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Our Greatest Challenges can be our Greatest Opportunities | Surfing CloudBreak – Tavi, Fiji 2017

I have long believed our greatest challenges can often become our greatest opportunities, if we allow them to be…  This idea of consciously stepping outside our low-level pains and personal frictions to ask the higher question, “what am I supposed to learn from this struggle” is at the core of my constitution as well as my recovery from paralysis.  A few decades ago, I remember standing in an airport, picking up a surf magazine and seeing “it” for the first time – that teal, hollow, overhead barreling diamond of a wave clapping down on a Fijian reef named after a meat skewering device.  The cover shot (probably a Tom Servais image & probably Kelly Slater surfing) was an image of a stand up CloudBreak barrel, and it flipped a neuro switch deep inside my head.

I am a mountain adventure kid by environment, who grew up on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe pursing myriad adventure sports in the snow, dirt, rock and air.  As an expedition whitewater kayaker and professional back country snowmobile rider, athletic experiences in the ocean were yet to land on my shores.  Moments before picking up that fabled surf magazine, I was not a surfer…and, after seeing CloudBreak for the first time, I wanted to be.


Now, back to my belief that our greatest challenges can often become our greatest opportunities.  As much as my spirit desired the experience of standing in the shade of that iconic wave off the island of Tavarua, the likelihood of me becoming a surfer capable of respectfully surfing that wave was minimal.  And, after sustaining a life-altering 2010 spinal cord injury while filming for a snowmobile project in the Sierra back country, that likelihood became infinitely further away.  Although the distance to this dream wave was now light years away, the goal never changed within my heart.

A few years into all-day physical therapy and workouts, my greatest challenge had now landed my wife Shawna and I on the shores of Maui to push my miraculous recovery beyond its limit, along side dear friend and Olympic gold medalist Alpine skier, Julia Mancuso.  It was her Dad, Ciro that put me on a board for the first time.  Ciro piggy backed me into the water and set me on a giant all red Laird SUP for my first session at Kihei Cove – with a kid sized stand up paddle.  I would scratch myself into small waves, grab an outside rail to initiate a turn, hold on for dear life and ultimately get annihilated into the white chaos.  With time, those small waves got bigger and bigger.  Eventually I met a shaper named Tyler Lausten who worked with me to create custom prototype boards , which featured cuts outs for my feet, a pad for my butt, a seat belt to hold me in, and a leash to secure my old kayak paddle.  The prototype process led us to an 8.0 tri-fin design that allowed me to explore waves which kept getting bigger and faster.  With time, surfing doors continued to open and I found myself in heavier and heavier line ups all over Maui, Kauai, Santa Cruz, Ventura, Todos Santos, and then…a heartfelt email showed up in our inboxes.

Opening the message, my smile extended a mile-wide.  Julia is getting married, and the location is spectacular!  Jules is marrying one of the greatest guys on the planet – a waterman legend named Dyan Fish with a heart the size of the south pacific and a surfing talent capable of competing with the world’s best.  Dylan, lives in Fiji on Tavarua island many months out of the year.  As this infamous “heart-shaped island” is one of Dylan’s homes, the soon to be married couple chose this slice of paradise to tie their proverbial knot.  Within moments of reading the invite, Shawna and I realized that CloudBreak – that teal, hollow, overhead barreling diamond of a water wall – would be right off shore…and, if conditions, talent, safety and courage all perfectly aligned, that multi-decade goal might be within reach.

Our greatest challenges can often become our greatest opportunities, if we let them.  On a brilliant June evening in 2017, a man who dreamed about surfing a far a way distant wave, who laid in a hospital bed years prior with zero feeling or movement below his belly button, loaded up into a Fijian boat with friends, family and stoke higher than the moon.  The boat hummed its way from the island, pulled into the CloudBreak channel and with all the safety boxes checked, the man jumped into the water fulfilling a life dream.  Just being in the water with those world-class ocean athletes was the full realization of his goal.  And, riding the soul-filling waves that ensued, gave way to a freedom and bliss equaling an experience which left an indelible smile on his soul…

Our greatest challenges are our greatest opportunities, if we let them be…  Stay thirsty, my friends – Korg
 *Photos, courtesy of Tom Servais | thank you, Tom |

The Heart of Gratitude

Korg & Naa Jeff Dow Tahoe When I was thinking about gratitude (like most people do this time of year), I asked myself the question, how deep is my gratitude?  Do I let my gratitude resonate into my heart and soul, truly, I mean truly deep into my soul or does it remain on the surface?  Now it’s easy to answer that question in regards to the people in my life.  When I think about Grant and the gratitude I feel for having him in my life, for getting to be in his life, for the life we share together, that gratitude is what fuels my soul…it is my heart.  The gratitude that I feel for my family, friends and of course Obie runs deep in my heart – this is what I am grateful for each and every day, and I think these are the “easy” things to be grateful for.  Now, when I say “easy” it doesn’t take away their value…it’s just those are the things that are the strongest forms of gratitude in my life, you probably have those people/things too.  And wow…how grateful do I feel to be able to, on a daily basis, feel and express my gratitude for what is in my life.

Now being perfectly honest, I know sometimes it can be really challenging to find the gratitude.  Sometimes you have to dig really, really deep to be able to say, “thank you”.  For me being willing to “see the silver lining”  to the unexpected life-altering adversity which Grant and I have faced together, has given me the opportunity to see a beautiful side of humanity that I never would have before, and to witness the true power of the human spirit to persevere, despite pain and challenge.   When I am able to search, dig, find and embrace gratitude in a situation that feels more difficult to do so, it is those moments that give me the most hope, strength and opportunity to learn from.

So now going back to my original question…how deep is my gratitude?   Well it made me think of something that I have always believed, something I would share in the classes I used to teach, “every step, every choice you have ever made has led you to where you are today.”  I really do believe this.  Now, if you don’t like where you are well…maybe make some different choices.  But that doesn’t take away from all the choices you made before.   Those people that you have met, the people you had in your life (for maybe a long time or maybe a short time), the jobs you’ve had, the places you’ve lived, the adventures you’ve gone on, and even the myriad challenges (the loss, the heartaches, the life-altering adversity)…they have all shaped who you are in this very moment.

It’s these people and those past experiences which help define how you live your life, the choices you make today, and the decisions you will face in the future.  For me, to create even more room in my heart for all things I am grateful for, to let them run deep (and not just stay on the surface), I am taking a conscious moment to truly feel grateful for all the steps, the people, the choices, the heartache and even the unexpected challenges I have experienced in my life…for these are the things that have made me who I am.   And, if gratitude is the bridge to joy (which I believe it to be), then I want my bridge to be strong and sturdy…I want it to be built on pillars of hope, honor and love.

So this Holiday Season, I am not only thankful for the many incredible blessings I have in my life today, I am also grateful for every step, person, chapter, celebration and challenge I’ve experienced in the past.  Because whether light, dark, high or low…all of these experiences allow me to truly be grateful for this moment I am living in now.


The Naa

Look In The Mirror

Every day I look in the mirror I see it staring back at me…a scar…a reminder.  It reminds me of that scary phone call I received from my doctor when I was 29 years old, it reminds me of that time in my life, it reminds me of the emotions, and of course it reminds me to put on sunscreen…but what really brings me to tears when I see the scar on my chest is the reminder of just how powerful the human spirit is.  It is the piece of me that says “you are strong”, it reminds me just how grateful and blessed I truly am, it’s the piece that sometimes yells at me, “Say Yes Shawna…say Yes” when I think I’m too afraid to do something new, it’s the piece of me that reminds me that I have been in battle before and I will be again…it reminds me that I am a warrior.

We all have scars, some we can see and some we cannot, and we have all been on the battlefield.  Our scars remind us that every choice we have ever made has led us to where we are today.  And if we don’t like where we are that scar gives us the strength to make a different choice, or it gives us the appreciation for where we are and to keep moving forward on our current path with vigor, force and determination.

So if you are reading this today I want you to remember just truly how magnificent and amazing you are.  I want you to look in the mirror and see your scars, celebrate them, embrace them, and let them fuel your heart with the strength of the powerful warrior that you are and go forth with the courage, confidence and above all…love.

From my scar to yours – MadLuv,

The Naa

P.S. Please take a moment and watch this video…”Dear 16 year old me”, put your sunscreen on, check your skin regularly, trust your intuition when that voice is telling you to go get something looked at, and please share this with someone.

Defining Moments… March 5th

I truly believe the greatest gift we can ever be given is to be of service to another human being.  Perhaps one of the best ways we can be of service is to share our defining moments…  So please remember to share your story, to share your journey with those around you, and always remember you are here to do something only you can do in the way in which you will do it.  Stand in your truth, live your highest version and share your light with the world.

March 5th, 2015 – as I sat down to work on exactly what I wanted to express today, on the five year anniversary of Grant’s spinal cord injury, I had many emotions, many thoughts, and when I put it out to the Universe, “what I should share today?” – the answer was “Two Feet Back”.  So I opened Grant’s first book and started reading the prologue…  Below are the paragraphs which stood out to me – these are the gems I would like to share with you now, the elements which best sum up our journey and the pearls of wisdom which still stand true five years later.


*From the Prologue of Grant’s Book: “Two Feet Back”

“From an early age, I wanted to make an impact on the world.  I worked hard in school, got good grades, started a nanotechnology firm with real-world applications.  The work I did proved to be the enabling technology in some high-level research campaigns:  potentially reducing cancerous tumors, improving homeland security, and even working toward fusion energy-and unlimited alternative power source.  I met my dream girl, got married, had money, and that was great.  I made scientific contributions, and I’m proud of that.  But it turns out that was all the easy stuff.”  “Many people think all those things were what I was getting back to – job, money, romance.  But let me tell you, when I was lying there in the hospital bed, watching my wife, Shawna, keeping a bubble of hope and positivity around me, as we slept in our van to afford physical therapy, as we used every last cent we had or could get on medical bills, I learned to accept the gifts of time and effort (and money) that people – even strangers – offered.  I found there were better parts of myself to get back to.  And, more importantly, better parts of people to love.”

Hospital - ICU - Shawna First Look _ Shawna first sees her husband, her new journey - Pam Korgan

“I think we come into this world beautiful and whole.  But life is a lesson in forgetting.  It is so easy to lose track of that better self in the chaos and competition of everyday life.  I wasn’t even aware that something vital was slipping away.  My journey through recovery has been an exercise in remembering – remembering who I am, what’s important in the world, and what love is.  It hasn’t changed me, because that person was always there.  Rather, being broken down to the core of who I am gave me the gift of being able to build back up on a much stronger foundation.”

“The day I broke my back, I took a snowmobile off a jump and into a beautiful spring afternoon sky.  Though I overshot where I wanted to land by nearly one hundred feet, I would’ve been fine but for the last two feet.  It wasn’t that I overshot my mark; it was that I overshot it by a mere two feet too much.  If I’d only gone ninety-eight feet farther than I had planned I would’ve been just fine.  If I had landed a mere two feet back, I would’ve gone home that night to my new wife and gotten ready for a new chapter in my life, just as I’d planned.  We’d had it all mapped out.

“As it happened, that extra two feet changed my life in ways I never could’ve planned for, but I’ve found I was training for it my entire life.  Everything Shawna and I have done since that day has been in service of getting my two feet back.  I’ve regained much of what the doctors were sure I had lost.  But my feet, the two feet that took me into the back woods and rivers’ edges, down the aisle, and into meetings, the feet I hadn’t even thought about in years, they became the world.  The day my feet turn from burning lumps of pain into functioning appendages, I will be back.  But I will never go back to the road I’d been traveling before. I don’t want to.  I don’t know where my feet are taking me these days, and that ‘s just fine with me.  I’m just happy to be along for the travels. “

“Thank you for taking the time to follow my journey.  I hope it helps you undo the forgetting of life and remember the good you know.  I needed a broken back to get me standing in my truth.  You don’t. Namaste”


Today Grant and I created another new memory…we experienced the bliss and joy of doing a sport together once again.  We paddled around the lake, me on my SUP and G in his outrigger canoe with Obie running along the shore with us.  The sun was shining, the air was pure, and our hearts were full.  It was a magical moment, a moment of true joy…

To continue the journey of reading “Two Feet Back” please visit:


Be Kind…Be Love.

I have the incredible honor of being one of the coaches for the team movement.  The mission of Cheer4Kindness is, to rally outspoken, caring and truly awesome individuals to ban together & inspire kindness not just through our words but through our actions; therefore, 2015 is a year of kindness!

As I was reading a book this morning, The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma, I came upon this beautiful and powerful piece of wisdom:

“ No action, no matter how small, is insignificant—how we treat someone defines how we treat everyone, including ourselves.  If we disrespect another, we disrespect ourselves.  If we are mistrustful of others, we are distrustful of ourselves.  If we are cruel to another, we will be cruel to ourselves.  If we can’t appreciate those around us, we won’t appreciate ourselves.  With every person we engage, in everything we do, we must be kinder than expected, more generous than anticipated, more positive than we thought possible.  Every moment in front of another human being is an opportunity to express our highest vales and to influence someone with our humanity.  We can make the world better, one person at a time.”

My commitment to kindness is to remember the wisdom above each and every time I have an interaction with someone, to share a little piece of kindness with them, to remind them of their greatness, and to remind them how truly powerful they are…and to also remember to share that kindness with myself. We are our harshest critics, which at times is good.  It’s good to push ourselves, to challenge ourselves, to step out of our comfort zones, to grow, to learn…just remember to be kind to yourself along the way.  The thoughts you think, and the words you speak have great power…we become what we think and speak…Be Mindful…Be Powerful…Be Great…Be Kind…Be Love.  Thank you Robin Sharma for sharing your kindness and wisdom with the world…Namaste`.


“Change is Inevitable Growth is Optional”

There is a quote that Grant shares during his presentations and it is one that resonates with me to the core…Perhaps also because we saw this quote together while we were riding through the Nevada desert on Grant’s BMW GS motorcycle heading off for a climbing adventure in Zion, Utah.  There I was on the back of this incredible machine, geared up to the nines (safety has always been the #1 priority to G), headphones on, arms wrapped around the love of my life, feeling unlimited, free and like we had the world at our feet.  I had that moment, you know, when you feel like “Ok, everything I have been through, the ups and downs, the standing in my truth even when it wasn’t comfortable, all makes sense in this moment…I have finally reached my happy place, I am at peace”.  And just as I am in this blissful state, we ride by a sign (literally in the middle of the Nevada desert) that says, “Change is Inevitable, Growth is Optional.”  Now of course Grant and I couldn’t talk about it at the time (you know helmets, 75 mph wind, headphones), but I knew he had seen the quote as well, and it had stuck with him too.  As I reflect back on this moment, sometimes I like to think this might have been a little gift from the Universe preparing us and giving us a tool which we would later draw upon for strength, courage and a reminder of the incredible power we all have inside ourselves as human beings to consciously choose what we do with and how we react to the many changes in our lives.

Now as we all know, change, even if it’s something we plan for, something we welcome – is still a process and a challenge.  And if it’s something we do not plan for, want or create, it can be even more challenging to remember, “Growth is Optional.”  But the truth still remains…”Change is Inevitable.”

So why all this talk of change?  Well, as Grant and I have forged ahead on this path of spinal cord injury recovery toward his goal of 120% we have known we would need to continue to create and welcome change…even if it made us uncomfortable.  Starting back in March, Grant and I began selling things, giving things away, and letting go to prepare us for our next leap of faith…  A journey to embark upon a Healing Tour to work with and find the modalities/practitioners/science throughout the world that could positively affect not only Grant’s recovery but gain knowledge and skills to help others with SCI and other neurological diseases like MS, Parkinson’s, etc.  Our plan is to visit some of the places/people we have already been to, to dive deeper into the methods/modalities and better document the experience, as well as seek out new possibilities, people and places.  We feel like this is the next step on our mission to infuse the world with positivity, to create change and to get Grant and I dancing the waltz once again.

So we decided to start this Healing Tour with a place and person that we love, respect and have gained unparalleled results with.  The kind of healing and results that moved Grant from walking in crutches to walking in canes, the kind of healing that has made sleeping muscles awaken…the kind of therapy I know with every ounce of my being will bring Grant and I back to the dance floor waltzing once again…  It was time to go back to Maui to work with Alejandra Monsalve.

OK great, so let’s get this healing journey started…  This is what we wanted, so let’s make it happen and really how hard could it be to pack everything up, put it all in storage and journey to an island?  Well to tell you the truth it was a challenging process, it was hard and at times and very emotional.  Everything from realizing we were going to be away from our friends, our family, my grandparents, away from our community, away from our support system & foundation, and… temporary away from our fur child, Obie – to the crazy things like me selling my couch and drum coffee table which held great meaning for me – to Grant selling all of his mountain bikes and completely getting out of our comfort zones…  All the while battling with the question, “Are we doing the right thing?”  Of course we knew in our hearts the answer was, “yes”, and with each step we took forward toward making this goal a reality (a goal that we have been working on for over a year) we gained more and more confidence and strength in the decision.  Throughout this journey we have allowed ourselves to be guided – this situation was no different, and we would continue to do whatever it took for Grant to make a full recovery.

I have always believed, and have done my best to live my life with the reminder, that life happens out on the skinny branches – for that is where the fruit is.  This concept to me is the essence of living life to the fullest…  It can be scary, exciting, grounding and exhilarating when your feet are off the ground.  To live, to breathe standing in your truth, and to know that although I might not always be in control of the change which occurs in my life, I am certainly in control of how I react to it, what emotions I attach to it, and ultimately how I choose to move forward from these endlessly occurring opportunities for personal growth.

So I guess you could say we are on our own version of an “Eat, Pray, Love” experience, and this first phase of our journey would be titled, “Move.”  Movement is the essence of life; the movement of our bodies, our thoughts, and our spirits…  We are constant energy in motion – even when we are being still we are still moving.  This “Move” portion of our journey has first begun in Maui, Hawaii and will continue for as long as it takes to get Grant’s legs moving, get his toes moving, his calves moving, and to keep his body moving in the ways he dreams about every hour of every day.

All of this would not be possible if it were not for the incredible people in our lives supporting and empowering this dream to toward fruition.  Gratitude is overflowing from our hearts…  Gratitude for our parents, my brother, sister-in-law, incredible nephew (and of course our beautiful niece Abby), and our friends whom worked tirelessly to get us moved out of our house and into storage, and who have unconditionally loved and cheered us forward no matter how steep the hill lay before us.  Gratitude for the phenomenal High Fives Foundation who continues to believe in and empower Grant’s recovery, to the incredible generosity of those who continue to donate to the High Fives Foundation into Grant’s athlete empowerment fund (allowing us to work with the best), to the phenomenal Mancuso family who have inspired to much healing, to our Haiku Ohana (family) who were an answer to a prayer for providing not just a place to rent, but a place that is magical, healing and overflowing in it’s beauty (thank you is not big enough), and to our incredible Hawaii Ohana who continue to open doors and cheer as Grant literally walks through them.  Endless gratitude to each and everyone of you for your social media shout outs, to reading Grant’s book (Two Feet Back), and for your endlessly inspiring texts and reachouts!  Gratitude to the clients who book Grant for speaking engagements to share “The Power of Positivity”, and HUGE thanks to our incredible sponsors (Navitas Naturals, BioProtein, GoPro, Balanced Body, Boost Creative, Spine Nevada, TL Waveskis, The Sensus, and BigTruck Brand), and to every single person who is pushing forward in their own life to pursue their dreams regardless of challenge…  YOU inspire us!  Thank you from our hearts…

Throughout this journey I want to share with you not only what is happening in therapy but the other insights, experiences and moments we have.  It is our desire to share because Grant and I believe as human beings it is in our nature to learn from one another, by simply being a witness to each other lives, stories and moments. I believe we are meant to celebrate each others triumphs, to be there to hold one another up during our moments of struggle, and to empower our fellow man to constantly live the highest versions of ourselves.

I want to know of your journeys; how you move through the expected and unexpected changes of life…I want to hear from you – post on social media using hashtag “choosepositivitynow”.  I want us to be a powerful reminder to one another that “Change is Inevitable, Growth is Optional” – John C. Maxwell.  I look forward to growing together…


Namaste` – The Naa ~ a.k.a Shawna











The Power of Love

I love love everyday…It is love that empowers every step Grant Korgan and I have taken on this journey..The love for each other, the love we feel from our family, friends, & community, and it is love that is at “the heart” (no pun intended:) of our mission to empower others to remember the beautiful greatness, strength and power that lies within us all to overcome any adversity we face in life with courage, positivity and of course LUV!  Live your dreams…YOU ARE #UNLIMITED!!!

The Power of Love…My Journey “My love for Grant is the greatest force in my life, by loving him I am loving myself…He is the inspiration of my heart & the fuel to my fire.  So find what fuels your heart and gives life to your dreams & goals..infuse your everyday life with that #HeartandFire.  You are a being of love and light here to make a difference…You are a warrior of change, of hope, and the greatest of all #LOVE!!