Be Willing to Take a Wave – Obama Style

Surfers can safely sit on their boards on the outside – well before the waves break, but they will never catch a wave. It takes courage when the waves are truly huge to move close to the break, and not sit safely on the outside. Watching Obama in the first months in the Presidency reminds me of the really courageous surfers, those who would go right where they thought the big wave would break and not hesitate a moment to go for it. Take a look a one surfer taking a wave.

Surfing Territories

Different beaches have different local groups that frequent their favorite locations. You need to be cautious when you surf a new beach, or one that is not in your territory, with your surfing buddies. Life is not different. It is not as if it were the difference between East and West Baltimore, as in The Wire, but careful: The locals defend one another, and don’t appreciate outsiders.

Surfing, like Life, is not a Boat Race

The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race is about to start. As one of the rowers said, the race has a clear conclusion: you either win or lose. This and other aspects of rowing are quite different from the sport of surfing. In surfing, winning and losing can be more ambiguous — there is no finish line, as such. The course is constantly changing. The competition changes. Surfing is not a team sport. Of course both are great sports. Both can be lost by mistakes. Both can be lost by strategic choices, and not just who the best athletes might be. Nature can intervene, such as debris in one’s path. That’s life.

Wave Tools

Surfers realize the significance of their tools. There are many wave tools, from body boards to surf boards. Clearly the surf board is the key tool of the surfer. The ends of surfing are about the quality of the experience, but the means of surfing are about the tools as much as the techniques. The time surfers take to choose, shape, clean, wax, and protect their boards illustrates the centrality of their tools to their success. Of course, there are non-instrumental attachments to one’s tools and other ends, such as gaining recognition of how cool one’s board might look. But I am repeatedly impressed by the care and attention that good surfers give their tools.

The Web is not for Surfers

Why don’t more surfers surf the Web? It is most closely linked to the culture of surfing, which is outdoors, physical, and experiential. Surfers might use the Web to discover new places to search, or to plan a trip to a new beach, but not for their entertainment or engagement. This is especially ironic given that the Internet and Web community has appropriated the concept of ‘surfing the Web’. Why don’t more surfers surf?