Learning to Surf The Waves of Life

My yoga teacher and good friend, Faye, bought me a great T-shirt and on the front it says,

“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.”

A very cool T-Shirt motto, but what does it mean and just what do we need to do in order to learn to surf? How can Mark McGregor’s 10 Principles help us to surf the waves that life sends crashing onto our beach?

The first thing that has to happen before we can learn to do anything new is to decide to do it. If this sounds way to simple or obvious, think of the times you’ve said to yourself: “Yes I will. Just as soon as…” But, just as soon as what? As soon as you’re:

Old enough? Retired? Have more time? Have more money? Not as tired? Fit enough? Have less responsibility? Not as stressed?

These are all valid points for stopping yourself from doing many things. So, the very first thing you have to do before learning to surf is simple:

Principle 1

I am responsible.

Make the decision to learn to surf. No excuses. No ‘Maybe tomorrow’. Just do it.

But how do you know if learning to surf is an important thing for you or simply a waste of time? How can you be sure? By asking yourself if this is something that is important to your inner values. Ask yourself if this is really something that you can get behind heart, mind, body and soul. To know the answer to these questions, you need to be clear on your own values; what are the most important things for you in life? Health, fitness, being outside in nature, time with friends, time for myself, testing myself and pushing my limits, getting up every time I fall and patience. If these are core values for me-the things that I need in my life to be happy-then let’s get kitted up and ready to hit the beach!

Principle 2

I clarify my values.

Know what is important to your life and to your happiness and put these things first.

So, are you ready to surf the Pipeline, the barrels of Kirra or huge Mavericks? Do you even know what any of that means? Perhaps not quite yet. But it is important to set your goal and define what success will look like to you. How will you know when you’ve reached your goal? How will it feel? What will it look like?

Principle 3

I have a vision.

Know what you want to achieve. See it, smell it, hear it, dream it and most of all believe it.

If you are at the Principle 3 stage then you know what you want and why and you are all fired up and ready for action. Positive energy is flowing and you’re on cloud nine! But, be careful. We all only have so many hours in the day and so much energy to invest. What we need now is clarity of execution. That means having an action plan with your vision clearly in sight, creating and being willing to evaluate the action steps on the way to your goal and knowing the best and most pro-active things to do right now. Do your research, find the most appropriate equipment, decide on the best location and find someone to guide and help you with each development step.

The beach you will be spending your training time on consists of rocks, pebbles, gravel, sand and water. I’m sure many of you already know the ‘Big Rocks First’ principle. For anyone that doesn’t, I would highly recommend taking a second to watch Meir Kay’s YouTube video, “A Valuable Lesson for a Happier life”. Basically, you have to place your ‘big rocks’ into the ‘jar’ of life first in order to fit everything else in. Do not confuse ‘big rocks’ with the most urgent tasks of the moment. Your big rocks are those things that you need to be happy, focused, balanced and motivated; things that align and compliment your values and take you further to your vision.

A danger of learning to surf is being unprepared and getting caught in a rip tide. A rip tide is strong current of water moving directly away from the shore that can trap unaware surfers. There is no coincidence that it is called an R.I.P. as it can prove deadly to get caught up in the heavy current. Many suffer from panic and exhaustion attempting to swim against the flow of water with nothing but constantly shifting sand and gravel under their feet. Know your big rocks and your solid ground. Be prepared!

Principle 4

I am on Mission.

Do your research. Look after the ‘big rocks’ and don’t fall into the rip tide of heavy currents and shifting sand.

Okay, we have done our research, we have our equipment, we know where to begin and, theoretically, how to surf but is that enough? Of course not! We have all had the experience of learning something new and it rarely goes that smoothly. We have to fail, reflect, analyze our mistakes and learn from them in order to learn. Chances are that we will fail again, but next time we will ‘fail better’ and so the cycle continues until we find the perfect balance.

We have to have balance in all aspects of life before we can stand up on our surfboards. We have to be aware of what balance means; balance between private and professional life, balance between our needs and those of the people in our lives, balance between what we need now and in the long term. Having a trusted ‘sparing partner’ that you can take constructive feedback from is worth its weight in gold.

Principle 5

I Strive for Life Balance

Keep your focus on your vision but be prepared to try, fail, analyze and learn from one step to the next. Learn the importance of reflection in order to achieve balance.

And you’re up! But, hang on; so are other surfers…

Surfing is like life in as much as we can’t all paddle and splash in the faces of others, steal someone’s wave or cut them off. There is surfing etiquette that stops people getting hurt, upset and makes sure that everyone gets the best out of their experience:

Observe the right of way and wave priority.


Don’t hog the waves.

Know your ability.

Take advice from locals.

Know what upsets others.


Be aware of and respect others.

Help others.

Respect the beach.

Have fun!

Principle 6

I Actively Give & Take

Work with fairness and create win-win scenarios.

After a hard day’s surfing practice, it’s easy to sit back with a beer on the beach and tell big tales of bigger waves but we’re not experts yet. Even if we were, we can still only talk about the things we already know. When we listen (and I mean really listen, not simply preparing what we are going to say next as soon as the other person leaves a gap), we have the opportunity to learn things that we didn’t know. The speaker will feel that they are truly being listened to and understood. Real listening leads to real two-way communication, communication leads to understanding, understanding leads to trust and trust leads to success.

Principle 7

I Value Empathy

Listening, understanding, supporting and trusting others supports your own success.

Once there is open communication, trust and understanding between you and the people you are surfing with then you can really improve! You have to be concentrated and focused in order to stay balanced on your board, but it’s also crucial to be aware of others and remain flexible. You will benefit from exercises that improve your core stability and also your flexibility. Mutual respect and cooperation ties in all the above principles and shares your vision with others. They will want to see you succeed and, together, this multiplies the power of one- of you alone-into something much more powerful.

Principle 8

I Work with Involvement & Diversity

Learn to trust others. Welcome new ideas and opinions. Prepare to be challenged.

Trusting others, being open to new ideas and being challenged can only work well when we are strong enough in our selves and in our relationships to allow ourselves to become vulnerable and relationships like that do not happen over night. Strong relationships develop over time. Time used to remember the small things; time invested with focus on principles 6, 7 & 8. Time invested in the small things; being ready with a towel, a helping hand, encouraging words, compliments, apologies or just a beer. Being aware of the needs of others and showing gratitude when they do the same for us is a wonderfully simple way to develop and maintain all the important relationships in our lives. One important consideration is to make sure that the relationships we are working to improve are the right kind of relationships and not unhealthy or damaging ones.

Principle 9

Make Relationship Deposits

Recognize the difference between healthy and damaging relationships. Understand the value of good relationships. Be aware of and do the small things needed to develop and maintain good relationships.

You kept your goal and action plan in sight; you have technique and your support group. Well done-you can surf! But for how long? Sustainability is important if you still want to be catching those barrel waves for years to come. If you want stay fit enough to surf, you obviously need to proactively work towards optimal physical health. An over-weight surfer is not going to have the strength to paddle any distance or ‘pop-up’ onto their surfboard. Once you are up on that board, it is important to be able to let everything go and live in the moment; loving what you’re doing. No stress or distractions. Remember to listen to your body; hear when your muscles have had enough and when you need to take on fluids. Torn muscles and sunstroke will definitely spoil your fun!

Principle 10

I Re-Energize Weekly

Keep your body, mind and soul fit and healthy. Make the choice to take time for yourself and listen to your body, exercise, eat healthily, relax and, above all, learn to love life.

Obviously, these principles are not only relevant for learning to surf! They are guidelines to live by and guidelines for success. Your past does influence who you are to a certain extent but success is not based on your past. Your success and everything you do is based on the choices you make. You, and only you, are responsible for these choices. When you realize this and take full responsibility, it becomes possible to take a good look at ourselves and ask, “What is important to me?” “What do I really want?” We need to be vulnerable and honest with ourselves to find these answers but only then can we take the plunge and leave the safety of the beach. It is not an easy task and we will fall off of our surfboards, learn a lesson, change our behaviour and have to start again many times along the way.

Change of any kind can be scary and daunting even when we are convinced of its importance, but you don’t have to struggle alone.

A coach will guide and support you every step of the way. The coaching process gives you the time, space and support necessary to analyze and clarify your position before deciding on your values, vision and action plan steps. A coach will inspire and support you but also challenge you and take you out of your comfort zone in order to get away from what your head tells you is ‘OK’ in order to discover what your heart and soul actually want for all round happiness. A coach will help you to clarify what you need to do to reach your vision, implement strategies and hold you accountable.

Are you ready to learn to surf the waves of your life? Then I’m here to help you meet the challenge of riding the highest waves and to ensure you have fun along the way.

Book your first coaching session now.

Comments (2)

  1. admin
    October 12, 2020

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    • admin
      October 12, 2020

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