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Lifestyle and Travel

7 Business Lessons from Surf Camp

Kate Christie

My kids have been surfing since they were in single digits. I have lost count of the number of waves I have seen them catch. And I have always had a burning desire for it to be me catching that wave. Last week, I finally did it, I took time out from my business and spent an entire week on surf camp in Bali. It was as magnificent as you can imagine – but what I walked away with was more than just surfing tips. What really struck me was how much learning how to surf and being a business owner and entrepreneur have in common.

Here are the 7 biggest business lessons I took from surf camp

  1. You will go in the direction your eyes are looking
    I learned this one the hard way when my board and I crashed into Leanne – we had both caught the same wave, we were both standing and at first I could see her out of the corner of my eye, and then I became more aware that she was there and then I became fully focussed on her – and as I did, my board literally plowed straight into her. Why? Because your board will go in the direction your eyes are looking.

    Just like in surfing, in business you need to set your eyes in the direction you want to go and maintain a single minded focus on that direction. Don’t be distracted by others on your wave – because the more you look at them the more likely you are to crash into them rather than outride them.

  2. Don’t overthink it
    There are so many steps you need nail to catch a wave. You need to be positioned on the board in exactly the right way; to scan the horizon looking for the next set; to turn your board in a smooth motion to align yourself to the beach; to head check the wave and start to paddle; to feel the wave as it lifts your board; to place your palms in the right spot (not on the rails!) as you raise your chest and then ‘pop’ your body into a crouch as you pivot on your back foot and manoeuvre your front foot into position and stand. And all of this happens in seconds. You need to practice every single one of these steps in sequence until they become automatic and you can do them without thinking. Overthinking any single step will get you dumped off the wave, because overthinking gets your brain stuck for a split second too long. And guess what – that wave isn’t going to stop to let your overthinking brain catch up.

    Wipe out baby.

    By day 3, I had the steps down pat. I knew what I needed to do, but it just wasn’t working, it wasn’t flowing. My frustration was mounting and I turned to my coach – What am I doing wrong? He waited until I was about to try and catch my next wave to give me his advice – Stop thinking!, he yelled as he gave my board a push – Stop thinking Kate! Stop thinking!

    Business is exactly the same. When you overthink any given step you will get stuck. Overthinking will slow you down. Overthinking will paralyse you.

    Wipe out baby.

    Kate Christie

  3. You are never too old to start something new.
    I am 53 and I just learned to surf. In fact, I learned to surf because I am 53 – I am at a time in my life where I am time affluent and have the freedom, energy, drive and money to focus on what I want to do after years of looking after everyone else.

    It’s the same in business – age is an advantage. Not just because having an open, learning, curious mindset is ageless. But because as we age, we have more life experience to draw on to motivate us and to help us process the learning. We are wise, process driven, capable of working smarter and not harder, and we have time and perspective – a few set backs will not set us back forever. Research shows that successful entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged: the average founder age of the top 0.1% startups is 45, with 50-year-old entrepreneurs nearly twice as likely to have a runaway success than their 30-year-old competitors.

  4. Your success is determined by the people you surround yourself with
    There were 9 other glorious women on my surfing trip. We all wanted to learn to surf. We were all there on our own and for ourselves. But every single time one of us got even within an sniff of standing on a wave, each of us stopped what we were doing – paused our paddling or let a prize wave pass us by – to scream encouragement at the girl on the wave. We were a sisterhood of surfers simply willing each other to do well.

    In business, I am one of a group of four women who meet monthly, talk weekly and text daily. The love, support, advice and acknowledgement I receive from my business accountability women ensures I am always positioned to catch the next big wave.

  5. You need to adapt to the conditions
    Leanne (she who I almost killed with my surfboard) said it best of surfing – You might understand what you need to do to catch a wave, but the conditions are different every single day! And this is why you need to get the surfing basics absolutely right each time you head into the water – you need to now how to do a turtle role if a wave is barrelling for you; how to always position yourself with the board between you and the beach and not you and the wave so that you don’t get smashed; when to paddle; when to pull out of a wave; and when to go hard. You need to know the basics so that the basics become instinctual regardless of the conditions.

    Could there be a better business analogy? Make sure you know your business basics inside out so that when the conditions change and challenge you, you avoid getting smashed.

  6. Enjoy the ride and when you fall – get right back up
    The moment of elation you feel when you actually catch a wave is like nothing I have ever experienced. When you stand and it’s happening and the speed and the spray and the adrenalin… incredible. It’s just a fleeting moment in time, so savour the ride. Because odds on, the next 20 waves or so will not be so epic. That’s what makes the great rides worth it. And every time you fall off? Get back on the board and chase the next high.

    Business, entrepreneurship, the hustle – is exactly the same. Not every start-up, new product, new service, new customer segment, new partnership, new idea is going to work for you. But when it does – when the magic happens, ride that wave baby and enjoy every second. And every time you fall? Get back up and chase the next high.

  7. Momentum brings stability
    Our surf coach, Serena shared on day 1 that ‘momentum on the board brings stability’ – if the wave is carrying your board and you are moving, you are more likely to be stable. But when the wave dies under you, you will lose momentum and speed, and you will fall off the board. Momentum brings stability.

    Momentum is defined as ‘mass in motion’ – if an object, such as a surfboard, is moving, it has momentum.

This is exactly the same in business. In my book, ‘The Life List’ I talk a lot about the power of ‘moments’ and how adding lots of ‘moments’ together will generate ‘momentum’. As business owners, we need to constantly be in motion – to constantly move our businesses forward in order to generate momentum. Because once you have momentum, it will be very hard for anyone to catch you, slow you down or steal your wave.

Written by Kate Christie.

Have you read?
Here Are 29 Inspirational Women CEOs Making An Impact, 2023.
Countries With The Most Billionaires, 2023.
The Exclusive $100 Billion Club (And How They Made Their Fortune).
Africa’s Billionaires 2023: Who Are the Richest People in Africa?
The 10 Female CEOs in FTSE 100 companies in the United Kingdom, 2023.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Lifestyle and Travel - 7 Business Lessons from Surf Camp
Kate Christie
Kate Christie is the Founder and CEO of Time Stylers, a time management specialist, the best selling author of 4 time management books and a global speaker.

Kate Christie is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn.