Patrick Gaveau


28.10.20 09:08 AM Comment(s) By PATRICK GAVEAU

I Believed in My Dreams

Discovering each other is the most important thing when it comes to understanding one another. Unfortunately, we often take little time to truly meet openly either because we choose not to or because we simply can't —most often because we do not take the time.


Today, I will share more about my interesting life with you in writing, since it is so difficult to do it sufficiently one-on-one. Describing my life adequately is not an easy task, but allow me to try.


I was born on August 1, 1972 in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d'Ivoire, in western Africa. I was and raised was raised there until 12 years with a beautiful childhood and  successful parents who ran a leading medical equipment company. From an early age, I felt different. As a result, I was most often an outsider in school, often left alone. In class I was most often graded below average, except when the teacher was nice and I enjoyed the subject

Creative and handy stuff were my cup of tea, but my true passion above all was sports. I was quite talented due to my physical strength, balance and energy. Back then, I was an avid and enthusiastic young athlete practicing tennis, water skiing and snow skiing at a competitive level. I was also active in other extracurricular activities like Judo, table tennis, horse riding, windsurfing, swimming and bodysurfing.

I grew up with my younger sister, Stephanie. She is now based in Alexandria near Washington. She is married to Steve, a Colonel of the US Air Force! Growing up with Stephanie I often fought one another more than either of us could count.. She is smart and was better in school than I was. She was the  perfectly well-behaved child my mother always wanted. While I, Patrick, was joyful, running around and ready to mess things up in every creative way you can possibly think of — which was quite the opposite of Stephanie. 


My father, Jean Michel, was a raw figure and much of what I am today is a result of him — but not as you may see fit. My dad did not have a father to grow up with. He was raised by an insane mother with no role model to look up to when it comes to educating his own children. With me, he was often overly generous on simple things which made me a spoiled brat. He was quite unaware of his actions and risk is something he enjoys. He likes adventures, travel, sports and the thrill of the edge! He was never afraid of anything and was always up for trying new things. He's the type that is willing to lose it all if he can earn even more. He actually did lose it all a couple of times, but he always managed to stand back up and get back to where we were. . My bold courage and entrepreneurial spirit is probably rooted from here.


In school, I wasn't that popular but I had a close circle of great friends outside. Every weekend we all went together to a magnificent place called ”Assini”, where our parents leased a nice piece of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the river. This place is where I can recall some of my fondest memories. It was very simple, but a fantastic place to grow up with the great  friends I had every weekend. We practically lived in swimsuits and swam like fish that just made it to the open waters of the ocean. 


We practiced waterskiing whenever possible and  went fishing and hunting as much as we pleased. The nice days at the beach would often consume coconuts like no tomorrow, while building sandcastles that were quite admirable. If we weren’t busy  getting sand in our swimsuits we would often play hide and seek and climb trees or build stilt houses using twigs and branches.  Once sunset hit, we were often seen catching crabs, making bonfires and eating dinners together. . 

At age 12, my parents left Africa to return to France in Cannes on the French Riviera. My parents were then very successful professionally speaking — they had more money then I would aspire to have. They built a superb home in Provence, in a beautiful village named Opio. As it often occurs with many, having too much money too fast often results in people trying to be what they are not. This is what happened with my dad, who purchased a Jaguar, cool bikes, and first-class tickets around the world to the most fashionable places where he stayed at 5-star hotels with his girlfriends. As a result, the marriage of my parents began to collapse and two years later, they were separated. It was a violent time and being the teenager that I was, I was not able to cope too well. My dad was often violent with me from an early age — often for dumb things. When he began to hit my mother regularly, things got rotten. 

As a result, my grades dropped to record low levels. I actually had to repeat the same class twice by the age of 14! It meant that I was already well behind all others in school by then. My teachers believed that I was not fit for a standard school curriculum: “No need for him to attend college or university, Patrick can't do it. He shall learn to be a mechanic,” they told my parents, “or an electrician.” This was a shame for my parents, who most likely couldn't figure out what they could do with me for being such a loser. 


Since the age of five, my mother preferred my sister, and my father would often tell me how dumb I was. It rang in my heart for so long but it made me stronger. It became a motivation for me to prove them wrong. What could have been a tragic thing for most turned out to be very constructive for me. Do not let up, instead, use negative vibes as fuel towards success!


Following a public fight with my dad at age 14, I decided to leave so I could live the life I choose. I remember telling my dad then, “I want to be a water ski champion.”“Fine,” he said. “But it is not a profession and I do not support it.” he continued. This was, in fact, the best decision he ever made for me. Back then, I hated him so much for that. In time, I learned the value of his decision. To be left alone at a very young age was the best experience I could ever have. Learning about the real world at a young age was a great opportunity.

He did let me go strive for "my dream," while saying, “if this is what you want, please do it, but not with my money.” It also meant that for my new chosen life, it would be mostly uphill —and indeed it was. But as anything goes, if you endure and focus long enough on anything, you will succeed. 


At the age of 16, I was a national champion. At 20, European Cup Champion. And at 24, I ranked fifth in the World of Professional Water Ski Jumping —the pinnacle of my career. My longest jump ever was 203 feet, or 61.9 metres above water! Getting there was a long struggle. I was most often ridiculed in the eyes of many peers; others valued my determination. For the record, I just have to mention that water skiing is a good sport for wealthy families who often practice together on beautiful lakes behind superb water ski boats, often worth US$60,000+. Many travel to Florida in business class during the winter, or travel in beautiful cars during the summer when heading to the next competition. A training day used to cost about US$100. For me it was obviously different. I was more like Jean Valgeant. Without a financial backing and the emotional support of my family, it was tough and slow. I had to earn everything and always worked hard at water skiing schools. After that, I had to work in restaurants to pay the basic bills at the age of 15. Sometimes I would have no money to eat or afford simple things like  a toothbrush. Fortunately, I survived long enough to finally compete in my path —and it made me a lot stronger. I had proven what I wanted; I was capable of achieving my goals. In the end, I thought it would bring more love from my parents. Sadly I was mistaken.. It took me years of dedication and guts to become a "Champion." It also made me full of myself quite  often—I was talented for that too! This is where my wild reputation was forged and I carried it well until my water skiing retirement at the age of 25. 


This reputation was mostly founded on the premise that I took more risks than others because I had nothing to lose and so much more to prove. I crashed often, but rarely hurt myself. Indeed, my technique was weak, but my will and physical strength compensated for it. It allowed me to reach new heights rapidly. Many thought I could possibly end up kill myself someday from my fearless actions! In competition, I was often an attraction in  the aficionado crowd. They would gather on the lake shore to see Patrick Gaveau, the wild French man, jump far on his waterski or potentially fall on his head! 


I was and still am a strong believer in new things and development. I was often the first to try many new technologies, seeking new ways to improve my performances and to go further. Some of the technical solutions I tested were quite original, and others were considered dumb. Even though I was seeking recognition from my peers, and most especially my father, I was never afraid to go against the wind and fight for what I believed was right. What's surprising is that 20 years after my retirement, the industry is still using roller blade look-alike boots on most water skis, and this was  what I co-created back then. Most people would say that I was stupid to use these boots. I was often asked “Why don't you do like the others do? or “Why do you always want to be different?” I guess they were wrong about that one.


During my 10+ years career as a water skier, I worked hard, often doing "lower jobs" like being a cleaner, digger, waiter, or basically anything I can get my hands on to pay the bills after training day. I did suffer often, but I also gained so much strength. It is in pain and failure that we learn best. 


I would definitely say one of the highlights during this time was that  I was able to see the world while competing in five continents. I learned the value of determination and hard work. I learned how to speak English and do public speaking, and because of water skiing, I learnt to be a journalist and a salesman. I was also fortunate to go straight to college because of water skiing, where the University of Louisiana Lafayette offered me a full scholarship. At the age of 20, I knew that waterskiing was not enough for me. I had to learn to write properly.

Water Skiing was the most important educational experience of my first 25 years. It taught me to cope with losses, and how to persist regardless of what happened or what people said. I discovered how hard work and determination are a must to build any concrete experience, and it became obvious that repetition and failures were both necessary for excellence to be reached —especially for one who had no real mentor or guidance. Water Skiing even taught me to choose my battles wisely. You’ll never win at anything if you do too many things. It also taught me that without risk, you can’t win.

Through my ups and downs, I learned that being pretentious or cocky never benefited me, it was something I had to learn the hard way. It made me realize the value of passionate efforts and intense focus, as well as the importance of regular practice for progress to occur. It also made it clear to me that this is an extremely intense sport, and that listening closely to both my body and soul was a must in order to stay upright and healthy. Competitive sports at a professional level made it clear to me that sustained efforts, even through pain, was a necessity for anything worthwhile to pay good dividends.

I failed repeatedly, much more times than I won, actually. But I rose again and again, even when humiliated or after losses or failures. After all, what other choice do we have? As Nietzsche once wrote, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” 

From a young age, I was often told by both family and friends, “Patrick, you cannot do this or that,” and I strived to do it regardless. Because you should never let others decide what is right or wrong for you. You know better. Since then, when anyone tells me this can’t be done, it rings a bell, and it drives me to prove that it can actually be done. If you want something to be done, you’ll find a way; but if you don’t, you will end up finding excuses.

If you believe strongly in anything and you do all that you can to reach your goal, step by step for the necessary time, you will reach it. It is only a matter of time and the only things that stand between most people and success, is the level of motivation and determination. Gritt is the best word to describe it. A good example dates back to when I was only 20 years old, when I wanted to go back to school to learn how to write properly. But the odds were against me —simply because I had to quit school at age 15, and have never done much before that. Without any kind of certification or diploma at hand, you usually cannot go to university. It is usually impossible.

In France, the doors were simply closed. One can never go to university without a high school diploma —and getting one was out of my reach. This is how it is. Fortunately, waterskiing made it possible for me. I managed to receive a full scholarship to go to college with handicap. I was given a nice waterski boat, a lake, and the necessary gasoline to train anytime I wanted! All of this was not because I was smart, but because of my athletic capacities and my determination to get a degree, an American Dream of sorts.

Out of the numerous failures I experienced, many traces back to my waterskiing years (1986-1997), and those are the stories that are worth telling. After three successful years at the university, I was already a good student with a 3.6 GPA. I was also an emeritus member of the All Star American Hall of Fame as National Collegiate Water Ski champion four times individually and three times with our Ragin Cajun collegiate team. 

Back then, I had more than I ever thought I'd have: a beautiful and smart fiancée, a nice wooden house with a small garden, a small car, great sponsors, and a nice part time job as a water ski journalist. I studied hard, worked hard, trained hard and even travelled to America and the rest of the world all year round. Furthermore, I was a famed anchor, entertaining the public during world class water ski events. It allowed for me to have free entry fees and complimentary transportation and lodging at each of the competitions that I attended.

Suddenly, in the fall of 1994, it all went down rapidly. At the peak of my professional water skiing career, two semesters away from graduation, I was kicked off the waterski team for some good reasons. First, I was injured during nationals and did not perform well. Second, I smoked a joint with a not-to-be-trusted teammate who betrayed me during the same national championship —our coach who was a Baptist could not absorb it. Third, some team members disliked me because I was too different and older. And last but not the least, I was a “cocky punk” and refused to eat any sort of junk food or get drunk on Fridays and Saturdays with our team mates—a social skill that was necessary at that time. 

I must admit that I was not a good team player and most often preferred to focus on what was right for my career instead. Their often petty-superficial conversations and their prayers to Christ in order to help us win —it was simply not for me. All of these resulted in my exclusion from the university effective immediately! Back then, I believed it was unfair. This made me fight for my “rights”, appealing to the University Ombudsman. To do so, I diligently prepared my defense and gathered nice letters of support from most of the teachers and influential people in the water ski industry who knew me well. I even managed to deceive them with a valid blood test to prove I did not have THC in my blood to make them believe that I did not smoke dope as they preceded. All seemed fine until the day I faced my coach, Mr. Davidson, in the “courtroom”. He was also Lafayette’s most respected lawyer and simply wiped me out in no less than four hours of monologue charges without any refutation opportunities. When the verdict was confirmed, I burst out crying like a child in front of everyone to see. I really thought that it was so unfair and I was destroyed back then. It felt like three years of hard work all boiled down to nothing. 

When you lie to yourself and others, when you cheat the truth, when you are selfish and cocky, when you make mistakes and you refuse to admit it. It will all come back to you in the end, twice as hard. 

The years 1994 to 1996 were the helm of my waterskiing career. It was also then that I made the worst errors in judgement. One of them was that I lost my fiancée Frederique, who actually came all the way from France to live together with me two years earlier. I cheated on her once, but I knew right away that being tempted was a big mistake that could not occur again. When you care for anyone you love, you cannot disrespect that person without serious consequences.

In 1996, at the Café de Columbia Paddy Classic professional final, I scored my personal best jump ever, with 203 feet or 61.9 meter —a thrill! Believe it or not, on my following jump that same day in the finals, the world record was in sight. At the peak of the jump, when 90% of the work was actually done, I told myself internally that the world record was for me to have today. That when  I lost it, with a stunning drop of the right ski and a striking crash followed behind it. No one shall ever claim to have anything until it is truly his or hers.

The second I told myself that I was to have all I've ever wanted -before even completing it- was a huge mistake. Never lose your focus until the line has been crossed. In time, I came to realize that I was not prepared to be the new world record holder—and I actually did not deserve it.

One of the reasons I failed that day and the many other times before that was because I often felt inadequate and unloved. I did not have sufficient self-confidence to be the best that I could be. This internal insecurity was often compensated by putting on a face that showed overconfidence and even arrogance at times. My own insecurity was deeply rooted in how I was raised. Its sustained growth was led by a self destructive and recurring behavior that I nourished daily with an enemy called smoking. I continued to kill myself slowly and surely while inhaling cancer daily. How could I ever feel good about myself if I continued to destroy myself, every single day by inhaling destructive tobacco, knowing too well it is the wrong thing to do?

The day I quit irrevocably on the 23rd of December 2004, was the day I began to value my own self-worth. What’s most shocking, on the other hand, is that I did all I could to be in tip top shape. I trained so hard on and off the water. I spent countless hours learning about proper nutrition, and I was quite rigorous about it; I even  became a vegetarian for a few years. I stretched and practiced yoga for at least an  hour each day, and each of my training sessions began with a 45 minute mental and physical preparation. I did all that I could to learn to be the best, so that one day, I can be the person who has the respect of his peers. Someone who is the best that he can be in a career-oriented perspective. 

The disparity between everything right and everything else that was wrong became too strong for my soul to feel right. On one side, I was telling myself, “you can be the best” and on the other, I destroyed myself. Tiger Woods is probably a good example of thistoo: he fell into temptation and lost focus and self confidence while behaving inappropriately as he became older.

The remaining 20 years, until today, are yet to be written. I hope you enjoyed the first part...



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