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Surfing legend Shaun Tomson shares candid life lessons with Rian

Shaun Tomson made his mark on the local and international surf scenes at a time when the sport was still considered to be only for 'rebels'. Today, he shares the lessons he learned from the sport and from the tragic loss of his son.

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SURFER Magazine

Men who grew up in the 70s and 80s will be familiar with the name Shaun Tomson. Shaun is a surfing legend, having competed in several international competitions including the IPS World Pro Championship in 1977, which he won. 

Shaun is often hailed as one of the greatest surfers of all time and is credited with creating new techniques for surfing inside the 'tube', the most challenging part of the wave. Shaun wrote and produced the award-winning documentary Bustin' Down the Door and founded and managed the popular surf clothing brand Instinct.

Shaun has gone on to write a book called Surfer's Code: 12 Simple Lessons for Riding Through Life. In it, Shaun expands on lessons learned throughout his surfing career and teaches readers how to apply them to their own lives. Chiefly, the book teaches about 'the power of I Will': each chapter is a statement beginning with 'I Will' that leads the reader to a core value for success.

Shaun spoke briefly about the experiences that prompted him to write the book.

Shaun and his wife Carla tragically lost their son Mathew in an incident created by peer pressure and bad decisions. Shortly before Mathew passed after playing 'the choking game', he had spoken to his father and shared this essay with him:

'Becoming a Man' by Mathew Tomson

Deep inside the barrel, completely in tune with my inner self, nothing else matters. The hard wind and spit shooting past me from behind, my hand dragging along the wall, the light shines ahead.
My long hair carried by the wind. My feet are in perfect placement on the board. As I lean forward I feel myself speeding up, getting faster and faster as the barrel starts to close. I crouch down until my legs burn and I then pull out to the whole line up cheering.
My body tingles with joy and happiness. I finally felt respected. I got back on my board and paddled to the outside.
I turned my head to the right to find Keone and his crew paddling towards me. My joyful feeling disappeared as fast as they came, my mouth went dry and I was truly afraid. He stopped in front of me and raised his hand. I ducked, but no pain was to come. I opened my eyes and put my hand out and firmly grasped his hand. This was not a handshake; it was a sign of respect. I looked into his eyes and we paddled to the point together without saying a word. The moment was much more powerful than any words could explain.
For the rest of the season, I was allowed to take off on as many waves as I wanted. I could have never imagined being part of 'The Crew' but I was and I will always be. That was the day I became a man.

Shaun believes that the pain of the loss will not leave him and Carla, but they have not let that stop them from creating positivity out of the situation. Listen as he shares the story with Rian:

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