It rained yesterday afternoon, so instead of surfing I decided to hop on the spin bike and expand the mind. In my queue was this keynote from Richard Sapolsky, a Professor of Human Biology at Stanford. A friend and mentor, Dave, sent me the link after a lunch we had a few weeks back. Dave started his career in academics, became a high school principal, pivoted to start a software tutoring company in Silicon Valley, sold it, moved to Costa Rica and now builds hand planes for body surfing.
He’s a man in constant evolution, which is why we get on so good.
At that lunch we were discussing how, as we get older, he’s in his 50’s and I’m 37, our peer groups are less likely to try new things.
As paddle surfers this is a constant theme regarding the growth and acceptance. And the ideas from Sapolsky are 100% relevant.
I recommend you listen to the talk and I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Here are a few of mine…
(paraphrased from the talk) If you don’t have a tongue piercing by the age of 23 there is a 95% chance you won’t get one. If you don’t like a certain genre of music by 37 there’s a 95% chance you never will. And if you don’t fancy sushi by 45ish there is a 95% chance you won’t.
So, as we age, our likelihood of embracing new things drastically declines. Sapolsky attributes this behavior to our desire for repetition and comfort as we age and begin to comprehend the uncertainty of life.
The younger someone is exposed to paddle surfing the greater the percent chance they will embrace it. (that’s got me thinking about doing a “kids who can surf come free to our retreat with a paying parent promotion” to expose young surfers to the sport… thoughts?)
In our middle years, say 30-50, to a surfer, paddle surfing represents change. It is a different way to surf, to be seen in the lineup and to be defined by his or her peers. Paddle surfing is not a part of the surfing tribe.
Sapolsky makes it clear that we are less likely to change as we get older, so why do older surfers convert? Their perception of paddle surfing changes. When faced with injury, low wave counts, and possibly giving up surfing, choosing to paddle surf means continuing to be a surfer, not having to give up the routine – paddle surfing offers more routine and comfort than the alternative.
So young folks are open minded and just need to be exposed to the sport. And older folks will find their way at some point when paddle surfing represents surfing. What about those the middle?
We need to kill the divide.
Targeting those folks in the middle is all about changing the perception of the sport. Which was the goal for the Progression Project film. We need to reframe paddle surfing as part of surfing. Like it is for Mo, Caio, Kai, Zane, Gio, Keahi and Colin, Kalama and Dave Boehne.
Right now, to a surfer, paddle surfing is a different sport and a different tribe, and the perceived change is too large for most surfers to give it a fair shot.
Another line of thought – Would be interesting to think about this in context of the strange bond of most paddle surfers. Those of us who switched from surfing or tried something new at ages when most folks don’t. To go along with other personality traits of paddle surfers. We’re probably a group that bounces and explores new things, and not as anchored as the majority. Does that relate to you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts below! E