A deep questioning disposition, learnings from extreme surfing

1 minute read

They came together and they said: ‘Somehow we are going to learn as much as we can from each other’. They formed this amazing ability to critique each other on the fly, almost all the time. And compete like mad with each other the rest of the time. Extreme passion. Push themselves to the edge.
— John Seely Brown (2010) The Business School of Extreme Aerial Surfing

Incredible story of how in the field of extreme surfing Dusty Payne and his friends, a group of kids from Maui were able to become competitive internationally, not just one — all of them.

Brown in his explanation highlights a few elements that led them there:

  • Learn From Each Other — They worked together, building their skills together, growing together.
  • Open Critique — They recorded themselves, and then reviewed what they did, commented, discussed. This kind of open and respectful critique is fundamental. Means going beyond individual fears and egos to give and receive, with the goal of improving.
  • Push to the Edge — It wasn’t just a matter of learning a skill. The objective was to get to the edge. It’s hard to say here if this was build up over time, or was the objective from the beginning, but nonetheless, that was the goal.
  • Practice Individually, Critique Together — Each one of them had moment of practice alone, and then they come together for the critique. In this way helps avoiding group thinking. “Almost like a design studio”.
  • Bring In Adjacencies — They studied skateboard. Motocross. Mountain biking. They got inspiration and appropriated techniques for surfing.
  • Understand Spikes — Constantly flying around the world where talent is, competing with those surfers. See new moves. Learn them. Build relationships. And build a global culture of sharing.

In Brown’s summary, he says that the key is the attitude:

A passionate pursuit of extreme performance with a deep questing disposition.

A deep questing disposition: anywhere they go, they look for new ideas.

Oh, if you want to see Dusty in action, check this video.

Thanks to Jennifer Fabrizi for the link.