My Surfing Escapades in Search of a More Fully Aligned Life

by Jed Rudd, COO

“Do not be afraid of death. Be afraid of the half-lived life!” Laird Hamilton

Let me start this article off clearly – I am a passionate, if wholly mediocre, surfer. I am the amiable, talkative, cheer-for-everyone, hoot-on-every-wave type of surfer. This is surfer code for: a complete embarrassment to the ideals of surf-dom and surfer-cool… which is a real thing. I literally embarrass cool surfers with genial banter and “owning” my carefree joy on the water.

Cool surfers are near the water- I’m the nerd ‘owning’ this moment…

I just returned from a surf odyssey in Baja Mexico. I pondered throughout my journey, why does this matter?

What can I share from it other than some mild self-deprecation?

Standing at the Water’s Edge

“Jerry Seinfeld is a genius. Seinfeld, who doesn’t need to work, still does stand-up comedy, fine-tuning his bits obsessively, averaging close to a hundred shows a year. He says he’s going to keep doing it “into my 80s, and beyond.” In a recent interview, he compared himself to surfers: “What are they doing this for? It’s just pure. You’re alone. That wave is so much bigger and stronger than you. You’re always outnumbered. They always can crush you. And yet you’re going to accept that and turn it into a little, brief, meaningless art form.― William Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (Emphasis added.)

I was always interested in learning to surf but growing up a landlocked desert state, I was relegated to skateboarding and skiing (not snowboarding, no, I wasn’t that cool). When I eventually moved near the ocean, I knew I had to give this surfing thing a try. I asked around for local advice, I took a half day class at the local university, and I began this endeavor.

As luck would have it, I began learning in the waters of Humboldt County, California – which are fickle, freezing, and notoriously sharky (of the great white variety) … and I started learning in winter. Think damp, dark, foggy, and large waves.

Most sane people look at the cold, grey, treacherous waters of far Northern California and bristle at the idea of putting a toe in. Now add to this unwelcoming environment a sport, a lifestyle, so notoriously difficult to learn that many experienced surfers advise that if you don’t learn before you turn 14, don’t even try. The perpetually shifting landscape combined with whole body/mind strength and coordination make it incredibly difficult to do anything consistently. Thus, practice by repetition is virtually impossible. Unless you count paddling as surfing, because you do a ton of that, constantly.

But here I was, 36, on my own (I couldn’t find a surf buddy who could meet my bizarre availabilities as an active father and engaged healthcare leader) standing at the turbulent water’s edge, like a pacifist Hunger Games contestant – the odds were (n)ever in my favor. As I struggled and progressed through those coming days and months, I discovered something vital – I love a good challenge.

This is in Baja – the opposite of surfing in Humboldt!

“Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?” I would make the film version of Gimli proud.

The harder and more uncomfortable things got – and it got scary – a lot – I doubled down. I also found this pursuit that fused fitness, meditation, yoga, nature, dopamine, confrontations with my mortality, and a deep sense of satisfaction – in one. It was like the miracle pill of pursuit for me – combining all the things I love individually into one experience – a superfood in activity form.

I had found one of my life’s key passions – one of my things.

An Aligned Workplace Experience

Now, why share this with Tribal Health? Well, I’ve been talking with a lot of people lately about Tribal Health and why we are different. And our difference, what we offer, is kind of like what I found in surfing. Tribal Health is a chance to blend your work passion, your ideals, your mission, your financial goals, and your need to work with great people in the context of a genuinely good-hearted company – all in one. A superfood in the workplace – the potential for a more fully aligned workplace experience.

And that’s really what I think I was looking for and found out in those waters – a way to express my full alignment. And I’ve found the same expression here at Tribal.

If you’re part of Team Tribal, I hope you have too!

I must believe that we aren’t that different – we love challenges and when the going gets tough, we double down…That’s why we choose this work, making this kind of difference. “Sane people” might run away – but they miss out on this rich, aligned, living experience. I believe our shared insanity in the pursuit of serving others is our strategic advantage. Our team, in their fully aligned power, are what makes Tribal Health a great place to work.

So, let’s paddle out together in this ocean of potential in the workplace. I promise I’ll continue to cheer for every wave you catch and “own” the joy of this experience.


“Out in the lineup, once the swells started pumping, large pools of awe seemed to collect around us, hushing us, or reducing us to code and murmurs, as though we were in church. There was too much to say, too much emotion, and therefore nothing to say.”

― William Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

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