An unbiased take on surfers’ relationship to productivity, shows once again just how appearances often are deceiving

Nowadays, surfing is frequently mentioned in quite surprising contexts. However, it’s always refreshing to find a distinctive take to depict the act of riding waves under an original, previously unseen, prism, even if glimpses of the idea had already crossed the salty space between the ears of hardcore surfers.

Renée Fishman is an award-winning New York real estate agent, a digital-age marketeer and communications consultant, a blogger and motivational coach.

Her personal website, My Meadow Report, assembles a variety of short essays and dispersive thoughts around her on-going journey of continuous improvement and increasing productivity, alongside personal well-being. Written from a subjective point-of-view, if at first the reports seem to slip into that too-well-known self-help manual style, a closer reading reveals a curious and creative approach.

Fishman, who admittedly got into surfing later in her life, maybe on the wake of attention the sport got around the Big Apple after that 2011 historic one-off World Tour event in NYC, refutes the lazy surfer myth by segmenting the concept of productivity into three basic elements: Efficacy (the ability to achieve the desired or planned outcome); Efficiency (achieving goals with minimal resources spent); Energy (the vitality and focus employed in pursuing goals).

From here on, the author traces a parallel with the general behaviour of surfers, spotting patterns that can lead unskilled observers to view those who live for the waves as a bunch of hedonistic, uncaring and disinterested individuals, while, in fact, they’re integrating each one of the aforementioned productivity elements.

As we know, surfing is quite a demanding physical activity that requires gigantic persistence, detailed meteorology knowledge and a schedule flexibility often incompatible with most professional and personal agendas. Understanding these features, the author proceeded to decode the surfer behaviour from a productivity perspective towards their goals, namely: how catch the best waves and surf them in the best possible way with maximum efficacy and efficiency.

Driven by her astute observation, Fishman grasped that time spent on the beach without surfing, rather than a moment of reckless indolence, is actually a means that surfers use to preserve energy for when conditions are ideal.

Likewise, all those hours spent on the sand, rocks or car parks, in which surfers are apparently either socializing or simply procrastinating, contribute to a sort of ocean acquaintance that translates into an objective understanding of the waves behaviour, including the influence of tides, currents, wind patterns and swell direction. All this knowledge will eventually result in a greater ability to identify and catch quality waves, minimizing the error factor, increasing the fun ratio and making the most of the available time — the degree of efficiency — of each session.

Finally, there’s the physical conditioning factor, the mastery of basic techniques of balance and performance in an unstable environment, and the long, strenuous process of trial and error, before achieving an acceptable degree of dexterity that distinguishes the dabbler apprentice from the actual surfer.

This requires years, decades of training and dedication to often unruly rules, dictated by nature. It’s not the same as going to the gym to perform a routine, or entering the court for a couple of sets, or hitting the road for a ride on a bike. Although virtually every sport can claim its own ideal settings, in surfing the mere reality of a marginal setting is determined by a series of imponderables that drive the daily routine of all surfers, shaping a basic requirement into an obsession.

At the article’s conclusion, the author can barely camouflage her romanticizing fascination with surfers, making references to an alleged spiritual connection to nature that might resonate with some but it’s far away from being consensual.

Nonetheless, it helps enlightening a myth that has long stigmatized surfing. And that alone makes it worthy of a bow.