Almost every guy I look up to – everyone whose life is an example of how to live – is an early riser. All of them wake up in the dark, and they're just revved and ready to go. To me, there's nothing worse than waking up and realizing that the sun's already been up for awhile. I feel like I've missed out, like I'm only getting three-quarters of the day.
I subscribe to the idea that energy perpetuates energy, and nothing makes you more tired than sleeping in or sleeping too much. If I don't get a chance to work out first thing in the morning, my whole day sort of goes awry. Not everyone has the chance to exercise in the morning, but it's still the best time to do it – not only because we're well rested, but because if we burn off some energy first thing, we'll be less restless and better able to concentrate for the remainder of the day. Besides, we're just better equipped to do anything physically demanding in the morning. Our hormone levels peak early. Cortisol, for example, a stress-reducing hormone produced in the adrenal gland, spikes at 7 a.m. Testosterone levels are highest around then, too. (Maybe that's why it's also a great time to have sex.)
Any undertaking that's going to require your full focus – a stressful task, a journey, a physical challenge – you're probably better off starting first thing in the morning. I know I always perform my best in the morning. And that doesn't mean I haven't surfed well in the afternoon, but my energy, my ability to go for a long period of time and to perform at a high level is better in the morning. But I've never compromised on sleep. Even when I was young and would run around, when it was time to go, it was time to go. I didn't care how cute she was or what my friends were up to – I was never one to stay up all night. Some people say that every hour of sleep you get before midnight is equal to two, and I believe them.
See also: Laird Hamilton's Morning Ritual