Three Ways Surfing Made Me a Better Man

Paddling out at Point Dume

I love the outdoors. I hike on occasions. I love to ride, and I live to surf. Unlike hiking and road biking, surfing has a pretty steep learning curve. So steep many give up after a few tries and very few persevere. If you’re brave enough to stay the course and go through the beatings and the close-calls, you’ll learn a lot about yourself, your weaknesses and strengths. Your limitations and how to break out of them. Your fears and how to overcome them. And just when you thought you got it all figured out, it quickly reminds you that you don’t know much at all.

Surfing has become one of my great teachers in life. It’s taught me many lessons, but the following three definitely stand out:

#1 — Observation

Observing my surroundings while I’m intently focused on a task is definitely not my strong suit. I’m so into that one thing, I lose track of everything else around me. Surfing changed that.

Most good surfers spend 10–15 minutes reading the waves, timing the sets, sizing up the crowd’s skill level, mentally flagging potential hazards (e.g. rocks), etc, before they paddle out. This exercise is meant to give a good read of the situation so no unnecessary mistakes are made. So much of the fun, or aggravation, during a surf session is directly impacted by the surfer’s ability to observe the situation and adjust behavior accordingly. It could literally save your life.

The art of observation can tremendously help you succeed, and thrive, in life. From “reading” the boardroom to “sensing” danger, being observant is a critical skill we all need to be good at to survive. It helps us drive alignment at work, spot red flags early both at work and in relationships, and identify subtle business opportunities for growth or potential disasters to avert. An incredible lesson on all fronts


#2 — Commitment

In surfing, paddling for a wave requires you to give it your all otherwise you won’t catch it, or worse, it will catch you. There’s no half-measures in surfing. You’re either in 110% or you’re not. Hesitation, even for a fraction of a second, could literally end in your death.

“Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.” — Bohdi

Lesson Learned → Commit to what you do, or just don’t do it. When you clean the house, or write code, or lead a team, or nurture a relationship. Never hesitate. Never half-ass it. Obsess over it. Make it happen.


#3 — Perseverance

As I said earlier, surfing has a pretty steep learning curve. My first serious wipeout where I got ragdolled by a powerful closeout at Venice beach, rattled me pretty hard, and for a second I thought I won’t be doing this again. But I was at it the next day and had a great session. Surfing taught me that if you really want it, you will conquer it. If you really want it, you will make it work. If you really want it, you’ll never give up until you have it.

Lesson Learned → Don’t give up on your loved ones, or your passions, or your friends. If you do, make sure it’s final and never look back.


Endless Summer SoCal Waves and Party Waves with Friends
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