Why Startup Founders Should Learn To Surf

I’ve never felt the rush of riding a surf board, or experienced the blissful rejoice in catching the “perfect wave”. But, I know a guy who has.

Surfing is described as a meditative sport. A hardcore surfer will usually say things like, “It was just me, and the water.”, or give another zen-like phrase. It’s true! When your mental energy is focused on not drowning, you’re probably not thinking about unanswered emails in your inbox..

Which is why, I feel strongly that the sport of surfing is a brilliant metaphor for launching and running a company. Here’s why:

1 — Conditions

Wind, temperature, surf, and current, are all things a surfer considers before paddling out. Evaluating the conditions including the less obvious ones, like current, is essential for a safe and successful beach day. No waves? No market. Strong current? There could be unseen market forces lurking and possible danger.

Let’s say, the surf’s up! Now what..?

2 — Timing

An idea and a market are not enough. A wave and a board are not enough. You need timing, rhythm, the sixth sense about when to catch the wave, and when to wait. If you paddle too early, you’ll find yourself buried under six feet of water, as wave after wave pummels you like a bug crossing traffic on I-80. But if you wait too long, you’ll find yourself watching your friends ride to shore on what should have been your “perfect wave”. It’s a dance and you need rhythm. You have to be patient, and when you paddle, there’s no backing out, you have to commit.

3 — Persistence

Once you start catching waves, you’ll quickly discover that catching and riding are two completely different things. It takes persistence to learn to control the surf. At some point in the evolution of a surfer’s skill, the wave no longer dictates direction, the wave becomes the propulsion mechanism for navigating in and out, performing tricks, and emerging victorious from an endless tube.

Aside from accounting for conditions and timing, you’ve gotta be in control of your board. You have to persist.

4 — Presence

My friend who surfs, says the board is the most dangerous thing in the water (not counting sharks). Most surf injuries are incurred from collisions with your own board. Collisions with the board.. why does that sound familiar? Essentially, you must be very mindful. And to do this, you must be present.

Why do surfers spend hours waxing their boards, aligning their fins, and making sure they’re not too cold in the water? When you build a beautiful board, to catch the “perfect wave”, it becomes you and the water. The board isn’t just a piece of equipment, but an extension of your body, helping you navigate the ever changing force of nature that is the ocean.

Happy surfing. Also, special thanks to @Dom for sharing his surfer wisdom!


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