Surfing & Entrepreneurship

My concept of having a good time on the beach is to find a good spot, lie around all day reading a book, and soak in the nice ocean view. I might even take an occasional dip in the water or at least get my feet wet, but I can’t be in the water for long. I found it too boring, that is till our recent trip to Santa Catalina. I got myself a six-foot surfing board, and didn’t know that would make such a difference. I found surfing to be fun and addictive. My wife had to literally drag me out of the water every day. For a beginner like me – the learning curve was huge, but the joy of standing up on the waves, even if it was for fraction of a second, kept me going. Another interesting aspect about this experience was the number of parallels I found myself drawing between surfing and entrepreneurship. Here are a few:

Inspiration is better served up close and personal
Its a thing of beauty to watch a crafty surfer dance on the waves. While you can certainly watch youtube videos and get inspired, there’s something different about watching a master practice in person. Perhaps it has to do with getting a full experience and not just the highlights. You get to see their imperfect attempts and the efforts they continue to put. Its the same reason I find myself more inspired by the entrepreneurial ventures of my friends. I see them fighting their battles every day, and can relate.

You will fall down
It is a sure thing in surfing. Falling down is an integral part of the surfing experience. It is not looked down upon as a failure. What matters is you get up and go back for another wave. You try again, fail again, and try to fail better the next time till you succeed.

Everybody around is happy to see you upright on the waves
I found myself smiling and cheering everytime I saw a fellow surfer get up on the wave. How can you not? You witness somebody trying for hours, and finally getting their much deserved share of success.

Only way to get better is to analyze your mistakes
My surfing coach told me to think about what I did wrong every time I fell down. So true in life as well – If you keep doing what you’ve always been doing, don’t expect different results. Learning from what’s not working and adapting fast is such a key facet of entrepreneurship.

Pick the right wave
Riding the wave is fun, but once the wave throws you off you need to swim back against the upcoming waves and position yourself to catch another one. This is hard and can take a while. You might even miss out on several better waves that could have taken you further. So one of the things you learn early is spotting the right wave based on your abilities.

Paddle hard
This is the dirty part of the business that no one talks about – If you are not paddling and moving at a good pace before the wave arrives, then the wave will go right above you. So, if you want to ride the waves, first things first – learn to paddle.

Master one thing at a time
There’s a lot of things to learn when you are starting out – board handling, paddling, balancing the body, pushing off the board. But you can’t learn them all at once. You nail them down one at a time, and try to put them all together.

Don’t wait for the perfect wave
Riding the big wave requires that you have the necessary skills in place. However, the skills are hard earned from the experience of riding several waves. So waiting for the perfect wave only delays in acquiring necessary skills. I found it very similar to the wannabe entrepreneurs debating interesting ideas, and putting them down for one reason or another. Once in a while they come up with a perfect idea only to find they don’t have the necessary skills. In the game of surfing and startups its the skills and execution that matter.

The feeling of being up on the wave is just incredible. I was excited – probably like the first time I found balance riding a bicycle as a kid. I can only imagine how launching a successful product would feel. Perhaps like a jubilant kid saying – “Look Ma …!”. That is promising enough for me to try, and get back in there ready to paddle.

Keep falling, and keep surfing.