A Surfer’s Guide To Living Life To The Full

“Well I’m always working on everything constantly. I never take the approach that I’m doing as well as I possibly can… I always think there’s more and I think if you don’t have that, you are not driven to be better.”
Kelly Slater, Professional Surfer, Nine Times World Surfing Champion.

Thank you to the inspirational Jonathan Fields

This post was inspired by an article Jonathan Fields wrote, The Surfer’s Guide To Entrepreneurial Bliss.  Jonathan Fields is the author of, Career Renegade, and his blog, Awake At The Wheel, has amazing insights on all kinds of things as well as a great picture of his feet snugly encased in a pair of flower slippers topped off by hairy legs. At least I think they’re his feet.

As well as having a sense of humour, Jonathan writes well and provides:

“Tips, strategies and conversations at the crossroads of work, life, entrepreneurship and play.”

I always enjoy a good read when I visit his blog and I particularly loved The Surfer’s Guide To Entrepreneurial Bliss. After reading it, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the philosophy, sport and art of surfing has something to teach us about living life to the full, not just about being an entrepreneur and running a business.

Surfing Makes Me Happy

I took up surfing at 39. I’d wanted to learn to surf for years and when the opportunity presented itself on the island of Bocas del Toro in Panama, I knew it was now or never. Imagine learning to surf in the warm Caribbean sea with a patient, encouraging and stunning teacher. It’s not surprising with those conditions that after three lessons I was hooked.

I’ve only been surfing about 18 months now and I’m not that good, but I can stand up on a wave and I have fun. To me that’s what it’s all about. Surfing holds a few keys to happiness for me because it:

  • Keeps you totally in the moment.
  • Puts you in touch with the elements and nature.
  • Challenges you mentally and physically.
  • Wears you out so you sleep well.

So here’s my take on lessons surfing can teach us about living life to the full.

1. You’re never too old too try something new

I learnt to surf late in life. I’m never going to be a pro surfer but who cares? I have fun and just getting out there in the waves is invigorating. You’re never too old to learn something new as long as you know your limits, start small and make sure you can swim first.

2. Fear is normal

We’re only human. Doing something new, something you’ve never done before is scary. Until you try it, at which point you’re too busy doing it to be afraid any more. If you think about surfing or tackling anything new in life what’s the worst thing that can happen? A black eye, a chipped tooth, a massive bruise on your thigh? Those things are a possibility but so much better than sitting on the beach and just watching everyone else have all the fun.

Giving things a go and facing your fear will give you renewed confidence in all areas of your life.

3. It Takes Time, Baby

You’re not going to be a great surfer over night. In fact, you might be like me in which case you’ll never be great at it. But, like most things in life worth doing, you’ll never be any good at all if you don’t practice regularly and stick at it. We all have times when we’re not really in the mood, we think you’ll never be any good or we just can’t be bothered to try any more. Force yourself, get out there and give it a go. You’ll be glad you did. Don’t make excuses – being tired, too busy, bad weather.

Just keep going and don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re doing something at all, you’re already doing well.

4. Expect to Have Wipe Outs

When you surf you always push the limits, try new things and make mistakes. When you have a wipe out it’s scary – you’re pushed underwater, you can’t tell up from down and you don’t know where your board is. But generally you pop back up again and live to try again. Surfing is like life. When you have set backs just get back on your board and paddle back out to the break and have another go.

You’re going to have wipe outs, make mistakes, judge the wave wrong or get caught on the wrong side of a big one. Ouch. It hurts but it happens to everyone, it’s called a learning curve.

5. Keep Studying the Waves

It takes years to really understand how the waves will break, where and when. Once you’ve been doing something for years you start to get an edge – it’s called experience. Just when you think you know everything there is to know a rogue wave will come along and put you back in your place.

We’re always learning, growing and changing, and so are our circumstances and opportunities. That’s what makes life interesting.

6. Ignore the Grumpy People

There are a few of them in the waves. There might be some in your office, in your group of friends or even in your family. They’re the kind of people who don’t want to share the water with newcomers, or anyone. They think that there aren’t enough waves to go round. They think that someone else is to blame and it’s never their fault.

Take no notice, some people are like that and no matter how hard you try to please them, you never can because they’re unfriendly and grumpy. There’s room for everyone in this world if we all take turns and share, don’t let people with a bad attitude get you down.

7. Find Happy People To Hang Out With

Just like life, surfing is more fun with friends. Good friends will encourage you to carry on when you’re about to give up. They’ll celebrate your successes with you and commiserate with you when you have problems. They’ll watch your back when a gnarly wave is coming your way, they’ll tell you when a good set of waves is coming in, they’ll whoop with glee when you catch a good wave and ride it right into the shore. Best of all you’ll be able to do the same for them.
Being surrounded by people you care about enriches your life in unexpected ways

8. Dress Right

Dress for the occasion – wear clothes that are comfy and will stay on. Otherwise you won’t be able to relax and enjoy yourself because you’ll be too worried that you’re giving someone an eye full or exposing more than you’d like to.

9. Have Fun

Think you could never surf? Think again - here I am surfing In Costa Rica - I'm heaps better now (she lied)

Think you could never surf? Think again – here I am surfing In Costa Rica – I’m heaps better now (she lied)

No matter if it’s your first time in the surf or you’re a seasoned pro the most important rule is to have fun. Kelly Slater,  world surf champion nine times once said:
“The best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun.”

Is that true of life too? Do you think that your life will be better if you achieve conventional success and financial wealth? Or would it be better if you laughed longer, harder and more often? Don’t take it surfing or life too seriously. Enjoy it. Have fun.

Thank You

Thanks again to Jonathan Fields for the inspiration and a big thank you to Chuck Chastain for letting me use the amazing photo of him surfing. Chuck is living his dream in Costa Rica with his beautiful family. He spends his time surfing, playing poker and helping people find their dream Costa Rican property. If you’re visiting Costa Rica or would like to, get in touch with Chuck for real estate and surfing tips. He’s a top guy and you’ll be glad you did. I don’t think he’ll share his poker tips with you but if he does, let me know.

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  1. Gordie Rogers September 28, 2009 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    You’ve used surfing and turned it into a wonderful metaphor for entrepreneurship and life. Thank you for the great post!

  2. Cecilia September 28, 2009 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Pain equalize peace. In so much pain there is so much peace when the two ends meet. In between is a question how did you do it. It’s not winning or losing ,it is how you play the game. Time and time again I faced tremendous split seconds decisions that sometimes there are no chance to ask myself twice. But my brain is wired and connected to the beginning where lessons came from. I love tennis and chess because they both asks for focus and split seconds decisions. And right there and then the instant reward or failure comes out of that decision. Fear is not only normal but its beautiful in itself. What you know is always challenged and a chance to be better and put us in check and balances.Once you face fear heads on, you already grown.

    The science of waves and in life is parallel at each other. There are no two waves or moment in life that are alike, it requires difference in approach and actions. Sometimes time is critical sometimes its not. That’s the beauty of being ADHD /ADD,live for the moment a make or break the most of it and laugh.

    Very insightful article, thanks for writing it.

  3. Annabel,

    Thanks so much for the kind words! Love how you’ve extended the metaphor into the bigger picture of life!

  4. Connie September 28, 2009 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    I borrowed a friend’s surfboard and just floated around for a while. I glanced over and a mama dolphin with her baby swam right by me. I knew I had to learn to surf – and I started to until I found out I was pregnant. I plan to take it up again someday – but part of me is more excited to watch my kids learn to surf :-)

  5. Webwordslinger September 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm - Reply


    Excellent, meaty post. Maybe it’s time to write a book, eh? I feel motivated on a Monday morning. There must be something going on.


  6. Kim September 29, 2009 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Annabel, as I sit here reading this article and staring at my surfboards (your surfboards-thank you again for allowing me to purchase them) No excuses, I need to just get out there and put the board in the water because I have so much fun everytime I do it! I’ll admit, I just miss you dragging me out there. Friends are a great inspiration! Thank you

  7. John K September 29, 2009 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Cool pic :)

  8. Robin Dickinson September 29, 2009 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel,

    Living life to the full. Yes, a full and contented life. To me, that IS success. I’m way over ‘conventional success – financial wealth’ = a better life. Sure, enjoy the stuff along the way, but drop it as soon as it starts to possess you.

    Annabel, I love the surfing analogy. We live near the beach and I spend a lot of time watching the waves and surfers meet where surfaces collide. One of the things that strikes me most as I watch is the humility and respect many of the surfers show for the sea.

    It’s almost a surrender to what is. An understanding that we are part of something far bigger, and that human and nature belong in harmony.

    I don’t mean to rave on, but once we get a taste for that deeper connection, a lot of the surface “froth and bubble” seems to lose it’s grip.

    We become released to jump into the fullness of life. To fully commit, now. Not defer ‘full living’ until we have enough, or have done enough.

    Best to you, Robin

  9. Annabel Candy September 29, 2009 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    – Robin – I think you’ve hit on the dilemma of 21st Century man and woman here. Nature versus Technology.

    Nature which I always tout – 7 Reasons to Go For a Walk:


    8 Secrets of Mountain Climbing and Life:


    Versus technolgoy which I battle with daily – https://www.getinthehotspot.com/2009/05/29/remember-to-backup-your-work/


    Being part of nature is so key to out well-being and technology so key for modern day success but they pull against each other.

    Finding a balance between nature and technology is the key to living life to the full. Thanks for making me aware of it.

  10. teresa October 2, 2009 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    I love this statement…..The best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun.”

    For some reason my eyes were welling up through this… I think you’re amazing annabel and if you do not get published it will be a crime! You look amazing in that photograph…so inspiring! Everytime I read about your surfing antics it makes me want to learn, or at least experience it.
    Keep it up Annabel, there are people welling up all over the world reading your blog…LOVE IT!!!!

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