The Surfer’s Guide to Management – 10 gnarly lessons you can use every day.

Although surfing is a passion of mine as a surfer I make a really good management consultant. Once you experience the thrill of ridingsurfing2 that perfect wave you are hooked for life. Many entrepreneurial managers and business owners can relate to that feeling of looking for the next business wave and being ready to ride it as far as they can.

Unfortunately, not all waves are perfect.  In fact, the perfect break is a bit of a rarity. But as addicted surfers we continue searching for the perfect break motivated by the potential thrill of success. From my experience in business there are some very strong similarities to be drawn between surfing and management. 

Often, when I am sitting out in the ocean looking for the next wave, I am reflecting on the work I do with people and organisations to help them improve performance and motivation and it was during one of these reflective sessions I developed the Surfer’s Guide to Management.

  1. Choose the right equipment for the conditions. If you haven’t matched the surfboard to the task you will either be working too hard to get out through the waves, or worse you will miss opportunities because your surfboard won’t perform at the right level.

Management guide: Make sure your equipment is fit for purpose, don’t over or under invest – always ensure you match the conditions.

  1. Get paddle fit before venturing out. Sure you can work on your fitness once you are out there, but opportunities may be missed if you’re not tuned to the physical and mental demands of surfing. Getting out through the waves can be more than half the battle, being physically and mentally ready allows you to reach even greater levels of success.

Management guide: keep yourself mentally and physically ready at all times to maximise any opportunities that arise or to help you battle through the tough times that will inevitably come.

  1. Scan your environment for the best waves. Some surfers seem to be paddling forever when trying to get out and not making any ground, while others mysteriously end up in their desired spot in no time. When it comes to catching waves, these surfers always seem to be in the right place and surf all the good breaks. Take the time to plan where you’ll paddle out, look for the rips or advantages that will take you out the back.

Management guide: Scan your environment to see what’s happening around you, look for opportunities, or learn from others in your industry.  This will get you out ahead of the pack faster and surfing more waves than others.

  1. Persevere in all types of conditions. Often you learn more through facing tough conditions than you do from enjoying ideal conditions. Of course you want to surf clean waves, but you have to be able to manage in all sorts of conditions to be able to maximise the benefits when the conditions come good.

Management guide: Look at every opportunity, both good and bad, as a learning experience that can be used to help build your success for the future.

  1. Avoid the wash. There’s not a lot you can do once the wave is broken, so cut out of the wave before it completely breaks. Surfing all the way into the beach often means that you will have to do the long paddle back out, with no guarantees of succeeding.

Management guide: Don’t be greedy or lazy. Know when to jump off a wave or a trend before it breaks and you get washed up on the beach.

  1. Keep trying because you never know when there will be a lull in the sets that will let you get out the back.

Management guide: Don’t give up when the going gets tough and don’t become too focused on doing it one way, there may be opportunities just around the corner to get to where you want to be.

  1. Always be ready. Just because there is no surf today, doesn’t mean it won’t be pumping tomorrow.

Management guide: don’t give up just because it’s not happening right now, ideal conditions could be just around the corner.

  1. Know when to duck dive. This is where you push the board under the wave and let all of the water wash over you. Done properly, you’ll keep moving forward even though the waves are trying to push you backwards.

Management guide: learn when to duck and dodge people or situations that keep you from moving forward.o

  1. Know your level. Sometimes it’s just too risky to go out and you’re better off waiting for conditions to improve. Be ready for the conditions because often the waves look easier from the beach, but once you are out there you may get hammered.

Management guide: don’t underestimate how tough it can be and always be ready to retreat to surf another day if the risks are too high.

  1. Waves don’t last long. The paddle out is longer than the act of surfing the wave, so once you are on it appreciate the exhilaration of going with the flow and being in the moment, it will keep you going until the next perfect wave comes along.

Management guide: don’t forget to celebrate your successes, because you will have worked hard to achieve it.

Not only will using the Surfer’s Guide to Management help you search out the next perfect wave for your business but it also entitles you to legitimately drop the words dude, gnarly and pumping into everyday conversation. Good luck dude!

© Gary Waldon and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gary Waldon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Gary is a Director of, an innovator, a speaker and a successful executive known for delivering simple solutions to solve complex problems.

The Surfer’s Guide to Management – 10 gnarly lessons you can use every day.

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