Often overlooked or considered a hindrance, the paddle-out provides a highly targeted warm-up whether surfers like it or not. It’s easy to dread, especially at beach breaks where the waves peak and spill towards the shore haphazardly, eager to keep land creatures terranean.

The paddle in life is tackling the small steps required to achieve a goal. You can procrastinate and avoid the annoying, tedious and difficult tasks or you can embrace them with exuberance. The sooner you get them done, the sooner you get to surf.

After plunging into the ocean you can quickly begin to feel insignificant. Earth’s saline lifeblood has no favourites. It is with a combination of luck, timing and your own personal strength that you will find your way out to where the waves – the opportunities – are. Surfers learn to duck dive, to paddle wide away from the breaking waves and to avoid obstructing other surfers who are already riding waves, even if it means taking a beating themselves.

Getting to the place where the waves of opportunity are takes persistence. If your goal is to be healthy there are a series of steps between you right now and the glowing you of the future. These steps are the paddle. There will be obstacles and there will be difficulties but the more you paddle the stronger you’ll get. Don’t think too much about the waves breaking out there, keep your attention on your immediate surroundings and stay focused.

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As you gain momentum look up occasionally to make sure you’re on track. If you are working towards launching a new business you may find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of distractions, obstacles and difficulties encumbering your progress. Don’t despair. Remember that every obstacle was once someone else’s opportunity. Obstacles and opportunities are all water in the same ocean, it just depends from where you’re looking.

Never ruin someone else’s opportunity. Even if it means taking a beating and getting spun like a rag-doll in the depths, cheer your friend or a stranger on as he catches the wave of his life. Happiness is best shared, so be encouraging and never obstruct anyone else’s dream – even if you think you know what’s best. You will have your turn so keep your head down and get out to where your wave is waiting.

“you’ll find there is no good or bad, it’s just how you perceive the experience”

Don’t resent the paddle. It will warm you up, it will test your courage, it will make the waves you ride even sweeter. When you’re working towards a dream embrace the obstacles – they’re as much part of the dream as the elation when you achieve it. Otherwise what kind of dreams do you have, if they are so easy to achieve? Become one with your goal and you’ll find there is no good or bad, it’s just how you perceive the experience.

It takes practice not to dislike waves that push us backwards and toss us like the insignificant beings we are. But waves are just waves: energy in motion, even the experiential ones that impede or delight us in life. No wave lasts forever. When you’re in an underwater tempest being thrashed so hard that you don’t know which way is up – relax. Conserve your energy.

The most successful people have invariably taken the most beatings. It’s just an experience, it is not you. Smile with courage and defiance and you’ll be filled with new vigour. Be strong, resilient and never give up.

Even if you get washed to the beach without catching a wave it’s ok. Just make sure you come back tomorrow and try again.


The Paddle is the third chapter from Surfing Life Waves, a surf book about life, by Bradley Hook. Feature image by Rhydian Thomas.