Surfing Toward Success

Harnessing the Natural Power of Momentum


With summer well underway, I’ve rediscovered newfound motivation for my more health-conscious 2018 New Year’s resolutions, which—like an ostensibly endless winter—seemed mired in dull dormancy with only occasional bursts of sunny momentum. Ironic, since I live about 20 minutes from the shore, and the beach is momentum’s classroom. Surfers master momentum in their pursuit of the ultimate wave.


Surfers only spend 8% of the entire surf session riding waves.

  • The Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand


Surfers direct more than 80 percent of their energy just getting to the wave—they paddle across flat, apparently harmless water, conserve energy during lulls, and then race ahead of incoming swells to land perfectly atop the wave’s shoulder. Keeping their center of gravity in the middle of the surfboard, these maritime masters balance delicately within the crest and trough of each wave, harnessing the ocean’s energy for momentum. Surfers succeed by using perseverance and persistence to overcome the many ebbs and flows of momentum. Non-surfers can learn to build momentum (on dry land, no less) by mastering the basics of the sport:

S. . . . . . . . . . STRATEGY

Surfers do a lot of planning and preparing before heading into the ocean. Creating a plan before diving into work will pay off in two big ways. First, planning allows you to specify and include specific details that will trigger a desired action, like going to Starbucks from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every weekday to work on a novel. Perhaps more importantly, though, planning helps create habits—a key factor in maintaining momentum. Find a coach to help guide your strategy so it’s SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely—to achieve the best results.

U. . . . . . . . . UNDERSTANDING

Living near the ocean, surfers understand the natural and necessary ebb and flow of energy. Momentum also mutates. According to Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D., a faculty member at the Spiritual Mind Body Institute at Columbia Teacher’s College, “With momentum, you want to anticipate there’s going to be fluctuation.” Don’t expect that spark of motivation or action that sets you on a specific course to be or feel the same throughout your journey. Recognize, embrace and appreciate forward momentum, while also anticipating potential future lulls, and you’ll save yourself wasted energy and anxiety in the long run.

R. . . . . . . . . RESOLUTION

Resolution here meaning perseverance, not new year’s.

“Consistently repeated daily actions plus time equals unconquerable results.”

– Jeff Olsen, author of “The Slight Edge” and founder of Live Happymagazine

Surfers know that slow and steady wins the race, both in seeking the perfect wave and in their surfing careers. We often derail ourselves with a desire for big results attained quickly, and when we fall short of our unreal expectations, the feeling of failure stops our momentum. Like a surfer, consistently seek and execute smaller, slower, steady steps toward your goals, allowing every accomplishment to propel you forward motivationally. It pays of palpably, psychologically, and spiritually. Find a coach who can help you 


F. . . . . . . . .FIVE, ONE, SMALLEST

Margaret H. Greeberg, co-author of the book “Profit From the Positive,” advises asking three important questions to prompt you to act during low energy periods. First, ask yourself, “What would I do if I only had five minutes?”This can help you figure out the next steps, even those that require more than five minutes to properly execute. Next, consider what you could do to move ahead just by 1 percent, to support perseverance and patience. Finally, ask, “What smallest step can I take that would have the most positive impact?” This can be an external impact or internal (emotional), to re-ignite waning desire, faith, trust, motivation, or inspiration.


Keep these tips handy as you jump into new projects, learn new skills, or (finally) start that diet or exercise regimen you’ve been avoiding. Before long, you’ll find yourself riding waves of momentum toward your goal.