Tom Jones will be going for what would be the challenge of a lifetime for most, for him probably just another challenge along the way. Tom will be the first person to try to join the coast of California to Hawaii in Stand Up Paddle. He will most probably make it because he doesn't mix well with the word "quit".
Tom Jones is an extreme athlete who has ventured in countless environmental and humanitarian journeys.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, California – Tom Jones will be going for what would be the challenge of a lifetime for most, for him probably just another challenge along the way. Tom will be the first person to try to join the coast of California to Hawaii in Stand Up Paddle. He will most probably make it because he doesn't mix well with the word "quit".
Tom Jones, World Champion martial artist and multiple world record ultra-endurance athlete, is a man who knows how to overcome obstacles – physical, mental and emotional. He is an extreme athlete, a man who never stops training both body and mind, and a humanitarian who has consistently used his athletic gifts to benefit causes he believes in. Tom is a long-term child advocate, a leading defender of the ocean environment, and a motivational speaker who inspires others to be the best that they can be. Tom shows people how they can act upon their greatest aspirations and reach out beyond themselves to make a difference in the world around them. (Join the Destinations Group.)
In addition to his ongoing athletic accomplishments and charity work, Tom is a successful inventor and a world-class physical performance trainer who works equally effectively with athletes, the disabled and special needs children. Tom turned a horrifically abused childhood into a tremendous motivation to excel and to be a positive contributor to society…
Among other things he's done: (1) Standup paddled length of California from Oregon to Mexico and set THE FIRST AND UNBEATEN official SUP distance world record (1,250 miles in 90 consecutive days); (2) Standup paddled from Key West to New York City and to set UNBEATEN WORLD RECORD of 1507 miles in 92 consecutive days (physiological equivalent of running 1½ marathons every day); (3) Sequentially ran, biked and standup paddled the entire coast of Oahu (Unmatched feat); (4) Twice pro Muy Thai WORLD CHAMPION, Three time usa champion; (5) Ran full length of California – on 3 separate occasions for child abuse causes; (6) Set STILL-STANDING WORLD RECORD of 121 consecutive daily marathon runs from California to New York to benefit abused children; (7) Ran sub-4-hour marathon and won sanctioned professional kick boxing match on the same day (Unmatched feat); (8) Won North American Kickboxing title as the oldest competitor in the sport; (9) USO Iraq Tour – Guest speaker MMA Superstars ( Chosen over 8000 other brilliant heros to represent america and motivate troops in Iraq). (Join the Racing Group.)
Tom is an incredible athlete that you wouldn't believe after reading his list of feats and records is not better known. He answered exclusively StandUpLatino's questions to help us better understand this man.
1) When did you decide to start this kind of trip and what motivates you?
In 1988, I decided that I would dedicate my athletic abilities to worthwhile causes. I was taken away from my parents or my home when I was 10 years old for child abuse. My father was incredibly abusive and my mother was certifiably mentally ill, very ill to the point where she tried to do harm to her kids many times and to herself, she was very unavailable. I had a very tough childhood. Then I was put in a children's home that had a different kind of predator than what I had dealt with in the past. I had dealt with physical and mental abuse, I'd never dealt with sexual abuse. And the children's home I was placed in was a big home, and the house parents, a lot of them were sexually abusing the kids, there was a lot of that. I had to deal with that, caused a lot of problems growing up.
I was very fortunate to be a world class prize fighter and have a vent to do well, to take out my aggression and anger about this and not only in a very healthy way, but I got paid to this. So it became a release and a career for me at the same time. After 75 prize fights, and having won all but 4 times in the 75 fights and having it all about me seemed to be very empty. I was looking for something else to fulfill myself. I had a professional fighter athlete who asked me to go do an appearance on his behalf at a children's home that was local to my area. I went and did that and it brought back all the memories of being in a children's home and I felt very guilty to have turned my back on that situation. Especially after all my success that I had enjoyed in my life. And I wanted to inspire other people. When I was training for a world title, I had a epiphany, I was the only fighter I knew (and I knew them all) that enjoyed training and I would run double that what I had to for pleasure. I could possibly run long distance with no problem and bring inspiration to the kids that were in these homes.
So in 1998, I did the Tom Jones Child Abuse Awareness, where I ran from Oregon to Mexico on foot. I stopped at children's homes on the way and did motivational speeches and shared my story. I not only raised awareness that was my goal, I raised money and not only that, I did that 2 times more since then and I've literally bought playgrounds for kids and inspired tons of kids, it was great and I felt good. So I wanted to it more and more. So I did.
In 2000, I ran across the country, I ran 121 consecutive marathons, and I stopped at children's homes across the country again. So I was doing this more and more because of the feel good thing and the connexion with kids. My wife wanted me to do something that was more instant gratification, so I said that surfing thing that I do, I want to do that because that is instant gratification. I had caught a few waves, it was fun but the only problem was that I sucked at surf (shortboard). So I hired someone to teach me to surf from my area. And the more I learned to surf, the more I realized I was surrounded by heaps of trash, it was troublesome. I spoke to an obscure guy at the time, who since has been named one of the most influential person of this plastic movement. His name is Captain Charles Moore and he discovered with his boat the Pacific Garbage Patch that's between California and Hawaii.
I decided I would make that a cause and also because I wanted to do something water related. There was tons of plastic in the water and it could cause harm to human and wildlife and it was 100% man made and it could be remediated. So I had found a new cause outside of the child abuse. The only problem I sucked at surfing and wasn't a waterman. Hahahahaha.
2) How do you overcome that physical fatigue?
The physical fatigue I was actually able to do that because of the lifetime of physical and sexual abuse I suffered. My mum tried to shoot me a couple of times, I just had a lot of mental and physical abuse so I'm able to handle things that most people would find impossible mentally to handle, to me it's comfortable. I had trouble with handling stability because it was so far out of what I'm used to, of what's normal for me. Chaotic thunderstorms, purple black skies, I'm going to die, stuff going all around me, sharks, I'm pretty comfortable. Great stable life, everything going great, have a nice income, not that comfortable. That kind of abuse I endured enables me to take it mentally, physically, all the prize fighting and endurance running made my legs completely ready, my muscles were set, they could take the long times standing on the board, etc…
3) What's your best moment in the water?
Maybe the time when I was paddling down the California coastline, I was in Northern California and we had a hundred pilot whales going along with me. That's one of the more incredible moments, but I could share hundreds of moments. I have never experienced life at that level. I've paddled over millions of jellyfish together, it looks like snow below you. I've seen sealions freefall from cliffs at 75-80 feet, 30-40 sealions freefalling together, I've seen a dolphin born in the water, great white sharks, I had a Orca take a run at me, so many sunrises and sunsets that our language doesn't have the words to describe or express it. It's a once in a lifetime experience.
4) What was your worst moment in the water?
It was in Shelter Cove in the California paddle 2007, we had been warned by the fisherman to stay out of the middle of the Cove and to hug the shoreline, protected from the wind. There was no South wind so keeping hugging the shoreline was 3 or 4 extra miles and I decided to go through the middle, stepped on the back on my board and turned my board towards which I was told not to go. I was with Rhyn Noll, the son of Greg Noll who said we weren't supposed to do that, I said they weren't paddling. I discovered later that there is a 7000 feet ravine in the middle of the Cove where orcas come to hunt and feed and that's why you don't go there. Then we realize there is 3 or 4 orca fins, Rhyn takes the waverunner to check it out, one orca slipped under the jetski and came towards me like a freight train. It took a turn about 20-25 feet away from me leaving a huge wake, everybody started to panic. I fell in the water, it was just chaos… for sure one of the scariest moments for me in the water.
5) How is a typical day when you're on these paddling trips?
I have a 40 foot motorhome with a trailer truck that has 2 jetskis for the support team. Those are my escort vehicles. Most spots where I paddle are not accessible by land, so get up at 3.00 o'clock in the morning, a bit of nutrition, put the jetskis in the water, go 20 or 30 miles to the spot where we stopped last night, paddle all day then get back on the jetskis who come to pick you up and find a ramp for pullout, take both skis on the trailer, pull it back to the motorhome, clean it all up. Get back in the motorhome and get on google maps and do the nautical maps for the following day and then basically eat and crash. It's a logistical nightmare. If nothing fails or breaks through the day, it would be from 3 AM to 2 PM doing that.
6) What's the equipment that cannot fail on these trips?
If my paddle snaps, anything that happens to my paddle really, and it has happened in the past, will usually shut me down, I lost a board once also because a guy panicked, that shut me down. I could handle it without fins. If something happens to my paddle I´m down, that's why the jetskis have a spare paddle for me with food and water that they pass to me during the trip. The skis are a great help to keep me on course. They've rescued me plenty of times.
7) What type of board do you use for these crossings?
I designed my own long distance board for this last paddle. When I did the 2007 paddle, paddleboarding was really new and I used a stock surftech Laird 12 foot board, one of the ones that was available at the time. This last paddle I teamed up with Ark Paddle Boards (http://www.arkboards.com/)from South Florida and I gave them the measurements for my 14 foot Tom Jones Extreme Long Distance model and I use that board now.
My paddling technique is different for long distance than surfing technique. I use longer forward strokes that are slower and I actually drag the paddle a little bit past my foot, which is counter intuitive when I paddle the surf where I take quick and short strokes. But in the end it boils down to good ol' work and how much you want it.
8) Are these challenges more physical or mental?
When I was fighting, I lived in Thailand and lived with the best elite fighters ever and one day I was training, and the trainer slapped me in the head and said to mind control everything. If you have a strong mind, the body can't die and I found that to be incredibly true. The mind drives everything, the mind has to be stronger. The body challenges the mind to be stronger and the mind challenges the body to be stronger. The mind drives everything and funny enough, the mind always wants to give up first.
9) How do you relate to the marine life?
Very early Laid Hamilton took me under his wing and taught me how to be a waterman and stand up paddling was sort of a secondary thing. And one thing he taught me is that when in the ocean I have to put out a vibe that I as supposed to be there and that I was friendly and that I fit into everything. That wasn't too big of a stretch because of the martial arts upbringing that i had. I have been trained in Japan, Thailand, where they believe that life is bigger than that. So Laird always taught me to be comfortable with the animals and surroundings as part of my training as a waterman. And I've learned to appreciate it, it's undescribeble. We say Mother Nature, Mother f**ker. Nature can make you speechless for it's beauty, but it can take life too !
10) What do you feel when you discover contaminated sites?
Two things, I feel sick to my stomach and frightened that I'm out in toxic stuff. The humans are the caretakers of the planet and they don't know they have to take care of the planet and they think it's an entitlement.
11) Ask aloud 3 wishes from the top of your head?
For plastic to be gone for the environment, to have an healthy and beautiful family, and to have another big paddle which I'm having soon !
12) What do you think when you see a beautiful sunrise or sunset?
Overwhelmed with gratitude, it's always the same feeling, without fail, an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
Note: Article originally published here: