What do surfing and startups have in common?

Updated: May 18

Startups and surfing have more in common than most think. There are a few lessons that startups can take from surfing.

Balance is key for both surfing and startups.

A novice surfer first learns to balance before they can ride waves smoothly. “Bend your knees and stay low” is one of the first pieces of advice any surfer hears. Before that, they may even try paddling out on their knees. The key thing here is to keep balance - laying low increases stability and helps you build speed, without falling off the board.

It can be tempting to go for excitement over stability and rush into the next opportunity, but you’ll want to learn to be stable in different environments or risk your startup falling into the water.

Ride lots of waves, get experience and confidence.

Nobody becomes a star surfer overnight. Getting there takes numerous falls into the water, and sometimes getting totally wiped. The more you ride, the faster you learn through perfecting your technique. Running a startup isn’t easy - you’ll fail a lot before you get comfortable, and before you know it you’ll have the momentum you need to find the right wave.

It can be tempting to compare yourselves to the ‘star surfers’ of the startup world, but the reality is that startups shouldn’t be worrying about landing a star client or a massive investment. Collecting small victories in small investments and pitches gets you the experience and confidence you need to pitch when a big opportunity arrives.

Patience is key for start ups

Surfers are stereotyped to be laid back and “chill” for a reason - they’ve spent a lot of time being patient waiting for the right wave, and if they get wiped, they come right back for the next one. Gently bobbing in the water while waiting for the right wave lets your mind slip away from worries - stressing about a wave doesn’t help the wave come, and neither does stressing about your business. Patience is important. The right wave doesn’t come by often, but spend time waiting for the right wave, and you’ll be rewarded.

That said, floating along doesn’t get your business anywhere.

While floating along waiting for the right wave is sometimes helpful, sometimes you’ll need to paddle out. The further out you go, the longer you get to enjoy the wave. You can’t control the waves, but you can certainly move around to adapt to conditions rather than stay bobbing forever.

Not all waves are created equally too - there are good waves, bad waves, and sometimes great waves. It takes some skill and experience to recognise the right waves to figure out when and where to make your move. As a startup, it takes a bit of practice to recognise and catch the right opportunities before they pass you right by, and also when it’s not worth wasting your time.

Want to know more or need support?

As founders ourselves we know how challenging it is to navigate the rough ocean waves of the startup world. So get in touch with us if you are getting started or if you're stuck in a rip.

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