I feel more pain.

Yes, there's tissue issues and damage that's still being repaired, but that pain signaling is just related to a threat response. So what I noticed is I went out on Wednesday and I did a couple hours of paddling in union with these amazing first responders and we didn't talk. There was no talk therapy or cognitive. We just hut, ho, switched and paddled and did that for hours. And we came back in.

When I first came out, I was limping pretty badly from being on my foot the day before all day teaching. I got out of the boat where I did no therapy for my leg. In fact, it was way below my heart, shoved down in this canoe.

Emily Hightower (42:21.944)
You know, just usually it would be just swollen. I came out and it, I just walked normally pretty much like I walked normally the rest of the night. I didn't feel pain at all that night. And I wanted to share that because it was for me, it was the water, the ocean, the paddle and how paddle movement impacted my systemic pain and inflammation response. It helped my whole lower leg feel great. And I did no acute.

therapy on my leg at all. So.

Greg Finch (42:54.57)
Do you think it was even more powerful for you because it connected back to all of your earlier paddle experience and repetition within that to even resonate more deeply with you in that place? Yeah.

Emily Hightower (43:08.504)
Oh, I'm sure. I mean, you probably feel the same way just getting out on water. Just being out on water, it gives you something that's intangible. And it is a relationship just like breath. The more you consciously breathe, the more that tool becomes you. And if you consciously go out and paddle and surf, you have a dynamic relationship with water that's different from the average person.

And you can recall that mentally, but man, every chance you get to go out and be in that environment, it's like you get to pick up where you left off. It's a relationship. It's not, it's not this like linear thing of like, I paddled for this length and no, you go out and you can, it's connection instantly.

Greg Finch (43:56.65)
Yeah. Yeah. It, it, it really is hard to put into words what that is, but you know it instantly. And you might even, um, not recognize that that part of your battery is needs to be charged. And like, I've made this joke so many times, but I always come back to it. Like my wife will say, you need to go paddle. I'll be like, ah, it's blown out. You know, and she's like, you need to go paddle. And it, it, it,

Emily Hightower (44:21.912)

Greg Finch (44:24.49)
It happens numerous times and she's right. And why bring that up so many times is because she can see it and first person I can't, even though I know it, I know it intellectually. I know it intellectually. That's all right. I know it inherently, but I can't see it because I'm just in this mode. And

Emily Hightower (44:32.312)
Mm -hmm.

Emily Hightower (44:41.272)
I'm going to go ahead and close the video.

Emily Hightower (44:50.136)

Greg Finch (44:51.754)
little bit of distance, but still somebody that's obviously very close in my life and sees she can see you need this you need to go do this right now and Just to have that just to be able to have that when things are happening in life and all of this is coming at us and like I say life keeps life in at us We know that's where we have to go. And again, that's the gift like I know I can go do this and I

Emily Hightower (45:14.424)
Mm -hmm.

Greg Finch (45:20.362)
everything's going to be better. Life isn't going to be solved and it's not going to stop coming at me. But I will be in such a clear place to be able to respond to that in a positive, beneficial way to not continually internalize whatever this stimulus is coming at me. So it's like, okay, I can stop this for 30 minutes and I can go do that. I'm going to feel better. Oh my gosh, like you want everybody to have that in their life, whatever that is.

Emily Hightower (45:32.792)
Thank you.

Emily Hightower (45:45.912)
Can you imagine not having that? Yeah.

Yeah, whatever that is. I mean, it's, it is something that is hard to put your finger on, but when you're really dysregulated, it's its own entropy kind of we start to create from that state. And so a lot of what I do in my work is teach people to read that state without moral judgment, because when we feel anxious or overwhelmed, those bodily sensations and that threat response, our natural inclination is to try to do

more to get the to -do list done and try to clear the stress out of our life. When in fact if we can just push pause and do something to reconnect and replenish and recruit more of that parasympathetic you know whole brain body connection.

then you solve your problems from a place of connection and time dilates. You don't have this I have to mode half the crap that you think was so important dissolves. It's just a totally game changing way to live, but it takes it takes training. It takes support to sometimes let go of the self harm that we do and the identity we create. I mean how many people just love.

I'm talking with a client about this right now who's ready to retire and has plenty of resources to do so. But the conditioned fear of what do you do for a living? It's like practice just instead of answering that with I'm busy, I have projects, I'm doing, doing, doing this, this, this. What if our response to that was like, I'm really reconnecting to surfing right now.

Emily Hightower (47:30.936)
So what? You could still be a high -powered lawyer. You could still go have all of that. But what if our response was around what we're enjoying, not who we are based on our jobs or how busy and accomplished we are.

but oh, I'm just, I'm learning to cut back on the wave. I'm exploring this new beach. I'm not going to tell you about, I've got a secret spot right now. That's just where I'm spending all my time, whatever, you know, just shaking up this very, very systemic anxiety going on that I'm noticing culturally.

Greg Finch (48:04.33)
Yeah. Because that response that you're saying right there, I'm really reconnecting to surfing is completely internal to them. The response from the person they're talking to, it has zero connection to that. The, I'm a high -powered lawyer is how maybe how they're self -identified, but that's also connected to what that

what that's conveying to you about me and what your response to me is going to be because of that. Huh, that's so interesting.

Emily Hightower (48:33.752)

Mm -hmm. Yeah, so good challenge. Like, answer with what book you just read recently that's interesting. Answer with...

Greg Finch (48:46.026)
Yeah. And also a place for conversation and real connection. Like, do we really care what everybody does? Not really. Like if I, if I met you and didn't know what you did and we started talking about it, I would be so much more interested in who you're working with and how they're improving on the things that they're improving as opposed to it being, um, an evaluation of you. You know what I mean? Like it's like,

Emily Hightower (48:54.232)

Emily Hightower (49:13.624)

Greg Finch (49:15.338)
What is this? What is the result of this mean? You know, and that part of it just it's like a stepping off point for a much more meaningful conversation.

Emily Hightower (49:25.944)
opens the door.

Greg Finch (49:28.106)
So let's talk about that a little bit. Tell me how some of your you touched on briefly a little bit about some of your trauma that you went through and then some of your river time. How did those come together to be doing the work that you're doing now with maybe it's first responders, maybe it's military, other people dealing with trauma. How did those come together? It was I'm sure it was partly an evolution of your own experience. And then

Emily Hightower (49:47.384)
Mm -hmm.

Greg Finch (49:55.786)
how you were connecting with other people within that scope.

Emily Hightower (49:59.64)
Yeah, it's ongoing evolution. You know, I think we all teach what we most want to learn in essence. And so for me, I had a couple signature events. My mom had a traumatic brain injury when I was nine. My parents got divorced. My dad was dealing with alcoholism. Really, really sweet, kind drinker, loving man who ended up taking his own life when I was 15. So those two quickly shared traumas.

that I processed in my formative years. Luckily I had the resources of the outdoors and nature and found friends that were

disrupting and getting outside and climbing and living in vans and running rivers all over the world. And I was like, that's for me. I don't want to play the game of, you know, part of my dad's struggle was money. And I was like, I want to figure out how to not need it that badly and not play the game of the 2 .5 kids and the golden retriever and the, you know, all of the stuff that at that time, I wanted to find some different resources to create more stability in myself and

And that's what I was drawn to in the outdoor communities that I found. So through my 20s, I was a wilderness EMT in the winters and a river guide in the summers. I took my river work into river advocacy, worked with like 20 different watersheds, traveling in my pickup truck, living in teepees between that, like going down to Chile and Patagonia and just like living this stoked river life and really

challenging my skills and my edge and so during those experiences I started paying attention to risk reward trauma on the ambulance I would help people with

Emily Hightower (51:54.584)
pain and fear with breathing. That was just obvious. And then on the river, breath holding is a big part of having a kayak roll and dealing with being pinned or being underwater. And I noticed this relationship between breathing and the sense of time or control that I would have in my experience. So chicken and egg, right? If I'm super anxious, I'm not going to be breathing as well, not performing as well, not as safe on the river.

And if I could dial things down, down regulate, breathe well, this wasn't fully formulated but I had studied a lot of physiology to become a wilderness EMT and was just starting to pay a lot of attention to how breath was interacting with both acute injury and trauma and performance. So.

About 22 years ago, I shifted away from the trauma emergency medicine field and went into prevention. I'm like, I'm more interested in healing arts, started to want to unpack more of my own crap.

and I found my teacher and her name was Deborah Cohen. I'd also worked with Paige Robinson growing up who's a yogi that highly influenced and planted some seeds for me. So I studied advanced yoga, advanced pranayama yoga breathing, and then I continued for the last 20 plus years to explore embodied movement for trauma, integrative nutrition, and neurosomatic intelligence, all kinds of tools that.

could direct your response instead of talk therapy and medication. So I know I'm sharing a lot, but the last piece of this is that, okay, ramble on sister. The career development really worked out well for me because I had the opportunity to find my work here in the Roaring Fork Valley where I live.

Greg Finch (53:36.138)
This is what it's for. This is what we do.

Emily Hightower (53:53.464)
And this organization, Challenge Aspen, started, you know, with the global war on terror, started seeing a lot of combat veterans applying to their adaptive sports camps. And I was a teacher there, teaching movement and breath. And then I was there as we designed this camo program, Challenge Aspen Military Ops, specifically for war veterans. And so for, from 2003 until right before COVID, I was doing year round work.

up to 25 retreats a year with all combat veterans, sometimes partners, spouses would come. And I developed the approach that I use now towards PTSD and trauma, using those intrinsic skills like breathing and movement and nervous system regulation to help people disrupt the moral failing of anxiety, depression, biphasic states, tune into their bodies as the instrument, respect that their brains triggers are

that's what the brain does. It's not a personality thing, it's not a willpower thing. Like if you have a reaction to the sound of cans dropping in the grocery store and you had that same reaction in Afghanistan from a bomb exploding, your brain is working in the grocery store. That's a working brain. If you don't want that response anymore, I got really interested in how to work with these tools.

to and nature and movement to start to change the condition stimulus response pattern and create more agency in how we're our behavioral health patterns basically. So I worked in a neurology clinic for quite some time and right before COVID I met Brian McKenzie and we had one of those conversations that we just both were like well we should be working together we at least need to meet up.

And that journey began around 2020 is when I joined Shift.

Greg Finch (55:47.786)
Yeah, well, let's talk. That's a perfect time right now. Let's talk more about shift. What it is, if it has a specific mission, like.

talk more about it.

Emily Hightower (56:00.504)
Yeah, so shiftadapt .com, that's our company and it used to be Power Speed Endurance through Brian McKenzie and it's evolved as does he all the time. We share that in common. We're both, we both are disruptors who enjoy innovation and learning, lifelong learning and testing what we're learning. So Shift is all about helping people expand their experience through understanding and interacting with their stress physiology, among other things. But that's kind of the

kind of the nuts and bolts of it, or can we get you to participate with the brilliance of your own body and breath and mind to take more agency over your stress response and see stress as a real evolutionary tool. It's not something to mitigate. It's something to engage with.

Brian's work has been really high level and keeps pushing that level in the performance arena and looking at the metabolic systems and how to recruit things like breathing and many other testing tools to improve aerobic efficiency and metabolic health.

and then how that fits in with my work with the nervous system and looking at your patterns of behavior and how can you read what's going on without judgment to then regulate and then start to reinforce new behavior patterns to optimize healing and performance. So together we have kind of a yin yang going on here of like you know body mind.

Yeah, so Shift has a membership that's monthly and it's Brian McKenzie's daily training every single day. You just train like Brian. He creates custom programming every day. It's different every single day. And then I'm developing a Breathe Move program that we have the foundations of where people can come learn some basic yoga and some progressions to pranayama breathing. So we're both really aligned that this whole protocols as prescriptions,

Emily Hightower (58:00.97)
not okay. People really deserve to understand how breath works in their own bodies, learn the principles, not the methods, and start a relationship with breathing that can be incredibly effective if it's taught right.

Greg Finch (58:18.026)
And some of the power of that, like, like, I love what you said right there, like protocols and, and prescriptions. It's like, it, it takes you out of that equation almost, you know, learning these techniques and understanding how they relate to you. So you can adapt and include things and, and thus it gives you the license to grow and progress. There isn't right and wrong. It's how do I continually learn?

Emily Hightower (58:27.64)

Greg Finch (58:47.05)
how this relates to me and maybe some of the responses I'm getting from different stimuli so I can continue to progress and add to this.

Emily Hightower (58:56.312)
Exactly. Yeah. I think there's a danger to learning protocols that are prescriptive when everybody's body responds differently. And in some cases, they're contraindications or you might have a certain sensitivity or an underdeveloped breath mechanic wave, and you're going to get a negative response from a breath protocol that another person is prescribing for down regulation. It might upregulate and create anxiety.

in even just extending the exhales could do that if it's not done with some principles and understanding of certain individual mechanical limitations or obstructions in the nasal airway and the tissue deviated, septums, allergies. There's so many things that like it's just a shift. We're really backing up to say here's the foundation so that you can interact skillfully with your own brilliant body.

We're not here to tell you how to live, how often to do anything. This is the principle. And here are some practices for you to start learning about yourself.

Greg Finch (01:00:03.818)
Yeah. And it also, um, again, keeps you in tune with your own progress because your response, again, whether it's, um, your own experience or at that point of physical limitation, whether it's based within your actual cardio base itself and you go, Oh, I can't do that. If we tell ourselves that and then you're progressing and then.

six weeks, 12 weeks down the line, you would have a different response, but you've already told yourself and imprinted that, Oh, I can't do that. You know, it, it, it, some of it is you're telling yourself what you can't do and not keeping in tune with what amp, where am I right now? And so I can keep really evaluating and learning to continue to progress.

Emily Hightower (01:00:47.)

Emily Hightower (01:00:54.136)
Right? Love that. Yeah, it's going to change if you're paying attention. Yeah.

Greg Finch (01:00:58.538)
Right. Right. And not waiting for somebody else to tell you. That's why I say to my clients all the time, like, this is a collaboration. I'm not going to tell you what you can and cannot do. We're going to talk about these things, track the appropriate amount of data that we can, and then discuss what the outcomes are. Like, I'll tell them repeatedly, you're going to come to me with a question and

Emily Hightower (01:01:05.944)

Emily Hightower (01:01:19.256)
Love it.

Greg Finch (01:01:25.002)
Almost my response nine times out of 10 is going to be, well, what do you think? Because I guarantee you are already creating the answer to this question by the things that you're taking in and experiencing. And if you can vocalize that, and then we can expand on that, you're going to be so much more powerful to yourself because you're going to continually be paying attention and tracking those things so much more as opposed to, well,

Emily Hightower (01:01:29.176)

Emily Hightower (01:01:42.136)
Mm -hmm.

Emily Hightower (01:01:46.136)

Greg Finch (01:01:54.026)
Greg's gonna tell me what the answer is. I don't have the answers for you.

Emily Hightower (01:01:55.224)
Yeah, right. That's the, I wish that all education could follow more in that more natural way of learning. Why teach somebody something they already know if you haven't asked them what they think already? It's brilliant. I love that. I'm hoping you can teach me to surf better. I can come entertain you.

Greg Finch (01:02:07.658)
Right, right. I mean, it's just.

Oh, man. That's that circling back on like what you talked about before with some of the things that you're working with first responders and military that work that I've done, where I've been with ex military and then they're coming in there, they're part of the program and we're teaching them to surf. Surfing, of course, is just the mechanism to be part of the water, right? The water connection. And what's

What was so powerful about them, and there's so many things we could, this could almost be a different, completely different podcast. We could just talk about this, but what I found to be so powerful about that was these warriors that were coming, that were highly trained. One of the programs I was involved with, these were active duty special forces. So they were all still active. They were,

so highly trained, so specialized. Physically, they were at just such top level. But except for one that was a Navy SEAL that had pretty extensive ocean experience and knowledge, most of them had very little. They all have some exposure, but the ocean is still somewhat foreign. And the ocean energy interacting on a board was foreign to everybody but that one Navy SEAL. It was.

Emily Hightower (01:03:27.032)

Emily Hightower (01:03:37.208)
Wow, that must have been awesome.

Greg Finch (01:03:41.002)
I it's almost impossible to put into words, but what to make it really short and precise is the trust that was built instantly where I came with like ocean is something that I've had in my life, my whole life. I have a lot of experience with it and a lot of humility. It's like, I'm always paying attention. I mean, you have to be that way. And so coming from this way where.

Emily Hightower (01:04:07.16)

Greg Finch (01:04:10.474)
their active military and not to general overgeneralize, but you're in military, you're in structure, you're at this very high level elite, they interact on in very small groups. And then they're coming to this place where the beach culture and the surf culture is much more open and free flowing. But then you connected instantly and and the trust that was built instantly, like, oh, this group of people and Greg's

as well knows what he's talking about with this. Their defenses really came down and that experience to be able to be with them for a week and be part of them and their first wave. I mean, I'll drop everything I can to do that at any point. If I ever get the opportunity to do that, it feeds something in us that is very, very hard to get other places. It's just really, really powerful.

Emily Hightower (01:04:43.992)

Mm -hmm.

Love it. It's awesome.

Yai yai.

Emily Hightower (01:05:04.216)
Yeah, that sounds like great work. What an opportunity. So there it is. You teach what you most want to learn. Yeah.

Greg Finch (01:05:08.49)
I wish I could do that. I couldn't do it every week. Physically couldn't do it every week, but man, I would love to do that way more often.

Emily Hightower (01:05:17.24)
Yeah, well, you're speaking my language. That's what we did at Camel all the time is we do these adaptive sports camps that similar to your surfing experience, there's something real like the mountain or the river, or we do archery camps with them with my archery mentor, who's a green beret. We would do these outdoor experiences that are real. They require attention. And so there's no buy -in needed. It's like, you're going to hurt yourself.

You know, and that's the language that especially our SOCOM groups, all of our military groups speak. Then, and they're very highly trained and even selected for specialization in taking risks. So they know how to pay attention in a way that's a privilege to work with. And then when you've got a doorway through sports and nature outside to engage all of these systems in the body and you get out of the talk therapy model, which certainly has a place, no disrespect,

Greg Finch (01:05:49.578)
Yeah. Yeah.

Emily Hightower (01:06:14.714)
to that at all, but to integrate that with this kind of work where you're together taking risks, you know, it's called rec therapy, but it's not. I mean, there's so much more than that. It's like getting back to reality is how I always feel when I'm in those environments. And of course, those of us involved on the facilitation side are the students. You know, you're just learning the whole time.

Greg Finch (01:06:37.13)
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I'm sure you have this experience too, like towards the, these were week longs, you know, five days or so, five to seven days. And at the end, they're profusely thanking you for all of this experience. And you just want to go, I cannot tell you how much I get from these. Like, and I guess that's really the nature of it. I mean, it's at the core is each of us feels like we got more than the other person.

Emily Hightower (01:07:05.976)
Yeah, yeah, that is so wonderful and so, so rare in, you know, raising kids and seeing the school system and what we do there versus this kind of learning and engagement. It's a totally different way to learn. So yeah, it's good to give back to those guys. You know, they, I always say like the whole career I've followed, it's a privilege to.

Greg Finch (01:07:06.026)
Like what a wonderful transaction that is.

Emily Hightower (01:07:32.12)
Our country has its own messes, but we still, I believe, have the best idea out there. We can have conversations like this. We can challenge ideas, talk freely. And I always love to turn back and really appreciate and give whatever I've been able to learn is thanks to these men and women on the front lines that have protected me and protected our way of life and created the space to even have the debates for having in our country.

Greg Finch (01:08:02.122)
Absolutely. Emily, thank you so much for being on the Surf Strong Show It was a great time talking to you and we could talk, we could have you on multiple more times and still have more things to talk about. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Emily Hightower (01:08:14.552)
Thank you so much. Yeah, it was really fun. Really good conversation.

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