Real Estate Investing is Just like Surfing

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I feel obligated to write an article with reference to surfing since I have finally decided to take that leap and learn the sport. I mean, I do live in Venice Beach, so it would be a waste to not know how to, right? Check out my new board! In the picture.

It’s almost sad how often I relate random situations to real estate investing. I can tell you exactly how working out and getting fit is just like investing. I think about it every time I’m at the gym. So now with my new sport, I’ve already figured it out. Not sure how many of you out there surf, maybe a lot of you will have no idea what I’m referring to, but if you’ve at least seen surfing on television, you’ll get it.

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Components of Being a Good Surfer Real Estate Investor

  1. Learn to interpret and observe conditions. I can’t say that I’ve exactly figured this part out about surfing, but you have to be able to read the tides, the swells, and the winds. If you can’t understand and interpret those components, there is a good chance you’re going to have a horrible surfing day because you’re likely to get beat around and have a bad ride if the conditions aren’t right. Before you ever set foot in the water you have to know those variables and know how to put them together to understand the whole picture of the conditions. Then, once you are in the water and have paddled out, you have to be patient enough (if you want a good wave at least) to sit on your board and watch the waves so you can pick out the one worth riding. Good surfers don’t just run out to the beach with their boards and jump in. They study and observe.

On the flip side, if you sit on your board all day in the water and don’t go after any waves, you’re not going to get anywhere and you’re going to end up with a sunburnt nose for no good reason.

  1. You have to get through the break before you can catch a wave. Unless you have someone willing to pull you out through the water, you’re going to have to do a lot of work to get far enough out to catch a good wave. You’re going to get beat in the face by oncoming waves, you’re likely to snort and chug more salt water than you’d ever wish upon your worst enemy, and if you’re like me, for every 10 steps you take forward, you get knocked 5 steps back each time a wave hits you.. That’s a lot of work to get out there. But there’s really no other way. Even if you do have someone pulling you out, you are still going to get beat up and have to at least put out a little effort. Plus who do you know that will pull you out every time you want to surf for the rest of your life? No one. You eventually have to be willing to do it on your own.
  1. Don’t stop paddling. As the wave starts heading your way, you have to start paddling. If you don’t, you aren’t going to have the momentum to move forward once the wave does hit you. You also can’t stop paddling when the wave catches you because you will again not move forward enough with the wave and you’ll get left behind in the water.  Then, if you’ve paddled properly leading up to the wave, it catches you and you keep paddling, there is a brief moment after you catch it where you are going to continue paddling in order to secure the catch and quickly gain your balance so you can stand up. That last one happens fast and you want to always be sure to stand up at the top of the wave, so your balance and timing is critical there.

Regardless, no matter what you do, don’t stop paddling from the time that wave is approaching until you are standing up!

  1. Keep your balance. You’re standing up, on a moving board, on a moving wave. The board has a mind of its own, the wave has a mind of its own, and your mind’s intuition is telling your body to be in a totally wrong position to handle all these moving parts. It’s no wonder everyone says surfing is hard. At least with snowboarding or skiing it’s only you and the board(s) moving. The ground stays still. But water? It’s moving and it is most definitely not slowing down for you. The only hope you have of staying balanced on that board is your core. If your core balance is off, you’re hosed and you’re in the water without hesitation. Without that fundamental core, you’ll never ride in on your feet, if at all.
  1. Even when you are braking, you are still moving. Your back foot on the surfboard acts as your brake. If you want to slow down, use that foot. The thing is though, and this is obvious for even the non-surfers, even if you want or need to brake, you can’t come to a complete stop or your ride is over. You can only slow down, you can’t stop, because you have to keep with the movement of the water or you’re done.
  1. No matter how good you are, you are still going to face plant. And by “face plant”, I mean “face plant, get hit in the head by your board, and be stuck under the water not being able to breath until the passing wave lets you back up.” It happens even to the best surfers. The key to becoming a good, functional surfer? You have to just cough up the salt water you swallowed (and wipe your nose) and head back out. In my first surfing lesson, my instructor told me that 90% of all surfing injuries are from your own board hitting you in the head. The other 10% of injuries are from other people’s boards hitting you in the head. I’m not real sure where drowning or sharks fall into that breakdown, but his version works perfect as a real estate investor analogy so I’m going to stick with it.

The Interpretation

I actually don’t think I need to spell this one out. How does each step I wrote out above correlate to real estate investing? If you read through each one, I think you’ll see it. The principals are identical, and maybe ones you haven’t thought about in terms of the journey of becoming and functioning as a real estate investor. The keys things to know are:

  • You have to understand the conditions around you. You can’t go in blind and count on luck to get you through.
  • It takes a significant amount of work to even get in position to catch a wave an opportunity.
  • Whatever you do, don’t stop paddling barreling through.
  • Only core fundamentals will allow you to successfully stay on your feet.
  • You have to be flexible enough to go with the flow, because there really is no stopping.
  • You will still fail no matter how good you are. No way around it. But you can always get back up and go again.

Next feat for me? Understanding conditions. I know how to read all the numbers, but I don’t fully understand how to put them together to get a general idea of what kind of surf to expect. Oh wait, with real estate investing you mean? I’d say my biggest battle is fighting my way to the opportunities. I can always see them out there, but getting to them tends to be a lot harder than it looks!

Which part holds you up the most? Or have you figured out how to just keep riding along?

About Author

Ali Boone

Ali Boone(G+) left her corporate job as an Aeronautical Engineer to work full-time in Real Estate Investing. She began as an investor in 2011 and managed to buy 5 properties in her first 18 months using only creative financing methods. Her focus is on rental properties, specifically turnkey rental properties, and has also invested out of the country in Nicaragua.

19 Comments

  1. Glenn Schworm

    Good article Ali. My wife and I took kite boarding lessons in Aruba a couple years ago. Same concept. I like this part the best: “No matter how good you are, you are still going to face plant” So true! The lessons never end, we just get better at getting back up on that board each time. Have a great week.

    • Ali Boone

      Ooh I’ve thought about trying to kite board, Glenn. Did you like it? Not to sound like a total girl, but I’ve heard women have a much harder time because of how much arm strength is required. How did your wife do with it? There are quite a few kite boarders out here, I definitely want to try it out. (and more importantly, how do one stop? lol)

      Face planting happens, for sure 🙂

      • Hi Ali,
        This one is great – gotta keep paddling out no matter what! This one and the one @Brandon Turner wrote about REI being like mastering Mario Bros are my favorite analogies so far (and they make sense to me!).
        So, about kitesurfing… Not that I’m an expert by any stretch (in fact, my entire experience is just a single week I spent getting lessons), but I think you would do much better than you think and here’s why.
        Regarding arm strength, you’re actually harnessed in so you can literally let go and be fine. The harness connects you to the kite so you’re really just steering at that point. There are setups that don’t use a harness but those are an old style and are generally recommended against.
        As far as stopping, there are a bunch of ways. Besides using your board/body to create drag in the water, the physics are pretty interesting… When you bring the kite up to 12 o’clock in front of you (the zenith), it starts to lose power rapidly so you can slow down that way (conversely, power is generated by flying the kite “deep in the window” which would be around 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock or throwing it from one side to the other). Also, when you push the handle forward the kite depowers (I forget why that works). Lastly, there are setups that include a “5th line” that works exactly like a brake: pull on it and the kite tilts forward and slows down almost instantly.
        If you’ve ever flown a stunt kite, you’ll be way ahead of the program. If you haven’t, it’s really pretty easy.
        I’ve been wanting to get back down to Belmont Shore (basically Long Beach and one of the best places to kitesurf IN THE WORLD) and take some lessons. My rolldog dislocated and broke his shoulder snowboarding last season so I need a buddy. You wanna go?
        Same offer stands: my treat on the adventure sports if you’ll let me ask a ton of questions about turnkey investing!

  2. Great analogy, really enjoyed the article. My area is quite competitive, and it gets to me when the competition wins the battle. Just happened this last week. As you say we must “keep on paddling”. As hard work would have it, another solid lead came in a few days later.

    Thanks Ali I really enjoy your articles.

    • Ali Boone

      Thanks, Gary! I’ll admit the surfing analogy was a stretch, but the more I’ve thought about it even since writing it, the more correlations I really see!

      I have quite the gnarly battle wound on my forearm from trying to surf last night, and of course I immediately placed it to a real estate bruise!

  3. I am green to real estate investing, this analogy of surfing is spot on though. You have to know what you are getting into, you will get pound trying to get out to the break, you have to paddle to catch the wave, and keep adjusting to stay in the right spot. Ali great article.

    • Ali Boone

      Thanks, Nick. I thought last night while I was trying to fight waves to get out there that the actual surfing isn’t even the hard part. It’s just getting out there. Totally applicable to newbs in real estate, so congrats for busting through the waves and not giving up 🙂

      What area are you focusing on?

    • Ali Boone

      LOL. I agree, Robert. Ever tried to format bullets in WordPress? It’s horrible. I couldn’t do it on my version, and looks like Brandon couldn’t nail it out on here either. We’ll just say that each point is worthy of being number 1 🙂

  4. And all this leads back to…humility. Ive learned that in abundance, and can imagine you have too taking up surfing. Arrogance gets thrown at the windows, ideas you thought were right get tossed on their heads, and avenues you’ve never dream up can happen. Be humble, or stay in this game long enough it will humble you. That is the best part of the lessons I have learned from real estate investing.

  5. Lisa is spot on. The very second you become a little full of yourself…BOOM you are taken down in this game. 🙂 I have been doing this a while and I now get nervous and wonder what is going to happen when I realize things are going great and I couldn’t be happier with regards to investing.

    • Well hearing I rock is just about the best compliment I can get, Karen, thanks! 🙂

      Good thing my real estate investing is going a little better than this gnarly bruise I have now on my forearm from surfing. But going back at it tomorrow! Hopefully I live. Lol. That is debatable at this point.

  6. Bob Couture

    Great article Ali! I was just going to write about the same thing. I live in Hermosa Beach and just got back into surfing was drawing much of the same similarities of surfing and real estate investing. I am just two years late 😉

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