Five lessons from a client’s perspective after a one hour Skype session!

Mercedes surfing

This blog post was written by Farhana Huq, founder of Girl Brown Surf, after we had a one hour Skype session to bring perspective into her next steps in her life.  Hope you enjoy it!


Howdy ho friends!

Last I left you, I mentioned that I Skyped with Mercedes Maidana, Argentina’s first female big wave surfer and that I actually got a lot of great advice from her on surfing and life!

My absolute admiration for this big waver was sealed after I read she had picked up a surfboard on a whim at the age of 20 and then managed to surf every major big wave in the world before she turned 30.  So if anyone knows anything about crazy life reinventions, it would be Mercedes.

As I seem to be on a more metaphorical journey of reinvention at the moment, I thought I’d share with you, in the spirit of California new ageyness, five key insights that I gained from my talk with Mercedes.  Here goes!

1. Hard work, persistence and sheer will seem to be key ingredients in manifesting one’s dreams.

What can I say but after speaking to Mercedes, I never realized how truly glamorous the life of a big wave surfer girl was.  Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Though very educated in her country, Mercedes spent her 20’s hopping from one country to the next to support her passion for chasing waves.  She did stuff like waiting tables, cleaning houses, and eventually even started a house cleaning business. (That’s the C.E.O. Women spirit!)

The glamour life of a big waver….this says it all.

She eventually gave herself 2 years to try to get sponsored while living off her savings.  At the end of the 2 years, she was all out of savings but had landed a sponsor (Patagonia) who supports her with travel and gear to chase big waves.  But even at that, she still needed to pay the bills, so she was back at square one figuring out how to fully make her living.   This time she chose to start another business and put to use all the things that she learned from manifesting her dreams.  She created a concise program that she shares with people through breakthrough sessions and through her blogs. Her business is called Beyond The Next Step.  Check it out!

The glamour life of a big waver….this says it all.

Of course I’m thinking to myself, what? In a multi-billion dollar industry, where there are like 5 female big wave surfers who risk their lives to do this sport, they still have to figure out how to make a living?   But that’s another blog.  Though I never expected to make a living off of sponsorships (I have a few so far, none of them financial), in the spirit of surfer chick solidarity, Mercedes encouraged me to figure out ways to start generating income so I can support a lifestyle that would allow me to stay connected to the ocean, travel, surf, and empower and inspire others.

Realizing selling thousands of Brown Girl Surf TM T-shirts is not going to happen overnight, I figured it’s time to put some energy into manifesting some income for myself.   I remember when I started up C.E.O. Women, I patched income for years before ever taking a salary but I persisted and worked my ass off, even when I was tripping all over myself.  I’m glad Mercedes reminded me that anything is possible, and helped steer me on a path that could lead to greater support for the things I really want to do.

2. Focus on the essence of what you want to do, not the outcome.

I have to admit that three months ago, when I announced to the world I wanted to one day surf competitively, not only did people look at me cross eyed and confused, something changed for ME.

Even the pumpkins got cross eyed upon such a declaration


My surf sessions weren’t nearly as fun and relaxed as they used to be, and something didn’t FEEL right.  The thought of constantly updating my progress to an outside audience and setting competition as a goal somehow was taking something away from the experience I always had in the water.  And I wondered ‘should my personal journey even be part of Brown Girl Surf TM at all?’ It was only when Mercedes candidly stated that when she was consciously trying to compete and “win” things like the XXL awards which made her feel miserable and unhappy for 2 years did my own feelings start to get validated. She sometimes pushed herself into big surf she didn’t feel ready for.  She had to contend with other ugly sides of ego, competition and all the negative stuff “industry” brought along with it.

We talked about looking at my journey in a different way – really focusing on the essence of what I love about surfing, which is my connection to the ocean, and the joy I feel at seeing myself improve and connecting with other fellow surfers.  That just FELT right.  I have since just started to focus on trying to improve and be the best surfer I can be, and well, maybe one day to “surf like a pro”.  I spoke with some of my sponsors about it, and they could honestly care less if I compete or don’t compete which is pretty cool.  I realized they are essentially supporting me and my story at the end of the day and that there are opportunities to be sponsored aside from having supreme competitive athletic ability.  I realized I am doing so many things from empowering women and girls, to bringing attention to key environmental issues, to trying to do something really really hard (surfing) much later in life, to simply telling stories. That is the essence of what I’m doing.

3.  Reinventions take time.

When I closed C.E.O. Women, my friends and mentors, people who had turned over companies, underwent a leadership succession, or spent 10 years at least at a venture would all give me the same advice: ‘Go easy on yourself Farhana and give yourself at least a year’.  Some encouraged me to take off and travel again. Some encouraged me to sleep.   What I realized is that most of my close friends and supporters had recognized how hard I had worked the past decade but also, had so much faith in what I would do next. I realized in speaking with Mercedes that well, I am still very much in discovery at this stage.  The one thing I’m sure about is that I’m passionate about creating a platform for new female surfing communities from China to The Gaza Strip so the Brown Girl Surf journey FEELS right.

Brown Girl Surf TM will continue its focus of telling the stories of the world’s first female surfers because well, it’s cool! (Photos: Alessandro Gandolfi;

Mercedes and I brainstormed some ways to broaden the focus of the project and perhaps monetize the project.  In the end, I went with my gut and decided to keep the focus just on these surfers for now, because I do believe there are incredible stories to be told and their efforts deserve a unique platform.  Perhaps a Kickstarter campaign could work for this, or a grant, or even a sponsor to help me bring the stories of these female trailblazers to light.  I felt something about Brown Girl Surf TM needed to stay niche, and I’m glad I am choosing to maintain this focus.  Sometimes projects are just what they are – cool projects that are deserving of philanthropy or grants.  It has taken time to realize this and I’m still learning things about myself everyday on this path of reinvention.  It’s not to say the advice on monetization did not lead to something.  Quite the contrary, but I’ll get to that in a bit!

4.  You must believe.

I can honestly say that unless you believe in something fully, it probably won’t happen.  For example, though I’ve abandoned competitive surfing as an end, I actually BELIEVE I will hone my skills and surf one day like a pro, and love the freedom and flow that experience will bring me.  As crazy and out of whack as that sounds, all throughout this injury, I’ve visualized myself on a shortboard surfing with all the finesse of an accomplished surfer. This was the natural image that always popped into my head when I went to sleep at night realizing I have a torn tendon and can’t surf.  I figured, if I can’t surf in real life, I should surf in my head and start to make sure my tendon heals in a way to support that kind of sport.   I don’t have the slightest clue as to when or how that will manifest itself. But that’s OK.

Isn’t there some quote from Yoda about “you must believe?” Well, I can’t think of it at the moment but it looks like that’s what he’s saying.


I’m sure all along Mercedes’ journey, that she really truly believed and behaved like she was a professional big wave surfer, even when she wasn’t, and may have had many crossed eyed onlookers herself.  As delusional as her aspiration might have seemed to some, she made it happen.   It reminded me that when I wanted to start C.E.O. Women, how many people (including my parents) told me I shouldn’t do it, that I should just get a job and play it safe.  Many also told me to change the name of it.  But I didn’t listen and did it anyways, and it did bring a lot of good to a lot of people for 11 years.  So, I gotta go partly off of experience too, but now I get to start from a platform with way more knowledge about myself, connections and resources. I have no doubt Mercedes truly believed in her dream and I feel like if she can manifest it, so can I.

5.  Be in alignment with what you know to be true about yourself.

When I heard the realities of Mercedes’ story, and that her happiness was compromised to some degree during her “go pro” journey, it made me really think about what makes me happy, and what a great day would look like in the future. When I thought about this, it didn’t involve me heading to an office and sitting in front of a computer, discussing HR, the latest marketing plan or being a 24-7 workaholic.  It was more about working one on one with people, inspiring people, empowering others, creating platforms for girls around the world to share their voices and of course maintaining my close connection to the ocean through surfing.

The monetization ideas we discussed, though not applied to Brown Girl Surf TM,  gave me inspiration to take other things like my “Where the world is Farhana?” writings, my surf journey blogs and my decade plus of skills to some other platform that can be monetized down the road.  In short, I saw the essence of everything I wanted to really be doing in life in front of me, but a real need to repackage and look at everything in such a way that I can sustain myself going forward….the typical path of the entrepreneur.

So in a nutshell, the call was great and totally helped me get clarity on the essence of this more “intuitive” journey that I seem to be on. But fear not, I will get back to my quirky storytelling as soon as I have a good excuse to craft one (aka. I’m off to a far land on another adventure). But as always, I love hearing from you, and would welcome any feedback on this particular installment as it is so different than previous news.  So, please ping me!  In the meantime, I’ll be focusing on physical therapy and walking, getting back into the water, and working on a plan to get my bills paid!

On that more practical note, thanks for reading!

Signing off from Oakland, CA


PS: Please be sure to like Brown Girl Surf TM on Facebook and follow me as I journey to find the world’s first surf trailblazers!

Meet Farhana

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