The most underrated SKILL in surfing, business, and life.

When I use the word vision what comes to mind? Maybe the ability to see? Maybe a vivid dream with ties to reality? For the purpose of this article we are going to define it as the ability to see things which others fail to see.

Have you ever been out in the line up staring at the horizon when all off a sudden the guy next to you tears off in what appears to be a random direction? You watch him carefully, while at the same time looking at the horizon to see if he saw something you didn’t. You don’t see anything different, and yet he’s scratching like a clean up set is approaching.

30 seconds pass and sure enough, here comes the set and he’s in perfect position. You’re in perfect position to watch him catch the wave of the day.

Here’s the point… he saw something you didn’t. So how can a person sitting in the exact same spot see something others miss? Vision.

One of the most underrated skills (and yes it is a skill and can be learned) is the ability to see the sets on the horizon before they get to you.

So how does a person develop vision? In one word, observation.

This is where I lose most people. They want to ability to see what others don’t but aren’t willing to dedicate the time to develop that skill. Why? Because you have to sit and watch the waves… Study them, time them, count them.

Your ability to develop vision is going to be directly tied to your willingness to sit on the sidelines and observe. Here’s what I mean.

Waves are energy moving through the water, and just like any other “wave” (radio, micro, etc.), they move in patterns. In layman’s terms (which is totally what I am), waves have a direction, period, set, and height. These elements combine to create the pattern as the energy moves through the water. (For example, here is how a person might define a swell in technical terms. 6ft, from South 180 degrees, at 15 seconds.)

Now I’m not going to get into surf forecasting in this article so I’m not going to get any deeper than that, but what I want you to understand and take away from this is that they move in patterns, and that they don’t really shift too much during a given surf session.

Ok so what does this all mean to you and how does this relate to observation? Well if we know that the swell moves in a pattern, all we have to do is identify it, and we can predict how the waves will approach your given break.

Here’s the tough part though… you have to sit and watch it. How long? Long enough to discover the current swell’s rhythm. Once you can identify the pattern you’ll be able to do so much more in the water than the average surfer. You’ll learn when to paddle out so that you don’t get crushed by a set, you’ll know when the next set is approaching so that you can be in the perfect position, and you’ll know which wave in the set is the best one to paddle for.

One last illustration to tie this together. If you know that the sets are 16 mins apart, that there are 6 waves in the set, and that the best wave of the set is the 5th one, the rest becomes easy. So now when you’re sitting out in the line up and 15 mins have passed since the last set, and you see a slight bump on the horizon, chances are the next set is approaching… get in position.

So how does this connect to life and business?

The difference so often between those that get “lucky” and succeed, and those that miss the boat, is the ability to see things before they happen.

If you can identify the patterns, and yes they exist in life just like in surfing, you can maneuver yourself to take advantage of whats coming.

The problem is that most people don’t take the time to evaluate whats on the horizon. They wait-and-see at the same time everyone else sees… when the wave is upon them. But if you wait until the wave is so close that even those on the shore can identify it, you’ve waited too long.

The truly “lucky” ones see things way in advance of the vast majority of people. And therefore capitalize on the pattern before it becomes known to everyone.

Just like in surfing, this can be developed, but it takes time. You have to take the time to look around and observe what people are doing, and see the pattern. Once identified you have to “scratch” like crazy to get yourself in position to catch the wave. One example and then I’ll be done.

The internet boom started right around the year 2000, but those that capitalized on the boom started getting into position around 1996. Why? Because they could see the train coming. They saw what most didn’t… a pattern that had been in existence for centuries was about to shift to a new platform. They saw this new ability to use your computer to shop, communicate, and share as a new platform to do what we all love… connect. People love to communicate, they love to share what their kids are doing, and they are always looking for cheaper/easier/faster ways to conduct business. This wasn’t anything new, the pattern was there to be seen… if you had the vision to see it.

Some people look at those in position to catch the wave as “lucky”, and sure there are those that just happen to be sitting in the right spot to catch the wave, but don’t lie to yourself and say, “well if I was as lucky as THAT person I would have caught that wave too.” Instead, take it upon yourself to learn the industry that you’re in, or that you’re wanting to be in, figure out where the opportunities are, and then pick off that perfect front-side stand-up barrel.

It’s not luck, its preparation. It’s been said that luck is when opportunity and preparedness meet. Take the time to prepare and you will be the luckiest guy in the line up.

Next time you’re getting ready to paddle out, leave yourself enough time to sit on the beach and watch the waves. I promise that if you do this, you’ll get “lucky” and score the best waves of the day.

See ya out there.

If you would like me to go deeper into reading the “waves” leave a comment below and tell me so.


Luc Stokes
Luc Stokes

Author



12 Comments

Christine Simko
Christine Simko

July 05, 2015

Love this article. Simple and well written and not to mention helpful. I am definitely interesting in learning more on reading the waves. Currently reading “Complete Guide to Surfing Your Best” which I kept reading online was really helpful no matter what skill level… Look forward to more of these posts.

Rick
Rick

May 07, 2014

Excellent points and all so true. You have to put in the sweat equity in irser to reap the rewards and this is the common thread in every aspect of life.

Nathanael Kitchen
Nathanael Kitchen

May 07, 2014

I would love to hear more. Really got me interested with what you’ve covered so far. Great article!

Jaii
Jaii

May 07, 2014

I own two degree 33’s….love em both. Have been enjoying the water since I was 9…63 now. I learned this from the old salts from years ago…funny how some people just walk to waters edge, stretch, twist…paddle out only to end up on the beach, minutes later! Due to injuries through my life I now have metal rods in my back, not able to jump up, I have tried…I use you Retro Fish, Bean as kneeboard now! Thanks! Jbird

ScottB
ScottB

May 07, 2014

Great text, very true. As a noob, I like to think of mistakes
as learning steps, not failure. This article is another step
in learning. Very cool, thanks!

Jack
Jack

May 07, 2014

Great article. Surfing is about so much more than just catching waves. Thanks for the perspective and the analogy to the rest of life!

elizabeth lutz
elizabeth lutz

May 07, 2014

Hey I would love to learn more about how to read the waves, this article was great and I loved the connection to life!! Thank you!!

Bo
Bo

May 07, 2014

Nice article. Appreciate the perspective and analogy. I’m interested in learning more about reading/anticipating waves from watching them, as well as understanding forecast data to better predict surf conditions before even heading to the beach, so go deeper bro, go deeper. I’m also interested in more insights into reading patterns/opportunities in business and life in general, so if you’ve got more to say on that, I’m all ears. Cheers.

Mike
Mike

May 07, 2014

Surfing has taught so many valuable life lessons. For example like being patient, sharing, appreciating life and what you have and a whole lot more. This article hit home in so many ways. I’m really happy I got read this. Thanks for making my day.
Surfs up,
Mike
Chico, Ca

Bo Monroe
Bo Monroe

May 07, 2014

SO VERY TRUE, WHETHER IN THE WATER OR THE OFFICE. Always observe, notice the back ground and surroundings.See the whole picture. Thanks.

G
G

May 07, 2014

What information do you recommend reviewing before you even get to the beach. I find that as a novice it is good to know if you are heading out into a building or fading swell. There have been a few times where I have been out in the water and found myself in a growing swell probably when I had no business being in the ocean. I think this kind of piggy backs onto this post.

Damon
Damon

May 07, 2014

i do this all the time at my home break and sometimes i almost feel bad because i always seem to be the guy calling my waves out ,when so many others are there everyday also but just dont seem to see what im doing .Never thought about it and in life but i will try and put that into play for myself out of the water also ! thanks and keep it up bro ! way cool

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