Lessons from Mavericks

Last Sunday I fulfilled a childhood dream and witnessed a big wave surf competition in person. The amazing part was it was held only 25 miles from the grounds of Stanford University.

The 2012-2013 Mavericks Invitational was held on Jan. 20 and brought two dozen big-wave surfers from around the world and an estimated 12,000 spectators to the tiny village of Princeton-by-the-Sea, Calif., and nearby Half Moon Bay.

The official competition is only held when conditions warrant (meaning: waves are big enough), and was last held in 2010. The now legendary offshore surfing spot was discovered more than 50 years ago and is known for its massive winter swells and dangerous, sometimes deadly, surf conditions.

When I heard that the Mavericks Invitational would be held this season, during my fellowship year at Stanford, I quickly decided there was no missing the spectacle. Leaving well before dawn, I was able to secure a perfect spot to see the action and take in beautiful coastal California.

While watching and photographing the elite surfers, it was hard not to imagine all the courage, experience, and dedication it takes to challenge the ocean at this level. I watched intensely as their runs were either moments of fluid grace or cringe-worthy wipeouts.

New Media Mavericks

Many people have said that surfing is a metaphor for life in general. Surfing takes patience, acceptance for the unknown, and relishing being in the moment. Sometimes the wave breaks, sometimes not, but never the same way twice.

After spending a few months now at Stanford taking classes, meeting entrepreneurs, and digging into media issues — I actually saw some symmetry in surfing and media innovation, as strange as that might sound. So, I made a list.

Six steps for surfing and/or new media success

  1. Prepare as best you can
  2. Position yourself accordingly
  3. Take the risk
  4. Adapt to changing conditions
  5. Hold your breath
  6. And … enjoy the ride