Ehab Hanna, M.D., unwinds from the high-pressure demands of his work as a head and neck surgeon by windsurfing, a sport that combines the adrenaline rush of surfing with the tranquility of sailing.
“I don’t think about anything else other than just that feeling of flying on top of the water,” Hanna said. “That’s the reason I’m really hooked.”
In 2012, Hanna met with a visiting physicist from Russia—who was conducting research on nanotechnology and cancer—to see if there were opportunities to collaborate. Although the two men had nothing in common, the Russian physicist happened to be a champion windsurfer and invited Hanna out to the beach in Seabrook, Texas, to give windsurfing a try.
“In America, when you’re introduced to a new sport, there is sort of a standard way of teaching whereby you get some classwork first, theoretical work, learn about the wind, the current, the board, the equipment, board handling, safety tips, etc. Then you get on the water,” Hanna said. “The Russian way is very different.”
With no training whatsoever, Hanna hopped on a board at the physicist’s behest, grabbed onto the sail and took off into the rough waves. He heard his de facto teacher mocking him from afar and yelling instructions to stand up straight on the board.
“Despite all of this humiliation and berating, somehow I just truly enjoyed it,” Hanna said.
The following week, he signed up for “a proper lesson with a proper instructor under proper conditions.”
Hanna has always harbored a deep, visceral connection to the water. It calls to him like a siren.
Thirty years ago, he immigrated to the United States from Egypt, where he spent his summers on the beaches along the Red and Mediterranean seas. As a youth, he swam competitively and learned how to scuba dive. His first high school job was working as a lifeguard.
“Every time I’m near the water—either looking at the water or swimming in the water—it’s like something happens in my soul,” he said. “The water, to me, is my element. … All my senses are there. You’re smelling the salt water, you’re feeling the wind on your face, you’re feeling the sun on your skin.”
As a surgeon, Hanna thrives on competition.
“Surgeons, we’re just a different breed,” he said. “When we’re in, we’re all in.” That same unwavering focus and determination kicked in when Hanna decided to learn how to fly across the water at 30 miles an hour.
“I got the lessons, did the beginner lesson, then the intermediate, then did the advanced, subscribed to every magazine, bought every book about windsurfing,” Hanna said. “Whatever publication on windsurfing there is, I subscribed.”
While there was a steep learning curve, Hanna remained committed. He carved out time in his busy schedule to practice—every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning—and has windsurfed in places where he attended scientific meetings, including Israel, Turkey, Italy, Brazil and Canada.
His studious approach to windsurfing paid off. He eventually built up the skill and confidence to race, competing in the 2012 Kona North American Championship on Lake Waconia in Minnesota and placing 38th out of 60.
Hanna plans to compete again next year, but in the meantime, he teaches novice windsurfers on Saturday mornings at the Seabrook Sailing Club. Being on the water allows him to recharge.
“When I get on the board, I cannot have my iPhone, I cannot have my pager. I cannot have anything other than just my sail and my board,” Hanna said. “It’s so good for the soul [to be] just uninterrupted, unbothered, unreachable, disconnected, literally disconnected emotionally and mentally from any other worries.”
@Kevyjoekr @MelDMann Thanks for sharing your experience, Kevin.
One of the worst times to get sick with the Flu? The holidays. Stay safe this holiday season and get your flu shot. Have a question? Our experts have the answers about the flu, and vaccines. https://t.co/5Zi0qvWBgb #flu https://t.co/dHCiJD21Ul
Female Veterans honored with day trip to Washington D.C. https://t.co/LmPVjrmGmG via @WESH
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Pat McClurkin. Pat served at Walter Reed Medical Center. https://t.co/Xqa2oZArir
Thriving Veteran Housing Community To Be Established in West L.A. https://t.co/JpeOpiO5uN via @AP
RT @BCMHouston_News: Family and in-laws can be the source of stress during the #holidays. @bcmhouston's Dr. Asim Shah talks about how to ma…
TAMU Health Sciences@TAMHSC
RT @healthysouthtx: Managing #diabetes requires so much more than simply taking a pill. For the best results, health pros recommend eating…
#HoustonMethodist’s Center for Performing Arts Medicine worked with our emergency department to bring a new sense of calm to what is usually a stressful environment. Our employee art now offers warmth and serenity to those waiting in the #ER. https://t.co/Pz5i5uIKSC
Thanks to a $1 million gift from @SU2C, there's revitalized hope in expanding #immunotherapy to #pancreaticcancer: https://t.co/QzfMrVXoEf #pancsm #endcancer
A clinical trial studying a combination of #immunotherapy and #chemo offers Barbara Lewis hope when faced with triple-negative breast cancer: https://t.co/EJdCT5EGIO #BCSM #CancerMoonshot #endcancer
RT @RiceEngineering: ICYMI | ‘Smart skin’ warns of strain in bridges and airplanes. Read at @FuturityNews: https://t.co/qU6IsaeUv3 https://…
RT @jbmilliken: Ran across Ashbel Smith, first chairman of the UT Board of Regents, while touring @utmbhealth https://t.co/R3hvSmVAWk
RT @utsystem: Chancellor @jbmilliken continues his visits to #utsystem institutions, this time to @utmbhealth, which has been #InServiceToT…
Remember to join us on Giving Tuesday to see how you can help make a positive difference in the lives of our students. Be sure to check back next Tuesday for more information. https://t.co/wtXEu1kFrK #GivingTuesday https://t.co/arjfxU3xvm
RT @UTPhysicians: The American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association have partnered together to help educate and motivate…