The Code: The Power of “I Will”

By Shaun Tomson
Buy it here.

Shaun Tomson's impossibly handsome visage has long ago been carved deeply into the pantheon of surfing's elite. He need do nothing more than continue to surf Rincon well and make a few aloha-shirted public appearances now and then to stride off gloriously into surfing immortality. But in recent years, at least partially brought on by the devastating loss of his teenaged son Mathew, Tomson has waded into the world of inspirational writing and speaking, endeavoring to pass on the lessons he's learned from a life extraordinarily well-lived. Bravo. In 2006, just before Mathew passed, Tomson, along with Patrick Moser, wrote Surfer's Code, a list of 12 ways in which lessons learned from surfing can improve your hum-drum daily life. And this summer, continuing the theme, Tomson and Moser gave us The Code: The Power of I Will.

Aimed squarely at an adolescent readership, The Code is a set of 12 mantras—each beginning with "I will"—that serve as a kind of inspirational road map for personal well-being. "I will be myself," "I will never give up," "I will have faith," and so on. Each chapter is devoted to one of these mantras, and each is fleshed out by a scene from Tomson's personal history. In the "I will be myself" section, for example, Tomson dips into his past to offer a time when a teenaged friend he looked up to presented him with some heroin, which Tomson, despite heavy peer pressure, refused. The "I will dream" chapter focuses on Tomson's crusade, along with rival Rabbit Bartholomew, to make a career out of pro surfing when that very idea was laughable, especially so because Tomson had a comfortably respectable life as an attorney awaiting him in South Africa. Each tale from Tomson's life is simply but emotionally told, and, well, is pretty damn inspirational.

As a cynic, it'd be easy to dismiss a book like The Code. Or so I thought. But not two hours after reading it, I suggested it to a friend. Just like that. How can you argue with a book that's sole purpose is to build the reader up with positive affirmations about how to live a meaningful, powerful life? You can't. If even one kid takes these lessons to heart and fords ahead through life with a bit more confidence, then the whole project is a success. And it seems that many already are. The book concludes with some unbelievably charming affirmations sent to Tomson by young fans. My favorites: “I will never stop being ‘artsy'” and “I will never be famous for rapping.”

Tomson apparently lived his whole life by these 12 codes, which is deeply depressing to those of us who've underachieved our way to adulthood. So take your lessons from him, not me. Except for this one—live by The Code.