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125 – Ismael Araya “I was going too fast in life”

Pura Vida! Pure Life. It’s what they say in Costa Rica – a country that has become very special to me. It’s the place I learned a new sport that I hope to continue through the rest of my life – surfing! Today you get to meet a very special person – his name is Ismael Araya. Ish is a surfing legend, a survivor, and today a surf instructor who helps people find happiness, even though he doesn’t have full use of his legs anymore, something you might think is a requirement for a surf instructor!

I asked Ish to explain Pura Vida and he said it’s the answer to everything. It means pure life and it’s possible that Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world because they share pure life with each other all day long. Good morning. Pura vida. Nice wave. Pura vida. My car broke down. Pura vida. This coffee is delicious. Pura vida. My baby won’t sleep. Pura vida.

Ish’s story is both heartbreaking and hopeful. He was a young, self-taught surfing prodigy who gained early fame as his surfing career started to take off. But his lack of discipline combined with a lack of support led to unhealthy drug use and an inability to control his anger. Ish didn’t reach the highest echelons in his sport at that time and instead, he floundered and simply survived.

Until one day when he almost didn’t survive. Ish literally died twice under a bus when he went of out control on his motorcycle over 6 years ago. He was revived only to be told he would never walk again. That’s when the Ish I know today was born.

Somehow Ish has been able to not just survive, but to thrive, as a new person in a new body. He has definitely defied the odds in many ways.


Episode Note

We recorded via skype on Colleen Cannon’s laptop in Costa Rica. You’ll hear a few beeps because Colleen is a very popular woman planning and running Women’s Quest retreats around the world. I have to give her some props – she is the reason I met Ish in the first place and my favorite surf buddy. She’s also episode 50 of this podcast called “Colleen Cannon on Chickens, Watermelons & Why Women Will Save the Earth.”

Today we talk about:

  • How Ish found surfing
  • His early days on a board
  • Ish’s family life with 22 siblings
  • How a lack of support led to anger led to drugs
  • The accident
  • The prospect of losing his legs entirely
  • How Ish came back and started walking again
  • The 2nd accident
  • How surfing and the ocean helped Ish heal and grow
  • Ish today: Adaptive surfing advocate, surf instructor & engaged dad

Some people call Ish a surf shaman. I would agree with that. The water, the ocean, surfing, they all take on such a bigger meaning when Ish is involved. Yet he’s still just a person, trying to survive, trying to find happiness each day. As he said, he now works to accept the quiet side of life. My favorite Ish quote, and there are so many, is what he said to me on the board that day in January, “Nicole – you must look where you want to go – or at least where you’re going.”  I’d love to know your favorite part of this episode. Please share it with someone else who will benefit from hearing Ish’s story.

For more Ismael Araya:

Watch “The Lion Surfer” documentary

The Lion Surfer – the story of Ismael Araya . By Eye for Eye Productions from Eye for Eye Productions on Vimeo.

Episode Deal!

That’s it for today! You know what time it is. It’s time to get out there and Run This World. Have a great workout and I’ll see you next week.