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Wisdom in the Waves

By       Message Timothy Cavanaugh     Permalink
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Here it is the beginning of September and I only found myself to the beach for the first time this year just this last weekend.  That’s a pretty big failing for a guy who lives on the southern California coast and who spent a huge portion of his youth surfing both here and abroad.  That said at least I made it to the waves once this summer and I’m glad I did because this particular trip was exceptional for surfing… and I was at the at the top of my game.  I seemed to catch virtually every wave I tried for which got me thinking about why this particular surfing experience was so much better then so many others I’ve had.  Further, as I often do, I pondered the corollaries between surfing and life in general, this time around I decided to write them down.

Surfing is a wonderful and exhilarating experience!  There are many different levels of surfing and many different forms.  Starting with the kiddies playing with wave boards in the shore ripples and all the way up to the pro surfers performing their aerial acrobatics off the tips of monsters waves surfing has something for everyone.  For me surfing also brings a sense of contemplation.  I look to surfing for principles that I can apply to my life… and over the years I have found many.

Be Patient My Son

To begin with surfing takes patience.  For those of you that don’t know; waves come in sets.  I’m not sure why this is, there is likely some tidal and/or meteorological explanation for this but the fact is that all waves do come in sets and the set is different for every beach and every tide.  Sets are cyclical in that the best waves come approximately around the same time in each set.  It can be in the beginning of the set, at the end or any place in between but a general patter always appears and persists – with progressing variations as the tide changes – for each set throughout that tide.

A good surfer spends the first few minutes of every trip to the shore counting the set so he knows how many waves are in each, roughly what the time gap is between each and where in lies the best waves.  Knowing the count of the set will allow him to be in the right place in the water at the right time in the set.  Where the value of patience comes in is that being in the water and seeing what appear to be all these gnarly waves going by a surfer may be tempted to just jump on the very next one that comes in.  Using this technique he may by accident catch a few good rides throughout the day but he will very likely miss many, many more.  But by being patient, following his count and waiting for the best wave the good surfer can pretty much ensure a righteous day on the water.

In life just as in surfing knowing what to expect before you jump in to anything – weather it be business, investments, relationships, whatever – will help you to be prepared for what’s to come.  And with that, ignoring the fizzlers and being patient for the best opportunities to present themselves can save you much frustration over losses and ensure greater success. 

Following What Works

In addition to being patient the good surfer also needs to be consistent in keeping up with the count.  It would be very easy, and it is very common among inexperienced surfers, to count the set the first time out, catch that awesome ride and then rush back in to the waves totally forgetting about where in the set they were.  But by being consistent and persistent at following the count and employing the right timing the good surfer is not only in position to snag that tasty swell but also he sets himself up for the next equally bodacious ride.

In life just as in surfing taking the time to plan for whatever you are doing, establishing and following a model that works and then replicating the success once you’ve achieving it will allow you to pile success story upon success story.  As well every time you replicate the process it becomes just a little bit easier thereby further reinforcing your success.

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Assume the Position

As I mentioned there are many different kinds of surfing and therefore many different places in the waves the surfer wants to be to catch their swell.  So, depending on what kind of surfing you are doing there will be an optimal location in the surf that you want to be in to catch waves.  The location depends on where the waves are breaking – curling over.  If you catch them too far in they will certainly push you to shore but you will just get tumbled up in the break but if you catch them too far out they will pass right underneath your board and you will miss them all together.

In life just as in surfing where you position yourself with respects to what you are trying to accomplish will have a huge impact on how successful you are in that effort.  No matter how hard you kick and paddle to get into the curl if you are out of position when the opportunity comes you are just wasting you energy.

Location, Location, Location

In addition to being at the right depth to catch your wave you also want to pick the right spot on the beach to venture out.  And for that matter you even need to be picky on your choice of beach if you want to catch great waves.  Waves break in many varying ways depending on the topography of the ocean floor where they come in.  All beaches don’t necessarily have those post-card perfect long straight waves we see the pros shooting the curl on.  Many beaches have peaks and valleys, trenches and sandbars and many other features that make for much variation in wave formation.

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While good surfers are counting the set upon arrival at the beach they are also looking for the good breaks.  They may be local to the beach and so feel they already know where these breaks are but remember the ocean floor is an ever changing thing, every time a wave slams into the shore and then recedes back to the ocean it moves sand from one place to another so what was a good break last summer may not be so good today.  Just like positioning in the surf the location you select can make or break your day.

In life just as in surfing location can mean everything.  It’s been said that in real-estate it’s the only thing.  That of course is an exaggeration but the point is well taken.  If you want to be successful in business go to where people who already are successful hang-out, befriend them and then emulate what they do.  In that same grain if you’re looking for a girlfriend that’s into camping and hiking don’t be surprised if you don’t find one if you’re hanging around in punk bars.  Great waves are always coming into shore but you have to go to the shore where they are coming in.   

Neato Niche

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My name is Timothy Cavanaugh and I am an independent writer specializing in political, environmental and social justice issues. I regularly submit op-eds to various newspapers and blogs and I enjoy debating my positions with others when I get the (more...)

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