Yes, that fresh-faced young man in the photo is yours truly, many years ago. I was posing with my brand new custom board that I was so proud of as I had conceived most of the artwork myself; I guess that was a sign of things to come in my later career.
I was not a great surfer by any means, in fact, I was crap compared to some of my friends, but all that mattered was that you got out in the surf and went for it.
The beach near where I grew up was fraught with a number of intimidating factors, one being the local surf crew who were a hardcore bunch, with a well-known reputation at the time.
And then there were the other locals, the ones beneath the waves, the sharks (big ones), but to be honest they kept to themselves and were actually less troublesome than some of the locals on the surface.
But, all in all, surfing is a great and safe sport, and it is one that gives you a different experience every time; thanks to Mother Nature no two waves are the same.
Famous ex-pro surfer, Shaun Thomson, wrote a book called ‘The Surfer’s Code’, based around the twelve tenets listed below. And, even though these all relate to surfing, in many ways they can be used in day-to-day life in some way or another.
· I will never turn my back on the ocean.
· I will always paddle back out.
· I will take the drop with commitment.
· I will know that there will always be another wave.
· I will realize that all surfers are joined by one ocean.
· I will paddle around the impact zone.
· I will never fight a riptide.
· I will watch out for other surfers after a big set.
· I will pass on my stoke to a non-surfer.
· I will ride, and not paddle in to shore.
· I will catch a wave every day, even in my mind.
· I will honor the sport of Kings.
As I wrote in one of my previous posts, there were a lot of lessons I gleaned from being a roadie touring with bands, and those lessons, strangely enough, seemed to be relevant in my business life.
Now I’m looking at life through the lens of a surfer, to see how the lessons you experience in surfing could also relate to life out of the water, both personal and business.
It’s ok to fall.
When you start to surf you fall off, a lot, it’s natural, it’s all part of the process. But so many people give up on surfing after trying for maybe just half an hour, or even less. If we were all to give up on everything so fast then nothing would ever be achieved.
If you really want to achieve a goal, keep trying, there is no stopwatch on you. Things take time, some just longer than others.
Bad days happen.
Sometimes a day that looks bad turns into a great day in the water, at other times the swell might drop, or you turn up to your favorite spot and there are four busloads of tourists having a surfing lesson. But you make the most of it.
Just accept that not everything will turn out the way you want it to every time. You can’t know everything that is around the corner, so don’t waste energy worrying about it, just keep going.
Enjoy the wait.
At times you will find yourself waiting a while for a great wave to come through, and sometimes it will never come, but the wait is all part of the experience, bobbing around in the ocean, no phones, no traffic, and if you’re lucky (depending where in the world you are) a dolphin or turtle or other local sea creature (preferably a friendly one) may pop up and say hello.
Don’t get impatient; enjoy the whole experience, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. You never know what you may see, whom you may meet, or what you may dream up while you’ve got that free, uninterrupted time.
Nothing’s going to happen unless you hit the water and start paddling, the waves are not coming to you while you sit on the beach; you’ve got to put in some effort.
The same applies to getting things done in life and at work. Thinking about anything for too long can become paralyzing, you just need to get started and see where that takes you.
Fear is natural.
The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau surf contest, created in honor of famed Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard Eddie Aikua who disappeared at sea, is only held when the surf is between 30ft to 50ft in height. This must generate some fear amongst the select few who are invited to compete. Once, when organizers were contemplating whether to go ahead with the contest due to the sheer size of the waves, Mark Foo, one of the competitors, responded — “Eddie would go”, so the event went ahead, and that phrase is now the catch phrase for the event.
Fear stops us doing a lot of things in life, from career changes, to starting a business and so much more, but sometimes you just have to try and see what you’re capable of. You will feel the fear, that’s only natural, but you can use that adrenalin to keep going.
Don’t fight what you can’t control.
One of the early lessons you learn in surfing, apart from not dropping in on people, is that you don’t fight a riptide, it is pointless, the ocean is a lot bigger and a lot stronger than you, instead you use it to get to where you want to go, in effect you are using a negative energy to get a positive result.
When everything seems to be going against you at times, stop fighting it, stand back, pause, think about what is happening and work out a way around it. If you allow the negative side of what’s happening to take control you will just get dragged under.
Perfection is not a daily occurrence.
One day the waves are great, the next it’s flat, that’s just how it is. That doesn’t mean you can’t go for a swim, or simply sit on the beach and relax and breathe in some fresh salt air. That doesn’t exactly suck.
If you’re expecting everything to be perfect, everyday, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment from the start. That stuff only happens in Disneyland. And even there I’m sure there is a disgruntled actor stuck in an animal suit just wanting to throw some kid into a lake. Accept life’s imperfections and suddenly it all makes sense.
Happiness is cheap.
Surfing is an affordable sport, you can pick up a second hand board for maybe $50, get a leash for say $10, some wax for a couple of dollars and you’re away. The waves are free.
Most of the best things in life are relatively cheap if not free… walking, breathing, laughing, a good sleep, simple fresh food, and good friends. Enjoy it while you’ve got it.
Don’t expect applause.
Sometimes you’ll surf a great spot and there’ll be no one to see that perfect ride you had. That’s okay though, you experienced it and you will never forget it, and that should be enough.
The same goes with work or life in general, just do whatever it is you want to do, for you. If you are doing what you love then you are already winning, and if you do get recognition, that’s just an added bonus.
Just be you.
Surfers may all seem to be the same to some, but they are from all walks of life. You can have someone working in finance surfing with an unemployed person, a doctor with a musician, and so on. It’s the bond of surfing that brings them together, but they are still themselves and not trying to be anyone else.
Lao Tzu said it best — “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”
Respect goes a long way.
Good surfers know to respect others in the water, the ocean itself, and the beach (don’t pollute). It’s a code of conduct the world over.
It’s simple, respect those around you and the world you live in, it’s not hard to do. Will all the people respect you back? No, of course not (again this isn’t Disneyland), but who cares, that’s their problem, not yours, at least you can sleep well at night.
There will always be sharks.
It is their home after all, they have a right to be there, you are just visiting and borrowing some of the surface for a while, and this is another lesson in respect. Just accept they are there, be mindful of your surroundings, and get on with life.
Recently, Australian professional surfer Mick Fanning came face to face with a large shark while competing in a surf contest in South Africa. It was a close call; but luckily he came out unscathed, albeit a little rattled. But he did not start calling for the culling of sharks; he understands it’s their home. He has now returned to the water and is back doing what he loves.
Much the same can be said for areas of your personal and business lives. There are land sharks everywhere, people who want to rip you off, people who want to undermine your job, or ruin a relationship, just remember they are there, be aware, and get on with your life, worrying about them wont get you anywhere.
So if you have ever contemplated learning to surf, go for it, the experience could teach you a few things. Oh, and one more thing, if you do take up surfing you will either end up being a natural or a goofy, but that has nothing to do with Disneyland.
© Rodd Chant 2015