Surfing into the Future

There is almost no industry this technology revolution doesn’t touch – its impact is everywhere. How could anyone ever keep up with such broad and rapid change? Answer: no one can. But what we can do is understand the pattern of the changes, be in tune with enough of the shift that when something new arrives, we can get across it quickly. The best hack to do this is to leverage what you love.

Rather than trying to study all the emerging technologies on their own merits, assess them in the context of something you are totally into. While technology is reshaping industry, it has a similar effect on what we do in our free time as well. It could be your favourite sport, hobby or passion. For me, that happens to be surfing. I’m always using the lens of a surfer to experiment with and understand emerging tools, behaviours and business models – which I then relate back to my work as a futurist.

Some of the ways I’ve used surfing to gather tech knowledge include:

  • Building Sneaky Surf, an iPhone app. This tool tracked surf sessions, created social groups and integrated surf reports from weather APIs.
  • I learned to fly drones and understand their capability while making videos of my buddies surfing. This led to me working with the federal government to design new drone regulations for the AIS.
  • I used 3D printers to print experimental fins for my surfboards. Now I’m working on printing a stronger surfboard capable of withstanding the pressures of Melbourne’s new concrete wave pool. (Yes, that’s me in the picture above – YEW!)
  • I’m now working with UrbnSurf wave pool to run events demonstrating what businesses can learn about innovation through surfing. (Without artificial intelligence, the current wave pool boom would remain merely the stuff of childhood fantasies.)

In addition to my own little projects, I take a keen interest in the surf industry and how it is struggling to evolve its business model from a retail and brand perspective. Consider UrbnSurf or SurfLakes. Wave pool innovations really should have sprung from the surf industry giants like Quiksilver, Billabong and Rip Curl. I study the media implications of the World Championship Surf tour whose profile has evolved from a few highlights on weekend sports TV shows to being its own bonafide media empire. Innovations in surfing also include the impact of materials science on wetsuit design and how we can use tools like Google Earth to discover world class waves no one has ever ridden. Of course, the list is much longer, but you get the idea. All these tech knowledge hacks didn’t feel a bit like work and kept me at the beachhead of what’s next.

You too can transfer this principle into your passion and know more than just about anyone in your industry on emerging tech. Maybe even get a few tax deductions along the way!

While this post is mostly about hacking your own mind to learn and help your career, it’s about unlocking the power of our passions. While some people say it’s dangerous to mix up work and pleasure, I say we should never under estimate how much we cross-fertilise what you do for fun and turn it into funds.

– – –

Keep Thinking,