Jaimal Yogis is a surfer, journalist, and author from San Francisco, California. His first book, “Saltwater Buddha”, was a huge inspiration to me and my approach to life and surfing. A memoir style coming of age story of a young surfer, searching for peace of mind through the ocean and surfing.

Yogis comes to The Dauphin Grille (inside The Berkeley Hotel) in Asbury Park on Sunday, February 10th at 6pm to discuss his latest book, “The Fear Project”. The event will be an open discussion with both Yogis and local surfer/psychologist Dr. Bill Rosenblatt. 

“The Fear Project” takes a headfirst dive into the depths of one of our darkest states of mind, that of course being fear. Yogis delves into how fear can limit our potential, stagnate our lives yet can also be used as a motivating spark.

From swimming with Great White sharks, to surfing Mavericks, Yogis stares his own fears straight in the face. There book features a wealth of discussion and research with some of the world’s top neuroscientists, psychologists, and extreme athletes.

Although traveling on his book tour while battling the flu, Yogis was gracious enough to sit down and throw some questions and answers back and forth.


ZAPPO: I’m a big fan of your first book “Saltwater Buddha”. For those who may not be familiar with your background or work, can you give a brief description of both your books?

YOGIS: Saltwater Buddha is a book about growing up. It’s about the rites of passage we all go through and look for. For me, those happened largely on a surfboard, starting when I was 16 and ran away from home to Maui to learn to surf. My parents were Buddhist and Buddhism also played a big role in my life. The book is really about a struggling kid using these two lenses — Zen and surfing — to try to figure things out. It came out in 2009 and for the last few years has been being made into a documentary film.

In my new book, The Fear Project, I was going through a tough time — break-up with a girlfriend of five years / fears about where my career was headed / bigger existential fears — and decided to take on the question of what fear is, fundamentally. Why does it so often pull the puppet strings of our actions? What makes it tick? How can we be more brave? Instead of using the same paradigms I knew well, I used the lens of neuroscience for this one, interviewing all sorts of fear-focused brain scientists and psychologists. My life still revolves around the ocean (I live across the street from the beach in San Francisco) so the book is both a romp through the latest science and series of adventures into scary waters (think great white infested, dark, cold, big). It’s also a love story but I’ll leave that part a mystery.

ZAPPO: In Saltwater Buddha you made a connection between the philosophy of Buddhism and surfing. When I was 17 and straight out of High School, I moved into a Hare Krishna temple to live as a monk. My efforts were fairly unsuccessful, as monk life was not for me. In any event I felt a connection to your story, as well as the parallels you drew between surfing and spirituality. Can you tell us how surfing can not only be an athletic pursuit, but also a spiritual practice?

YOGIS: Well, as I’m sure you learned in the Hare Krishna temple, anything can be a spiritual practice. That’s largely the point of these meditative traditions like Zen and Yoga. The practice is bringing awareness and presence to each thing we do. The cool thing about surfing — and one reason, I think, it’s so addictive — is that the constant flux of the ocean forces you into being aware and hyper-present. This is a big change from how we usually are — constantly worried about the future and past. I also think because we surf in the ocean and all life comes originally from the sea, there is something about bobbing on the waves that helps us return to our original nature. Whether you call that spiritual or not is probably based on your particular beliefs, but I don’t think any surfer would argue that it’s not healing to be out there.

ZAPPO: In “The Fear Project” you focus on the subject of fear in our lives. How much of a part does fear play in the average person’s life? How does fear derail us from reaching our goals in life? How can fear help us to push beyond personal barriers?

YOGIS: Fear plays a huge role in our lives, more than we even realize because fear largely comes from a part of the brain that functions unconsciously. Evolution has also trained us to emphasize scary events over neutral or positive ones so we often remember traumatic, embarrassing stuff more easily and we often integrate that fear into belief systems: I’m just not a good public speaker, or I’m just not a good athlete, or I’ll always be overweight. These fear stories are often just plain lying to us. But fear can also be good. At the most basic physiologic level, fear is just arousal or energy and if you can harness and it turn into focus or energy, it can act as a performance enhancer. I get into the reasons for this and how to separate good fear from bad fear in the book.


ZAPPO: In writing this book you utilized scientific evidence and research to gain in depth understanding into the subject of fear. In fact you were the guinea pig so to speak for some of your own “scientific” experiments. You swam with Great White sharks and you also surfed Mavericks during the process of writing. Those are two things that quite frankly would scare the shit out of me. What were those experiences like?

YOGIS: Scary. But take sharks. The interesting thing was that it was far more scary to think about seeing a shark than to actually see one. Mavericks was the same way. I definitely felt afraid, but when you’re doing something physical, fear has an outlet and it’s not as intense.  Generally stewing in anxiety — all the what ifs — is far worse than just going for it.

ZAPPO: What is your most apparent realization into the nature of fear?

YOGIS: It’s not real. It arises in the mind and ceases in the mind.

ZAPPO: How has your life changed since the completion of the book?

YOGIS: The biggest deal is probably that I’m married and I’m a dad: two things I was very afraid of. I’m so stoked I took the leap though.

ZAPPO: You will be doing a book tour this month, hitting up the east

coast. Any plans for any cold water surfing in the northeast?

YOGIS: I hope so. Anyone have a board I can use?


ZAPPO: What do you hope people will get from reading “The Fear Project”?

YOGIS: Fear tricks us into not appreciating all the good things we have.  Yes, there is lots of bad stuff in the world, but the raw data says that we live longer, healthier lives than ever before in history. This is a golden age. I hope this book is a stepping stone to appreciating what we have and reaching our potential as a species.

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