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How Surfing Taught me it’s OK to be a Complete Beginner

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I’ve swayed from jobs to jobs, had fun in some of them, thrown wobblys in others, but I have always had this urge to move forward and try something different whatever it takes.

Take my first “real” job : it was amazing! I was a well paid and well traveled product manager of a high-tech company, meeting lots of important people, flying business class and genuinely being appraised by my boss, showered with stock options. But despite all the perks, I left after a year. Off to a startup to do something completely different. Maybe not my best choice as the startup went belly up 6 months later.

Fast forward 3 months later where I was called in to help run a family business with its ups and downs and doing practically every single job possible to keep the company afloat.

Fast forward again, when I decided to take some time out, travelled to Bali for 6 months with my family and came back with a new business idea : importing organic coconut sugar and raw cacao.

This solopreneur lifestyle has been mine for the past 4 years : the learning curve has been amazing. I’ve learnt to setup an e-commerce site, sell products, manage legal issues, import food from the other side of the world, run my own business and cope with successes and with failure. But has selling boxes of gorgeous handmade organic food contributed to my personal fulfillment?

All I know is that 3 years on, the learning curve is less steep, there’s less adjusting and adapting to do, and it’s getting kinda boring!

Surfing has been a constant learning experience from the day back in 1991 when I stood up on my first wave to today. I remember facing the ice-cream headaches cold water surfing in Devon in December (in the nineties). I’ve learnt to face my fears, sleeping in the back seat of my car, in an empty carpark in the middle of nowhere. I’ve taken a serious beating in the ocean and I’ve come out alive. I’ve taught a new generation of surfers by messing around with my kids in the Med, and seen them progress. I’ve moved to a different country on the other side of the world to face my darkest fears on the reefs of Indonesia. Thanks to surfing I’ve learned so much.

I’m still a beginner (or a kook as they say in surfing jargon). I’m terrified of big waves but every time I’m out on the ocean, I feel this exhilaration of learning again, again and again. I think that’s what’s kept me hooked for the past 27 years and will do for the years to come.

There’s something wonderful about surfing : it’s an art, its a sport, it’s a subculture, it’s a state of mind, it’s about connecting with Mother Nature. It has it all. And it never gets boring.

I guess surfing has taught me not to mind about having step-stoned through job positions during my career. It doesn’t matter if I’ve had a bunch of different job titles along the years and my CV doesn’t look groomed. It doesn’t matter if I’m not specialized in this or that. What counts is how much I’ve learned along the way.

For me, surfing has taught me to be philosophical about the fundamentals of life : respect Mother Nature, be humble, get up after a failure, adapt to all conditions, grit your teeth, take opportunities, learn every time and have fun!

So I guess surfing has taught me more than to just drift on a pulse of energy bursting out of the ocean : it’s taught me to not mind being a beginner at things anymore and to design my future.

My current addiction to being a beginner has taken me into podcasting : I’ve launched The Oceanriders Podcast . The learning curve is steep but exhilarating.

As Steve Jobs put it “Stay hungry, stay foolish”, in the meantime, catch a wave : you’ll never regret it!


If you would like to join me to share your story on The Oceanriders Podcast, please send me an email : hello@theoceanriderspodcast.com

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