Mavericks by jurvetson on Flickr

Surfing really isn't that hard. Truly. Beginner boards are stable and easy to paddle. Wetsuits make even the coldest summer waters comfortable. However, learning to catch a wave, now that's tricky. Moving water is shaped and directed as it interacts with features we cannot directly see. The shapes of waves at surf breaks are created through a complex interaction of tides, winds, swell period and direction, shifting sand, and reefs. It requires endless hours of water time to be able to read waves; when the surf gets big it becomes a necessity to stay safe.

Rivers are similar; they have their own language that takes time and experience to read, though moving water is still moving water. After many years of surfing, my knowledge of ocean waves translated directly into the rapids, currents, and eddies of river white water.

Like water, as humans our personality and behavior patterns are created by features we cannot directly see; a complex interaction of culture, personal history, belief, and social context. Though I believe that by getting to know these features in myself and how they shape my presence in the world, I can map that understanding onto others.

I've been told I'm extremely perceptive, though I'm not so sure; it's all there to be read. I need only sense the underlying structures just as I can discern what the bottom of a surf break or rapid looks like by the shapes of the water. Like water, the hidden structures give shape and motion; with people it might be the tone of someone's voice, the words they choose, or just as often what is not said and how they sit. And with the right communication tools, and the right approach, working with teams and individuals becomes not unlike surfing, or whitewater; riding the emergent results of what is hidden though ultimately true. For me it all shares the same essence: a dance, a dance to invisible music. Can you hear it?


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