The day was beautiful, the water clean and clear. A slight offshore breeze was stroking the waves to perfection. The little three-foot peelers looked inviting, and my young fella, Tim and I couldn’t wait to get out there. The months of no surf would be washed away with an epic session

We reviewed the surf and mapped the way out. Long lulls existed between constant sets of waves that marched through. We would need to time our run out and use a rip that had created a fast-flowing rip to get out the back. Due to my months of non-surfing activity, I wasn’t in the best shape and using the rip to get out, would suit me well. Even with that, I felt no fear that day as we headed down the beach.

As I have gotten older, I have become more selective on when I surf. Jokingly, I state that I only surf now in “non-life-threatening” surf and that day appeared to fit the bill.

We hit the water and started paddling through the gutter and channel. Unknown to us from the beach, a sweep started pushing us to the north. We were relatively safe while paddling on the flat, but when the waves would hit we would be pushed nouth. It was tougher than I expected and I was getting laboured and my arms were getting heavy. Progress was being made but I was sure feeling it.

We were close to making it out the back when a freak wave came out of nowhere. Tim was paddling ahead of me, saw it, put his head down and paddled for all his worth. As the wave started to break, he was in position to duck under the impending lip to the safety of beyond the break.

I wasn’t so lucky. Despite having arms that felt like a deadweight, and chest and back muscles that were screaming, I was just behind Tim. While Tim scrambled through, I didn’t. I got hammered by the lip as it came crashing down on me. And when I got hammered I lost control of where I was in the water. The sweep and the whitewater combined as I was pushed onto the sandbank where the waves were breaking.

The wave that nailed me was only 4 feet; sometimes size means nothing. I get amazed at how much power small waves can have, and because of that I was stuck in the impact zone, hoping for some luck.

A simple day surfing had changed. Stuck on the sandbank in the impact zone of some perfect little peelers with the elements against me. The channel out was south of me, against the sweep and the only other way out was to duck under or smash though the whitewater to get out the back. I needed to hold position, take the hammerings and then scramble when the breaks came in the sets.

Easier said than done. I was exhausted. I ducked under about five waves and there was a small lull. I was too tired to take advantage of it and got hit by the next set when it came through, back to the sandbank. I was fatiguing badly as set number three rolled through.

I told myself to persevere but I was getting frustrated that a “non-life threatening” day, felt exactly that.

Simply, I was in the wrong spot. I could not summon the strength to get to where I wanted to be. Which was so frustrating. I was only twenty metres from the surfers sitting on their boards beyond the break. I could see Tim catching waves just in front of me. That twenty metres may as well been 200 metres. I was in the wrong spot.

I ducked under 15 waves straight that day. I was going nowhere. With my tail between my legs, I took the chance to ride some whitewater back in and review. It was frustrating and the only thing I felt I could do was to start again. I couldn’t make it to the channel due to the sweep and I could make it out because my fitness failed me and I couldn’t take advantage of the short lulls in the sets. I was in the wrong spot.

I made it back on the beach and just sat for a while. I looked out and again saw this nice, small glassy day and wondered what had happened. Looking at the sandbank I could see how I became trapped. Embarrassed and annoyed with myself, I contemplated not going back out. But that thought evaporated as I saw Tim catch another wave and my desire to surf returned. I took a fresh look at the seas, took some deep breaths, stretched my aching muscles and plotted a better way out.

This time I walked a little further south before hitting the water, allowing me to use the sweep north in addition to the rip-current pulling me out. This time I made it out fairly easily.

When I made it out, I paddled over to Tim. “What took you” was the first words he said.


More than Surfing


Sometimes we get hammered. Sometimes we get caught in the wrong spot. Sometimes we get hammered, while in sight of something much better. Sometimes we get pulled in different ways and the best way isn’t in the way that we are being pushed and pulled. Sometimes we aren’t prepared to tackle the situation.

I was on a sandbank in shallow water, getting hammered by waves crashing on the bank. I could see the best spot which was just in reach, but I couldn’t reach it. I wasn’t prepared for the ways to make the best spot, from where I was. I was in the wrong spot and was ill-prepared to take it from there. I needed to re-energise.

My mind was doing its best to direct me to the best spot as well as trying to keep me safe.

  • What the hell are you doing? Lift your game, it’s just a couple of paddles mate.
  • How did I allow that to happen?
  • Why have I allowed myself to get so out of shape?
  • I can do this. Just one more wave
  • This is embarrassing. Hurry up and get out there.
  • You’re embarrassing yourself, no-one else had this trouble
  • Listen to your body mate, time to give this game up.
  • Who are you trying to impress? (I love that old chestnut)

My thoughts were pulling me in two directions. One was to persevere, the other to quit. One was to make it to the best spot, the other to keep me safe.  I was in the wrong spot.

Doesn’t this happen with our lives? Life has a tendency to put us in the wrong spot. It may be you’re in the wrong job? You may be in the wrong relationship? Chasing the wrong goal? Chasing someone else’s dream? In the wrong group?

Because of where we find ourselves, we tend to give up. Alternatively, we keep banging our head against a door that isn’t going to open. We can see the prize but our current place won’t allow us to make it there. We fall in love with our original plan when we should fall in love with the goal. Our best place. We just need to find a new way to get there.

Often we quit, when we just need to pause. Take a step back.

Review, Refresh, Remap, Renew.

  • Control your thoughts.
  • Stay on top of your game. Be prepared
  • Take time to review and refresh yourself and your location.
  • Remap your way, and attack the new way with renewed energy.

You may be in the wrong spot right now, but you’re still perfectly placed to take the steps to review and refresh. Keep your eye on the best spot, just map your way there differently.

“What took you”

© Tony Curl

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Tony Curl has been a successful corporate leader for 30 years. He now works alongside leaders in Australia to maintain clarity on their vision and purpose, and helps map their way around their roadblocks and obstacles. Unless you take action on your goals, they remain a dream.

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