That weren’t necessarily about surfing…

I recently spent a week at Alex’s Surf School in Baleal, on the Portuguese coast. Pretty Baleal is an excellent place to learn surfing, with multiple bays providing steady waves throughout the day and the year.

It’s been something on my bucket list for several years. I missed the buzz of surfing during high school, but it came back to bite me in my thirties. This, I knew, was something I had to try.

I’ve done it now… Even managing to stand up on the board for a couple of runs! Despite my lack of innate ability, I learned a few lessons last week.

Assumptions lead to bad execution

Surfing: it’s all about dynamic balance, right? And if I learned anything from years of martial arts, it’s that balance is about lots of little things, but one big one: core strength. In the month between booking and going to surf camp, I worked hard on my lower back and stomach muscles. Ready!

But no! The strength I most needed was in my arms, shoulders and upper body. I missed the boat on that one due to a poor understanding of what was coming up, and I paid for it with aching arms each evening.

Flexibility leads to opportunities

I’ve always had issues with flexibility. Starting Taekwon-Do training at the age of 10 or 11, I was the only kid in the school who couldn’t touch their toes. I still can’t, despite a near-daily routine of stretching.

Flexibility was my great downfall in the road to being a professional surfer. I couldn’t move my legs in the standard way, so we had to spend the week exploring and experimenting with different techniques. That led to bruises, cuts and a little discouragement: the opposite of what anyone wanted to achieve.

Keep getting back up

Surfing in Portugal
It’s about getting back up again.

It’s hard when you’re trying to pioneer something new, whether that’s a small business, a surfing technique for the chronically inflexible, or a whole industry. Every time you almost get it is a great motivator at first, and a great de-motivator as time rolls on.

But if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly while you get better at it.

I’m not talking about doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results: I’m talking about small changes, small learnings, adding up to incremental improvements. Sometimes there’s a big jump from where you are right now, and where you want to be… so expect that to take some time. Keep learning. Keep trying. Keep getting back up.

Know when to retreat

My afternoon sessions were never that much fun. Arms and body already tired from the morning session, a work session between surfing classes taking away from focus. Sometimes, it’s time to walk away for a while.

But a retreat isn’t always a defeat. Sometimes you need time away from the ‘work’ of a thing to come up with fresh ideas, fresh energy, and the insight that comes from working ‘on the business rather than in the business’. As much as I dislike business clichés, there’s a part of every leader and manager that needs to step back, get out of the breakers, sit on the sand and take some time.

Surfing is fun, albeit hard work

If it sounds like my first week’s surfing was hard work, it is because it was. But it was also great fun. I love the water, the surf, the energy; and I can’t say enough about the patience and tenacity of the coaching staff on the beach, and their warmness and welcome off of it.

And when you have struggled and fought your way through a week in which you didn’t achieve your goals, it says something special about those that were alongside you when you want to go back and try again.

Can we help your online strategy to get back up?

Performance Foundry helps small businesses and solopreneurs be more successful online. We help with strategy, design, development and ongoing maintenance and marketing. Drop us a line if we can help you.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.