6 Life Lessons I Learned While Surfing in the Philippines

“You just have to get out there.”, one of the guys said.

I doubt he knows how deep and profound his “surfing advice” actually was. It’s also applicable to life and business. And money. And success. And love. And everything else.

On my first day here in San Juan, the surfer paradise in the Philippines, I learned more about life in one single day than I maybe have learned about it in the whole last year.

I did some surfing in the afternoon. And I understood that some principles in life are universal. They are suitable for ALL areas of your life.

What you need to know to learn a new sport like surfing might also become in handy in other areas of your life as well.

There are laws, in some kind of ways. And if you don’t obey them, you have to pay the price.

And it’s a high price you have to pay indeed. Ranging from unhappiness, unease, loneliness and discomfort up to depression, hate, negativity and pain.

So, stick to the rules to make your life easier and more fun.

Stick to the rules and you can ride the waves.

If you don’t, you might get hit by the next huge wave approaching you and it crushes you and pulls you under water, making life seem like a complete and mere struggle.

Here are the (universal) things I learned from surfing:

1. You just have to get out there. 

My new friend said it so well. Yet so little people live life like that. “You just have to get out there” applies to every area of your life.

You are lonely? “You just have to get out there” and embrace the endless possibilities of meeting amazing and loving people. Guess what? There are millions of people out there who feel just the same as you are right now. They want to meet a new love and are afraid to take the first step as well. Sometimes it’s just a matter of opening yourself up to new possibilities and your “problems” resolve themselves in no time.

You are poor? “You just have to get yourself out there” and offer your unique gifts and services to the world. How can you improve the lives of the other people around you. Stop chasing money and it will be drawn towards you. Offering service and offering value to other people comes first; money comes second. We live in an abundant world with financial overflow. We live in a world where there is a trillion-dollar changing owners every day. Every day! I don’t even know how many zeros there are behind that one! Money is abundant. Go grab your slice.

Remember: in order to make millions you have to influence millions (of people). Your bank account is a reflection of how much value you provide to the world. 

You are scared of the future? “You just have to get out there” also applies here. Go and live life passionately and you will realize that the future is actually not that scary at all. You will realize that you are able to handle all the consequences of your actions (as long as you make good choices now). If you make bad choices though, life will be challenging and painful. It’s obvious! But if you begin to make better choices right now you will soon see some drastic change and the momentum drags you towards a shinier future.

“You just have to get out there” is universal. It’s a law (at least in some weird way).

And this “law” is applicable to any area of your life.

It shows itself in surfing, in business, in family and friends and also in love.

You just have to put yourself out there in the world for others to see and appreciate you. 

You have to leave your fear and insecurity behind and begin to walk the journey which is your life. Only by taking the first step (and then the next and then the next) you are able to get where you want to go.

2. The first time is always the worst.

And I am not talking about sex here (although my first time was pretty bad too:))

When I was standing at the beach looking at the huge waves coming in, I was scared. The waves were BIG.

I was scared to embarrass myself. To not “make it” or to hurt myself (which I actually did). I didn’t want to go for a surf anymore.

But luckily I had two friends with me and – the good friends they were – they left me faster than I could think about not going in for the ride. They went for a surf and left me standing there, not even considering backing off.

“Let’s go and eat some water!”, they said, implying that it is going to be a bumpy ride. Then they left and made their way out there into the sea.

So I went inside as well. And the first wave that hit me immediately kicked me off my board and pushed me back towards the beach.

I quickly lost sight of my friends because somehow “they knew where to go” and I did not. I just bumped into one wave after the other and couldn’t make my way through them out into the open sea.

At the end – after minutes which felt like hours of exhausting struggle – I managed to follow another surfer and joined the other guys out there where the big waves form.

When you finally make your way beyond “this threshold” the sea calms. The small, noisy waves disappear and the sea transforms and becomes flat and smooth. 

It’s peaceful!

There everybody was patiently waiting for a big wave to arise from the sea. Their chance for a big and awesome ride.

I was excited and ready…

…and I learned an important lesson.

Again, what I was experiencing back there when I was going out into the sea, is applicable to your day-to-day life as well. First you feel overwhelmed, you feel scared and the first thing which comes to your mind is to run and go back to your comfort zone.

But still something inside you is curious about expanding, about growing as a person. It wants to see beyond your own limitations. It wants to explore how far you can be pushed and stretched. Something inside you wants you to become your best self!

A little external push from time to times helps a lot as well.

So I just tried it.

I made the leap and jumped into the water facing big waves. Just to find out that – after the initial “fight” against the waves and making my way through them – the sea is actually very calm and peaceful.

I began to enjoy it.

3. If you can’t get through the walls, you go around them, or above them, or under them,… until you find a way.

I caught some nice waves. It felt awesome!

Whenever I got a good one and ended up at the beach, I had to, again, go against the smaller but powerful waves. I had to find my way out there once more.

But this time I had nobody to follow. I had to find my own way.

I tried everything. I tried it with brute force (not very clever) and just went straight through the waves in hope of being stronger and faster than the current and the drag of the sea. I wasn’t. And soon I was exhausted and my muscles were sore.

I tried to go under and made a “barrel-roll” just do dive under the wave. My first teacher in Australia thought me to do so. I never saw the sense in doing that back then though (we were learning to surf on smaller waves). Now facing these bigger waves, it makes sense. And it was useful. 

It’s funny that you can only connect the dots looking backwards and lessons you learned earlier may serve you later in your life. 

So I made my way out there by myself again and I learned a lot while doing so.

I learned when it is time to “go all in” and paddle full speed ahead just to make it over the wave and reach the “next level”.

I learned when it’s best to rest and recharge.

I learned when to better dive under a huge wave and minimise the damage it may cause.

And I learned when it’s best to just avoid it altogether and go around it instead.

Life works the same. 

Some obstacles thrown at you can be defeated by brute force.

Some are too big and are better avoided to reduce the damage they may cause.

Sometimes you also can find alternative solutions for your challenges and afterwards you wonder why you didn’t try these alternatives earlier before.

But oftentimes you just have to get hit in the face, pulled under water as well. And then learn your lesson. Just to come back stronger and smarter the next time. 

4. Experience is worth millions.

You can immediately spot a pro surfer. They are moving more efficiently and more balanced across the sea than anybody else around. You could say I was far from stable and balanced when I was lying on my board.

The pros keep their eyes on the waves and see things before they even happen. They have some experience, which I don’t and therefore have a clear advantage over me!

While I struggle to even make my way out there, getting pushed back by every new wave and exhaust myself, they calmly wait for an opening to form. They reserve their energy for when it is needed.

Then they spot a good opportunity to make some meters out into the sea. They run on “energy-saving-mode” by seeing what others don’t and using their power more effectively.

While you work your ass off fighting the current and the waves, they recharge.

While you are getting hit by the wave and pushed back to the beach, they avoid it because they saw it coming way earlier than you.

While you try to force your way through each and every new way, they just find a better way to reach their “goal”.

Experience helps them to do so.

Life is a bitch if you don’t know how to play by its rules. I clearly felt that way this afternoon.

And (life) experience is worth millions.

“If a guy with experience meets a guy with money, the guy with experience ends up with money and the guy with money ends up with experience.”, it says.

And this applies, again, to all areas of your life. Love, business, job, family, friends. Everything.

If you don’t have enough experience to know what kind of people are good partners for you, your relationship might suck and you pay the price.

If you don’t have enough experience on how to start a business, you might struggle and be out of business very soon.

If you don’t have enough experience for a certain job, you might get replaced.

But the good thing is: experience can be gained. There is nothing you cannot learn. You have to invest into yourself though. You have to read and educate yourself. You have to hit the library or the web and do the workout for your brain!

And soon you are the one trading experience for money and not the other way around. 

5. Don’t follow people who have no idea what they are doing.

On my first few attempts to get out there to the open sea I was lucky enough to have some experienced surfers in front of me. They helped me to find my way through the chaos. They guided me through the waves and did so also very quickly.

But this one time I was, again, following what I was thinking was an experienced surfer. To my disappointment, he wasn’t.

And after five minutes of struggling to get out there (which seemed like an eternity to my sore muscles) I decided to abundant my “leader”.

I realized that he will not get me out there any time soon. “Better to leave behind the comfort which comes with relying on somebody else and try my own luck instead.”, I figured.

Or at least find somebody who knows what he’s doing.

But I got tricked. I was not looking closely enough. I didn’t look at the details and just saw some shiny t-shirts and professional looking board. He also had this rather unique and thick sun protection creme the pro surfers love to put onto their face.

I saw the superficial stuff, but didn’t look underneath. And this caused me to feel the consequences and the pain in my muscles later.

Life lesson learned: Not everybody with a fancy t-shirt and some white creme in his face is a pro and knows what he’s doing. 

6. Keep your eyes on the waves or they will surprise and destroy you.

I was just there floating in the sea, recharging, after a semi-good surf and a pretty tough fight back out into the open. I rested and got distracted by the beautiful view.

There is something peaceful and calm when you sit on your board in the middle of the sea and feel the small waves moving below you.

But I forget that I was moving. I was slowly moving towards the beach and the area where the big waves break. I didn’t course-correct and drifted a little bit further towards the coast.

I thought, since I have already “made it” that I can now relax. I can sit back and enjoy the view.

But again, apply this behaviour to real life and you will understand that this is not how things work out.

If you let yourself go for too long, the momentum might start to work against you again (just like the waves slowly pushing me away from my “goal”). And you begin to move off track, although you might not even recognise it for a while. 

I could have easily paddled a bit and move closer to the “waiting for a wave”-area. But I didn’t. I let myself go for a bit too long and momentum started to working against me now.

Only when things go downhill you realize that something is wrong. And then you try to course-correct.

This is the moment when people usually open their eyes for the first time and wonder why life is so cruel to them!

But it could be too late already. A huge wave might be forming right behind them already, ready to crush them if they are not careful and paying attention.

A lot of people handle their life like this. They float around in the sea and wonder why they got off track. And then they cry about why a huge wave hits their heads. 

The same happened to me. I was distracted. I was elsewhere with my thoughts. I was not focusing enough.

I could have easily avoided the upcoming drama, but I didn’t.

And then a wave formed behind me and began to fall down on me. In the last moment, I looked back – and for a split second – time stopped. I thought about what to do.

I was looking at my options and made a quick decisions. I could have just abandoned my board and maybe heavily reduce the damage the wave will cause on me this way. But you are not meant not do this, since your board could hit other surfers around and hurt them even more. I could also just stay on top of it and try to “catch the wave” in a last attempt.

I decided for the later, although it was dumb (and I knew it). The mistake was made way earlier. Now I had to suffer the consequences.

“How bad could it possibly be?”, I asked myself in this very moment. My pride got in the way. “It will work out. The last surfs did also, right?” 

Of course it didn’t work out.

I made the same mistakes millions of other people also make in their lives everyday. They don’t focus on their own “journey” and they don’t respect the threats which come with not doing so. They got distracted by external stimulation.

They thought they now are “above” life’s laws.

The wave broke above me and hit me with all its strength. It dragged me with it, smashed my left foot against my board and twisted it in weird ways my Yoga teacher would be proud of. The other end of the board hit my chest and damaged my rips.

Pain rushed through my body. And I hoped – once I will look down on my foot – it will not look as bad as it felt like it in this very moment.

The wave dragged me along for some more meters and then let me go. It has done its damage. Literally.

I looked down on my foot and it was heavily bruised and changed color to a stylish blue and red combination. The ankle was still hurting too. So were my rips.

I decided to better quit surfing for today. I guess I learned my lessons. I felt above the laws of life and I paid the price. My ego got in the way.

I learned my lesson and paddled towards the beach to end today’s surf.

“I will continue tomorrow.”, I told myself.

Because I learned that in life “you just have to get out there”.



(Photo: Flickr)

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