Editor’s Note: The following essay was originally featured on THE ROCK FIGHT podcast and is available to listen to in the player below.
Today I’m picking a fight with…DAWN PATROL…because my morning routine rules.
There are some things in the realm of outdoorsy human powered pursuits that are revered like nothing else. Some of them are gear. Like Yvon Chouinard’s piton or Sherman Poppen’s snurfer. Some of them are iconic trails like the AT or Long Trail.
Others still are actual people, the legends who got us here. John Muir, Duke Kahanamoku, Shane McConkey, Alex Lowe, Dan Cortese.
One of these things is Dawn Patrol. Which is actually a military phrase that was first adopted in an outdoor sense by surfers and then by Alex Lowe and his pals and for all three means the same thing: a pre-dawn mission.
You rally while it’s still dark, get outside to climb, surf, bike or ski and be home with plenty of time to get ready for work, see the kids off to school and generally go about your day feeling pretty damn good because no matter what else happens on that day, you got in a dose of adventure, exercise and, usually, some socializing with like minded adults.
Now I’ve Dawn Patrolled for the following activities:
Boot camp workouts
Stand up paddle boarding
I’m not giving you that list to brag, I just want you to know that I’ve Dawn Patrolled a lot. In warm weather and cold weather. Under stars and the rising sun and in the snow and driving rain.
I’m also an early to bed/early to rise guy. I’m generally asleep before 9pm and up by 4am. I’m uniquely wired for dawn patrolling. I’m the guy that may be insufferable to be around but you always invite me because I’m up early enough to bring coffee for everyone.
And you know what, I have never, ever regretted getting after it early and always come home feeling great and like I was a step ahead of the world.
But here’s where I throw a few stones. I adore my morning routine. Like, really adore it. It’s my favorite and best of each day, and this is how it goes:
I get up by 4, listen to a podcast while letting the dogs out and making coffee. Brief yoga routine, brief bodyweight strength routine, make a big smoothie as the coffee finishes dripping, sit in my recliner with my dog Blue and watch a movie or tv show while sipping my smoothie and drinking my coffee.
No one else in my family gets up til almost 6. It’s fucking great.
Tell me I’m getting old and that putting those creature comforts aside for a day so I could be the first one in the water at my local break would make me forget about my cozy routine, but let me remind you, I’ve tried this. A lot!
So here are my top 3 reasons Dawn Patrol just isn’t worth it.
Number 1: midday is just better. Look, I understand the point of DP (yeah, that’s right, I called it DP). It’s to get in some adventure and still have your adult obligations fulfilled. And there are also real reasons to get up early. Things like getting that surf in before the wind kicks up and ruffles the waves, or while snow stability is unaffected by the sun.
But I’m sorry if given the choice, being able to start the day my own way and then go when the sun is a little higher? So much better. That time in the morning also allows for some other things to percolate. Which leads to my aptly named number 2.
Not to be gross, but when I do my regular routine, it keeps me, you know, regular and also near a toilet. Do you know how many times some poor person almost had their own morning routine ruined by the view of me taking a dump on their front lawn because I was on a dawn patrol mission and didn’t think I’d make it home in time?!
And last but not least: I reject FOMO. There’s no better vehicle than Dawn Patrol to give yourself the humble brag crown of the day on social media and gloat about what you’ve done before anyone else, and you’re so blessed to have started the day in such beauty and post a bunch of pics that makes everyone else feel bad about themselves and allow those poor feelings to fuel your FOMO based agenda.
Look, I’m 47. I know what I like and what I don’t. And I like sitting in my recliner with a cup of coffee and watching the latest episode of POKER FACE on my phone while planning to go biking around 10.
So go on and patrol the dawn, enjoy yourself. But if you see a few errant rocks thrown your way while you’re out there…duck. I didn’t throw them. I told you, I’m at home in the recliner with my dog.
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