September at Jersey Shore is special: small crowds, warm ocean, and parking. This year, unusually balmy air and water temperatures were offset with a rough surf and fierce riptides. All beaches posted dangerous swimming conditions.
Within minutes of my arrival at the beach a few weeks ago, beach bliss was broken when a guy grabbed a boogey board and raced into the water. Two people were drowning. Luckily, the surfer reached them just in time. A couple of days later, I watched another swimmer get pulled farther and farther from shore. One person called for help, the rest of us waved our arms and a surfer walking the boardwalk kicked off his shoes and jumped into the water. This ended well too.
Who are these surfers that race to save strangers in perilous conditions that they won’t even surf in?
They stand out, to me, because they are a community with shared vision, purpose and strong values.
Surfers Respect the Ocean. Regardless of skill level, they seem to understand when to leave the water alone and not try to conquer the next big wave. They know when to stay on shore.
Surfers are Patient. They wait and watch for the “right” wave. Many may pass. Other people might engage, but surfers wait for the one that they believe is right for them.
Surfers Don’t Give up When They Fail. If they wipe out, they paddle back out and wait and watch again. Over and over, until the light in the sky fades or its time to go to work.
Surfers Respect Each Other. They greet each other in the water. They keep a respectful and safe distance. They don’t criticize when people wipe out. They offer encouragement to newcomers.
Surfers Have a Code of Honor. If someone is in trouble, anyone, you try and save them. Period.
Vision, values, purpose are core ingredients in creating a shared culture where people know what they are striving for, what is expected of them and what they can expect from each other. Surfer values are a perfect mix for a healthy and productive community where people can lead themselves.