You Can't Stop The Waves

One of my favourite analogies for the stock market is ‘You can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf.

This week whilst on holiday in Spain I put this analogy into action.  I went to surf school with my three kids.  I have never surfed before but my husband Al is an experienced surfer.  He started aged 17.  I am almost 40.  My kids are 5, 7 and 9.

Before I started, something told me I was on the back foot.

It’s somewhat ironic that my first experience surfing was in the frigid Atlantic ocean when we get to call the balmy Caribbean sea our home.  To surf in the Atlantic you need to wear a wetsuit.  If you have never worn a wetsuit before, lucky you.  Wrapping yourself in rubber that someone else has almost certainly peed in is not a pleasant experience.  And it’s not an attractive look for a woman.

However I was pleasantly surprised by how warm it kept me.  The cold water was not an issue.

What was an issue was the waves.

Off we go.

Off we go.

Al delightfully told me that the waves were tiny.  The first lesson I learnt is that wave size is a matter of perspective.

Lying on a board facing a strong wave breaking on you with no idea what you are supposed to do, is a terrifying experience.  Immediately I was knocked backwards off the wave and the board hit me hard in the nose.   

Eventually Al explained that the best way to ‘get out back’ is to dive under the waves.  Forget about your board (it’s tied to your foot) and duck under the wave.  “You are always safe under the wave” he happily tells me. 

Oh right, that makes sense, except YOU CAN’T BREATHE UNDER THE WAVE. 

If you don’t know about waves, they come in sets.  There are a number of waves in a set, and then flat water until the next set comes in.  So, I battled the set of waves, ducking under, coming up with just enough time to take a breath before the next wave hit me hard.  It felt like an eternity.

When it was over and I was ‘out back’ I lay on my board exhausted.  When I could speak I said to Al, “I can see why people drown”. 

“They only drown if they panic” he said.  “And they panic because they don’t understand that it will end.”

And there it was, the second lesson. 

Never panic.  Take a deep breath, duck and stay calm.  And always know that the waves will end. 

There I realised what a wonderful analogy it is.

The stock market is exactly like the ocean.  It can be terrifying, but it never lasts.  The waves are always followed by calm.  As long as you never panic you can make it through.  But everyone’s perspective of it is different.  A wave that is too small to surf for one person might feel like a mountain for another.

You invest in order to achieve your life goals – to be able to live a life on your own terms.  You spend time battling the waves for that moment when you get to stand on the board and feel the exhilaration of riding a wave.

I did get there.  I am sure it wasn’t a pretty sight, but I stood up on the board and rode a wave or two.  It was gratifying and I loved every second.

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