“Wipe Outs” are Just Fresh Starts! … for Entrepreneurs and Big Wave Surfers

By Louis Patler

The term “wipe out” comes from the world of surfing. In my new book, Make Your Own Waves: The Surfer’s Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs (http://www.louispatler.com/books/ ) I have a chapter that was originally going to be called “Expect to Wipe Out Daily.” I had done many interviews with entrepreneurs and that title seemed reasonable for both surfing and business as it spoke to rallying after setbacks, something every entrepreneur and startup must reckon with. But over time, and after many conversations with Big Wave surfers, more and more of them offered another point of view that I had not considered.

            Big Wave surfing icon Jeff Clark and I talked directly about wipe outs and his comments echoed that of other Big Wave surfers and changed my purview.

I asked him what he thought of some of my proposed chapter titles. The conversation was moving along until I got to Chapter 6 “expect to wipe out daily.” Suddenly his face contorted a bit; there was a pause and then a wry smile.

“I don’t expect to wipe out…ever! But do I push the edge to a point where that COULD happen? I hope so. Always,” he said. “A wipe out will give you a better understanding of what you need to do differently to be successful. Being in condition and prepared well enough is essential for your survival. But a lot of times the wipe outs are a mental thing, not so much a physical thing. They can become physical…I’ve come up purple before. And my friends are like ‘how long have you been down’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know… long enough to get purple.’

“It’s knowing that you have that mindset that will let you hold out for a wipe out,” he adds. “People ask me ‘how long can you hold your breath?’ and it’s always been ‘as long as I have to.’ That’s how long I can hold my breath. And knock on wood it hasn’t failed me ever."

            In business as in surfing, no one gets the perfect ride on the perfect wave on the perfect day. So, it is important to be resilient and to learn from each wave. Big Wave surfers physically prepare to wipe out but they don’t expect to wipe out on any given wave. More importantly they are mentally prepared to learn from their wipe outs, make adjustments, and then paddle back out to face the next wave. It’s all about attitude: one person’s wipe out is another’s opportunity for a fresh start.