Surfing is the new career

Three months ago I wrote about farming and hunting. It seems, though, that the growth industry of our generation is surfing.

Talk to surfers and they'll explain that the entire sport comes down to the hunt for that blissful moment that combines three unstable elements in combination: the wave is just a little too big to handle, the board is going just a little too fast, and the ride could end at any moment.

This makes for a great sport (for some people, anyway) but until recently, it wasn't much of a career path. (aside: Aimless web surfing is a waste of time, and that's not the sort of surfing I'm referring to). That feeling of freedom and risk in equal measure was difficult to find at work, so we sought it out on the slopes or the ocean.

Once we figured out how to get thrills from waves, we could switch to snow, or to stand up paddling, or kiteboarding. Different terrain, same cycle.

More people, though, are finding a way to surf and get paid for it. Freelance projects, joint ventures, entrepreneurial startups are all paying off for people who are hooked on this feeling of plan, launch, cowabunga, repeat. Each time you do it, you get to take on a bigger project, a bigger wave. The cost of wiping out is low (if you plan for it) and so you can do it again and again. You don't even have to be solo… now there are teams and corporations that seek out people who want to surf their way through fundraising or product development or customer delight.

We see successful musicians and writers do this all the time. Now, though, it's not unusual to watch someone surf in their development of shareware, or in the videos they post online or risks they take in their personal blog.

So many of the conversations I have every day could easily be replaced with, "so, where's the next wave? Tell me about your last one…"