Live the Surfer Code

Constantly changing and never under our control, the ocean requires every surfer to learn fast how to read its changes and to move with them or to calmly obey its greater forces. While the moods and motions of the ocean may be challenging, it's a challenge surfers relish and delight in as each surf brings a deeper understanding of both the ocean and the surfer's own ability to work with whatever it has in store. The rewards for persevering? An incredible, sensational experience of catching the wave that's just right and proving to oneself that great things can be achieved with effort, awareness, and determination.

Life's a lot like the ocean. It heaves up unexpected waves, tosses us about, and drags us under at times. Equally, life also gives us the sweetest moments akin to catching the right wave, serving as a reward for our efforts, calculated risks and for following our awe. Like the ocean, life is a flow and the less we try to control the world around us, the more we learn to work with what we have, the more attuned we are to leading a fulfilling and mindful life. Whether or not you're a surfer, there's a lot to be gained by seeing life in the same manner as a surfer views the ocean.


  1. Be positive. A wave that looks tiny or uninteresting from shore may turn out to be incredibly exciting once the surfer is out there but without trying, it's impossible to know. It's the same with life; perhaps something doesn't seem as appealing, interesting, or relevant to you but when you throw yourself into it with a Maintain a Positive Attitude, it starts to work out for you and you start to find the exciting things within. As an added bonus, just as a surfer who tries surfing during conditions that aren't as classic and discovers that the crowds have disappeared and that the surf's actually quite good, you might discover that trying to do something others aren't keen about can give you the upper hand and the freedom to develop yourself unhindered by the opinions and negativity of other people.
  2. Be patient. A surfer learns early that it's not possible to force the ocean to do the surfer's bidding. There are days when the ocean just isn't responsive with the good waves and there are days when the surfer is the one who is not responsive to the ocean for one reason or another. In life, patience is the virtue of being able to gracefully wait your turn and to wait for the fruits of efforts and goal setting. Patience is about accepting that flat spells are part of the cycle of life and are not indicative of a permanent state of being; these times too will pass and provided you wait them out with a sense of humor and a perspective that the less desirable things will change soon enough, then you will be able to face the flow of time without fear and your sense of time will be less rushed, hurried, and unmindful.
  3. Learn to read the moods of the world and people around you. Just as a surfer must read the waves, wind, swell, Explore a Tidal Pool, sandbanks and the weather, so too you need to be able to read the world in which you live and operate and the people with whom you interact. Shutting yourself off from the signals others give out clearly and ignoring the opportunities that are there for you to make your life more meaningful and more fulfilling is hardly living. Every day there are opportunities presented to you for the taking but you need to be alert to their presence and be ready to act on them.
  4. Embrace challenges. The challenge of surfing is precisely the reason why surfers throw themselves into it on a regular basis. Surfing shakes things up and leaves a surfer guessing, and provides surprises that test a surfer's character. Challenges in life are no different – if you welcome challenges as invitations to extend and transform yourself, your life will be both more rewarding and more meaningful. Hardest of all is whenever you first start something; it's easy to want to give up but this is the very time when you need to be at your strongest about persevering. Just as a beginner surfer only improves through practice and realizing that nobody finds surfing easy to begin with, the same holds for any new experience in life. You need to try it, practice it, and be prepared to fail a number of times before things start to make sense and work for you.
  5. Face your fears. As soon as you tell yourself you can't ride that wave, that you're not going to make it, and that you're going to slam face down on the sandbank, guess what? You end up following through on what you've told yourself. You've given free rein to your fears. How about flipping that right back on itself and facing your fears and instead of telling yourself what's going to go wrong, turn around and tell yourself you are going to make it and that you can ride that wave, and that the higher the wave goes, the better. In whatever you do in life, allow yourself to feel the fear but use your imagination to overcome it and to do it regardless. Fears prevent you from doing the things you know you're capable of, from not venturing forth into the unknown; accept that you have such fears but don't feed them.
    • A surfer spends a lot of time experiencing wipe-outs. And after experiencing lots of wipe-outs, a surfer soon learns to cope with feelings of panic, and learns to trust that the ocean will release them from its hold provided they relax, remain calm, and fall back on their knowledge of the ocean. Trust yourself when things go wrong in life and draw on your reserves of knowledge, experience, and common sense. By staying calm you can avert panic and poor decision-making, which can make things worse.
    • A surfer never turns their back on the ocean. Conquering fear doesn't mean being flippant and reckless; for the surfer, the ocean remains an unpredictable and potentially dangerous companion if the signs are ignored. Facing fear is always about having knowledge of the situation before you, managing the risks you can manage, and knowing your own limitations and when to pull out. Stay alert and informed so that your fears can be overcome by good decision-making.
  6. Don't fight the riptide. For the surfer, rips and Understand Rips and Currents when Surfing are a real danger but they're natural and they're normal. A surfer quickly learns to stop treating them as freak events and to respect them by both learning to read the ocean and knowing how to deal with them if caught up. And surfers actually make use of rips to paddle out to the furthest breaking waves because that's where rips usually stop! Making good of changes that happen without warning in your life is a matter of your mindset. You can choose to spend your life fighting battles or blaming others and that will end up in constant unhappiness and a sense of permanent deprivation because you will feel you're always missing out, always being tripped up by life's vicissitudes. Or, you can choose to stop wanting things to be different, wanting other people to be different, wanting parts of yourself to be different and start learning how to live with the flow and to work with the changes and challenges that you will always encounter. A surfer who fights against the flow can be dragged under and even drowned; the end result of constantly fighting the flow in life isn't very different, except that you drown in expectations, blame and magical thinking, none of which propel you forward to a fulfilling life.
    • To overcome a rip or a current, a surfer needs to be aware that they're in one. Open Your Awareness is a big part of successfully navigating the streams of life. If you allow yourself to be caught up in other people's dreams, hopes and preferences then you have dimmed your awareness of following your own path and you risk being carried along by the current rather than choosing to live consciously within the flow.
    • Just as a rip rarely goes all the way out to sea, life's hardships rarely go right to the end of the line. On occasions they will and in such dark times you will need to draw on all your reserves to cope. But most of our hardships are transient, ephemeral and trivial when compared to the bigger picture and yet it is our thinking that blows them out of proportion. Train yourself not to turn small problems in catastrophes and many hardships will suddenly be lessened considerably.
  7. Lower your expectations. For the perfectionists in life, this may be a big ask but through the creation of unrealistic and often unmaintainable expectations of both yourself and of others, perfectionism becomes a hurdle that prevents you from living life to its fullest. A surfer who expects only big waves will be standing on the shore a lot more than a surfer who lowers their expectations and chooses to try to make the most of the small waves, even having fun because there is less chance of being crowded out by other surfers or tossed onto a sandbank. And a surfer who gets out on the flat sea will build Get Hard Muscles! There is always a silver lining in the situation as it is and there are always things you can do to improve upon less than ideal circumstances in life but this will only be realized by you when you lower your expectations and appreciate the imperfection of life. Look for what you can manage and look for what is good in every situation in life. Avoid frustration and anger by expecting a little less perfection of yourself and the situations you're in so that you can actually enjoy life and thrive instead.
    • Appreciate the waves, good or bad. Life isn't all about enjoyment, happiness, and avoidance of bad feelings. Like waves, life goes up and down and some of our experiences are definitely reminiscent of hitting the sandbar. When bad things happen though, they are as much a part of our life's journey as the good things.
  8. Be prepared so that you can be relaxed. The surfer who enjoys their experience the most is relaxed, which is achieved by good prior preparation, such as ensuring that the board has been properly waxed beforehand, the leg-rope is attached properly, the sunscreen has been applied, and the wetsuit fits snugly. Rushing or overlooking any part of this preparation can cause worry and spoil the surfing experience. Our expectations of how things should be can make us tense and highly strung, especially if we're caught unprepared or unaware. Reassuring yourself that you have done your preparation or that you've done all that you can within your means will help you to relax. Don't rush yourself. Give yourself the space to make sure that things are how you like them before embarking on a project, a trip or visit, or even meeting a deadline. Practice deep breathing techniques whenever you feel yourself overwhelmed by any situation, even in the midst of an unfolding drama. Relaxing leaves you with more energy and an ability to think clearly; being confidently relaxed also allows you to enjoy whatever you're doing, even the challenges!
  9. Live in the now. Surfer Shaun Tomson says that, no matter how tragic an experience you have had in your life, you need to live by the "what is" and not by the "what ifs".[1] "What ifs" propel you constantly back into the past, into the jaws of the Help Protect Sharks that bit you, into the claws of the memory that swamps you over and over again and holds you back. Release the memories that harm and choose a positive Reframe the Past that informs and flows into your present rather than hindering your life now. This doesn't mean you forget meaningful losses and hardships in your life but it does mean that you learn from them and let go so that you can live more fully in the present without being hostage to the past.
    • Living in the present means appreciating the process of life rather than a destination. Indeed, a surfer's path is one that lacks destination because the surfer doesn't know where that wave is going to take them or whether it will even take them anywhere. Appreciating the journey is the key to leading a happy life because you stop hungering after the things you don't have and start noticing and being grateful for the things that you do. The people around you now are precious and deserving of your attention; be sure to give them all your attention. The things you own now are serving you well; recognize this. The things you do now are part of who you are now and while striving to better yourself is admirable, doing so by disdaining your current self is a recipe for disaster – be kind to yourself and love what you're doing and being right now.
  10. Live with Passion. A hardcore surfer is a surfer who is a person dedicated to finding the next good swell. A surfer tries to surf as often as possible, even when they don't feel like it and even when the waves are small. Being passionate in life is about pursuing the things that matter to you regardless of the hurdles, the sense of disinclination that arises at times, and the negative murmuring of the crowd. Passion is what awakens you in the morning rearing to go and keeps you tinkering with your interest or work until late at night. Passion is what drives you to Discover What Type of Artist You Are more about yourself and about what you can give back to the world in an enduring way.
    • Many of us lead sedentary lives filled with thinking. Unfortunately, a lot of that thinking doesn't translate into action. Some thinking is good, such as the surfer thinking about the weather and the mood of the ocean. Some thinking is unhelpful, such as convincing yourself that today is not the day based merely on your lack of enthusiasm. If you don't feel like getting off your couch or leaving your house or office even, set yourself small goals for the day, goals that involve at least trying something for a half hour or leaving your house or office for a short time. If you're feeling down or disengaged, force yourself to at least try to remind yourself that life will only give back to you what you put in.
    • Don't over think a passion. The more you over-think a passion, the more it turns into an intellectual pursuit rather than a real one. While it's good to know as much as you can about your passion, avoid turning this aspect of your passion into the only energy you have for it. Make sure that you take your learning and knowledge and apply it by getting out there and experiencing first hand all the things you have read and heard about. Sure you'll make mistakes but no amount of book learning or lectures can guard against that; only practical experience will teach you what you need to know to succeed.
  11. Expect to be your own best cheerleader. There won't always be people to see you at your greatest moments, those moments when you defeat fear and conquer the doubts. Just as a surfer breaks through an incredibly difficult but exhilarating journey inside the barrel to find themselves on a deserted beach, you will often find that your greatest moments of triumph have no witnesses other than the environment about you. And yet, you need to learn to savor that moment for everything it is worth, from the sheer exhilaration of having defeated your fears and doubts, to the realization that you not only can do something but you can excel at it and create a more fulfilling life for yourself. Pat yourself on the back, congratulate yourself, and cheer yourself on. You don't need external validation for doing what's right, what's best, and what is Identify and Implement Community Improvements bringing out the best in yourself.
  12. Choose your path and be unique. Surfers don't try to copy each other. Indeed, they're very accepting of Be Happy and Love Your Individuality and difference. Many people choose to let life lead them, to succumb to a Stop Being Fatalistic that life's plans are already clearly laid out for them and that to buck the trend of what is expected, what is already ordained, or what is really a rut, is considered to be risking everything. The truth is, in choosing your path, you risk nothing more than a regret that you didn't do this sooner. Use your choices wisely and show what you're made of while still being respectful of others.
    • You will make mistakes but guess what – you'll make them whether or not you forge out on your own path or follow the expectations of another. Indeed, following someone else's path is always far more fraught with mistakes than the path of your own choosing, where your mistakes are your own for learning from, not mistakes that have been defined by others.
  13. Pass it on. Surfers are supportive of each other as a community. If one surfer gets into trouble, the code requires that other surfers help that person immediately. Surfers aren't hierarchical; they're as willing to take tips from a beginner surfer as a beginner surfer is willing to take tips from an old hand. Life isn't any different; we're social individuals tied together by common experiences, feelings, and concerns and yet sometimes we manage to forget this and only see our own predicaments or interests. Overcome this by acknowledging the achievements and positive aspects of others in your life and remain open to learning from others all your life.
    • See the good and positive in people and spread it. Praise them openly. Share their efforts and ideas with others.
    • Live in harmony. Surfers have a set of rules to surf by, such as not dropping in, observing the right of way of another surfer, not snaking, not tossing your board, and so forth. There aren't a lot of rules because surfing is about freedom but basic manners and courtesy are the underpinning of harmonious relations in whatever we do in life, so it's never too much to ask you and everyone else to be considerate and to be a good human when other people are about.


  • Stay curious. A good surfer keeps learning from other surfers and continues to be open to new moves and ways of doing things. This is what gives surfing a constant element of interest. And you've already guessed it – life is no different!
  • Be aware of your ups and downs in life and find your own rhythm. A surfer is aware of their bad days and their good days; sometimes they're just not with the flow and they recognize that the surfing that day wasn't optimum. But this doesn't throw the surfer into a permanent funk; they simply treat that day as a bad one amid many good ones and get back on the board fully expecting the next experience to be much better. In everyday life, riding through the bad days is essential, as is getting back on the board and expecting the next time to be much better, especially with the benefit of experience. Learn to gauge your feelings against the gravity of the situation in a more objective light rather than tending to make every little bump seem like a mountain; and find a rhythm of life that allows you to bounce back instead of obliging yourself to only see the negatives.


  • Beginner surfers risk trying too hard and making the entire process a struggle. Whenever you try something new in life, there is a temptation to do the same thing if you're only concerned about winning or proving a point. Pull back and enjoy the learning process itself and enjoy what's happening as it unfolds.

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