What Surfing Can Teach You About Entrepreneurship

Here are five ways the lessons of riding ways can help you build your business.

learn more about Nicholas Mohnacky

By Nicholas Mohnacky • Oct 10, 2014 Originally published Oct 10, 2014


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

My business is all about surfing. Surfr App connects people to places, ultimately surfers to surf spots and nearby travel resources like food, lodging, and surf shops at more than 9,000 locations around the world.

But surfing is all about business, too. In fact, surfing can teach you a lot about entrepreneurship.

How? These five ways:

1. Watch The Lineup

When it comes to understanding a new surf break, you can read guides, charts, reports and local resources, but hands down, the best way to get a spot dialed in is to watch other surfers at that spot. Take a few minutes to stand on the beach and see where riders are taking off, watch where they're high-lining, stalling, or hitting the lip on the closeout sections. Familiarity with a particular surf spot could mean the difference between life and death. Some surf spots are simply not rideable at low tide because it's too shallow and other surf spots have channels that, if used, could keep you out of areas of danger.

Likewise in marketing or launching a new product, it's imperative that you do research and understand your market. Taking time to watch the line-up could make or break your business. It's the kind of awareness that requires diligence and astute attention to detail.

Related: 3 Ways to Immerse Yourself in Startup Life

2. Charge

"Play is the highest form of research." - Albert Einstein

In surfing, you have the option to sit on the shoulder or sit on the peak of the wave. When that set wave approaches, it can be intimidating because you know you're in the right spot and your friends are hooting at you to go. As the wave approaches, you only have two options: paddle over the top, or turn and charge.

Entrepreneurship requires you to charge. There's no paddling over the sets or sitting on the shoulder. You have to go for the set wave, peer over the ledge, paddle in, pick a line, put your head down, and take off. Really up until that moment when you decide to paddle in, you're just a spectator.

3. Be Socially Conscious

When there's a pile of garbage the size of Texas floating around in your playground, you don't need much to fire you up about plastics or pollution. Water is our most precious resource, making up about 71 percent of the Earth's surface and more than 60 percent of our body mass. Between dumping and runoff issues, our water is becoming increasingly and alarmingly polluted, so we, as surfers, constantly consider our stewardship of our environment.

In today's world, social activism and social responsibility are becoming a larger part of our lives. As an entrepreneur, it's not enough to have a great idea and a business plan. Your involvement in the community in understanding their needs and your social awareness can determine the success or failure of reaching your target audience.

4. Prepare for the Hold Down

It's no coincidence that the majority of surfers have amazing physiques. This group of people eat well and train to endure the pleasures and punishment that the ocean's energy produces. A gallon of water weighs about 8 lbs. Imagine a six-foot wall of hundreds of gallons of water charging at you with enough force to pin you down and hold you under for extended periods of time. Seconds feel like an eternity and a minute feels like a lifetime. The fact is, you better be ready for the hold down both mentally and physically, or it could kill you.

Related: Why Competition Is Good

According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs fail within their first 18 months. In the same way surfers train and prepare their bodies for all that the ocean can throw at them, entrepreneurs must be ready to persevere and overcome the turmoil of fund raising, sales, development issues, creative stalemates and communication problems.

5. Have Fun

There's nothing better than a marathon surf session with your friends. With every drop in, adrenaline flushes your veins, filling you with unparalleled passion and fervor. When you choose to stop jockeying for position in the lineup, settle your nerves, and focus your energy, it's impossible not to have fun. Surfing is a blast and so inherently addictive that people often refer to it as their source of freedom in life, enjoying the moments when they're fully present and immersed in nature experiencing its fullest beauty and harnessing the joy that flows within.

Whether it is the coffee shop office, the 300-square-foot apartment, the public library, or co-working space that you can barely afford, soak up those environments because they're your ocean in entrepreneurship. Remember, these places are likely better than that stuffy corner office. Magical moments happen here; we bring our ideas to life, see our goals through fruition, and alter the world's axis just enough to create monumental change. Though we may not know where our next meal may come from, it's important to remember to enjoy the journey and have fun!

Related: The 4 Roles Every Founding Team Should Have

Nicholas Mohnacky

Founder, Surfr App

Through a combination of great values, ability, creativity, networking and focus, Nick Mohnacky has amassed an impressive body of work while partnering or working with some of the world's largest technology and media companies like: Zynga, Yahoo, Tribune and Cox. Nicholas is currently working on his tech startup Surfr App.

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