Shaun Tomson Profile

  • World Champion Surfer inspiring people and organizations to lead with purpose and ride the wave of change

  • Shaun was named one of the 10 Greatest Surfers of All Time

  • Author of the best sellers Surfer's Code and The Code – The Power of "I Will"
  • Shaun Tomson started, managed and sold two multi-million dollar clothing brands – Instinct in the 80’s and Solitude (co-founded with his wife Carla) in the 90’s. He is the author of the best-selling books “Surfer’s Code” and “The Code: The Power of “I Will“, and the writer and producer of the award-winning documentary film Bustin’ Down the Door. Shaun is a Business Administration and Finance graduate from the University of Natal and has a Master of Science in Leadership from Northeastern University.

    He is a World Surfing Champion, an inductee in the Jewish and South African Sports Hall of Fame, the US Surfing Hall of Fame, and has been described as one of the greatest surfers of all time and one of the most influential surfers of the century (Surfer Magazine 1999). Shaun is a past board member and ambassador for Surfrider Foundation, the world’s largest environmental group dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches and he received the SIMA Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2002. He is a past board member of Santa Barbara Boys and Girls club and is an ambassador for Boys to Men, a youth mentoring organization. Shaun currently lives with his wife and son in Santa Barbara, California and still finds time to chase the perfect wave.

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    Shaun Tomson's Speech Descriptions

    Unlock An Attitude of Commitment & Positivity

    With his unique and empowering business philosophy based on his “Surfer’s Code – 12 Simple Lessons for Riding through Life”, Shaun Tomson shows the influence of positive values on success in life and business and will transform how you think about connecting, communicating and collaborating. Based on his own experiences in and out of the surf, Shaun Tomson has inspired and touched the hearts of audiences all over the world. Shaun’s attitude of Commitment and Positivity has inspired corporations like General Motors, Cisco, Price Waterhouse, Gap, Sasol, Disney, Google, Investec, Primedia, MTN and Adcock Ingram.

    Shaun Tomson offers up a profound set of action principles to show one how to get back on the board after a wipeout and paddle back out to catch and successfully ride the next wave. We all live in a challenging sea and our attitude towards those challenges defines who we are, and how we live our lives.

    The Code to Activate The Power of Purpose


    Purpose is the energy that empowers organizations and individuals to thrive. It positively impacts the workplace too – recent research from EY indicates that purpose-led organizations perform 42% better than those that are simply in business. However, according to a recent Gallup poll, 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job. Considering you spend around third of your life at work, this disengaged culture means that helping people to find a sense of purpose isn’t just vital for business, but also for people’s overall wellbeing.

    With these insights in mind, Shaun Tomson shows how to find and define one’s purpose to powerfully re-engage individuals and activate a positive wave of commitment and performance throughout an organization.

    Sometimes all you need to turn hope into action is to write your promises down and say them out loud—to make a promise to no one but yourself. Shaun’s presentation and workshop are about many things—faith, courage, creativity, determination—but above all they are about the promises we make to ourselves about the future.

    The Dangers of Growing Up

    20,000 young people aged 15 – 24 die every year in the USA from preventable accidents, all caused by poor choices.

    How We Can Help

    The Code is a simple exercise that empowers students to make positive choices in their everyday lives. Built around 12 promises that young people make to themselves, The Code gives them an effective tool to navigate the rough waters of adolescence and young adulthood by asking them to visualize their futures. The power of writing—the power of affirming “I Will”—helps students see beyond today and set a course for tomorrow.


    The ultimate goal of the Code is to create a wave of positive energy that keeps circling the globe, infusing everyone that comes across it with a powerful spark of hope for the future. It is designed to create a feeling of confidence in oneself, an attitude of strength that results in positive decision making to combat despair, risky behavior, and negative peer pressure.

    2-Part Structure: Keynote & Workshop

    1.) Shaun’s powerful 60-minute keynote will inspire students to believe in themselves and to believe in the power that each and every one of us has to shape our lives through the power of “I Will.”
    2.) The CODE Workshop is a simple exercise, a self-empowerment program of 12 promises, a bond of hope between today and tomorrow, a simple tool to help create a positive attitude for positive decisions. Each student writes their Code within 30 minutes in a classroom setting with other students– 12 lines, each line beginning with “I will.” Each student reads their Code out loud to the other students and then picks one favorite line which is written on a whiteboard.


    - Motivates students to improve their performance
    - Emotionally engages students with each other
    - Activates positive change
    - Helps to identify personal goals to achieve success
    - Useful in uniting the class
    - Makes students feel accountable to reach their stated goals
    - Helps students realize they share common values
    - Creates a sense of shared purpose

    The Code for the Next Wave

    A live, virtual, multi-camera keynote and workshop to inspire, connect and engage remote teams in this turbulent time. A powerful process to activate the power of purpose to catch the next wave.

    Leadership Resilience Speaker, best-selling author, entrepreneur and former World Surfing Champion Shaun Tomson has teamed up with organizational learning specialists, Joshua Mitchell and Brad Batesole of Madecraft, to create unique, live and interactive conferences that can be experienced by thousands of employees, even while working from home.

    In the short term, in the era of social distancing, organizations will all have to change the way they do business and change how their employees interact with one another. Tens of millions of employees have transitioned to working at home, and this period of physical and psychological disruption presents new issues for organizations which are faced with four fundamental and immediate challenges.

    - Employee stress caused by anxiety about job security; their own and their families’ safety and wellbeing; being overwhelmed by working in crisis mode on a sustained basis; adjusting to working from home.
    - Employee disengagement from one another and from organizational purpose
    - Potential erosion of productivity
    - Lack of motivation

    We believe we can alleviate these issues with our live, virtual keynotes and interactive workshops which will motivate, inspire and educate remote teams and employees to remain engaged with each other, and the organization’s core purpose. These are intentionally designed experiences, built to be instructionally sound, enriched with quality slides and graphics, interactive, and captured in a way to make the audience truly feel connected.

    What’s on the agenda:

    - A virtual keynote drawing upon my unique experiences as a world-champion surfer and entrepreneur.
    - A 20-minute session in which each participant is guided on writing their Code – a 12-line commitment to (re)awaken purpose, and (re)connect and empower others with heart, courage, and presence, each line beginning with “I will.”
    - An interactive process of participants texting their “I will…” statements that are shown via Poll Everywhere on a powerpoint slide. This process connects individuals at a deeply emotional level and creates a wave of positive emotional contagion to inspire and uplift in this challenging time.

    What People are Saying about Seeing Shaun Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Shaun’s contribution was amazingly inspirational and captivating – left the 600+ audience speechless. One of the best, if not the best, speech in all the 10 years of the RSM Leadership Summit.”
    – Steef Van De Velde, Dean and Professor of Operations Management & Technology, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

    “What a magical evening…. Wow! You said “Let’s do something together and really blow your students’ minds! Mission accomplished!

    Your passion, thoughtful insights, story-telling, and commitment make for a very powerful learning experience.”
    – Thomas Knapp, Director, Master of Science in Entrepreneurship & Innovation, USC Marshall School of Business

    “Thank you for two of the finest hours of my life. Your presentation was inspirational, uplifting and life giving. The 20 minutes I spent writing my personal code at the end were the most reflective and peaceful of my week. You are changing the world one life at a time. Paddle back out!”
    – Patrick D. Jones, Executive Director and CEO, International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, Washington, DC, June 2020

    “Shaun Tomson shared a powerful message in his keynote and workshop with our Talent Acquisition and Talent, Development & Inclusion teams working remotely across the globe: ‘What is our Code and what is our purpose?’ Shaun showed how we can we all use the power of purpose to drive forward through this uncertain time. Thanks Shaun for the incredibly moving and important messages and tools you shared with us. I’ve continued to hear fantastic feedback from the team!”
    – Bill Stott, VP Global Talent Acquisition, Gilead Sciences, May 2020

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    Books by Shaun Tomson:

    The Code: The Power of “I Will”

    How to convert the power of “I Will” into a life-changing mantra

    The twelve stories in this book, taken from Shaun Tomson’s own life experiences in and out of the surfing world, offer the simple message―I Will―as a model to face life’s challenges and help you achieve your goals. All you need is to be encouraged to find your voice and commit yourself to positive values. The stories resonate with positivity and hope for the future, and are infused with the belief that even in the darkest time, light shines ahead to show you the way forward.

    Surfer’s Code – 12 Simple Lessons for Business & Life

    Powerful lessons for surfing, business, and life from world champion surfer Shaun Tomson.

    In Surfer’s Code, world champion surfer Shaun Tomson shares the life lessons he’s gathered from decades of surfing―from his boyhood adventures in South Africa to the world tour in the late 1970s to the business world today. For Tomson, surfing is a hobby, a sport, a religion, an obsession, and more―it is a way of life. Tomson’s life lessons have guided his career to the top of both professional competition and the world of business. These lessons are born of the collective wisdom of the surf community and are a powerful source of inspiration in the face of extraordinary challenges of everyday life.

    I will never turn my back on the ocean
    I will paddle around the impact zone
    I will take the drop with commitment
    I will never fight a rip tide
    I will watch out for other surfers
    There will always be another wave

    I will always ride into shore
    I will honor the sport of kings
    I will pass along my stroke
    I will catch a wave every day
    All surfers are connected by one ocean

    In a new epilogue, Tomson tells about light as a symbol of hope―through his very personal experiences of a wipeout, the loss of one precious son, and the arrival of another son.

    Shaun Tomson was 1977 World Champion on the International Professional Surfing Tour. A native of South Africa, he spent fourteen years on the World Tour (1976–1989). He has been featured in more than forty surf videos and starred in the surf movie In God’s Hands. He was listed as one of the twenty-five most influential surfers of the century (Surfer, 1999) and one of the sixteen greatest surfers of all time (Surfing, 2004). He is currently Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Surfrider Foundation and owns his own apparel company, Solitude, in Santa Barbara, California.

    Patrick Moser is the editor of Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing (University of Hawai’i Press, 2008). He collaborated with Shaun Tomson on Surfer’s Code: 12 Simple Lessons for Riding through Life and has written articles for The Surfer’s Journal and Surfer. He currently teaches writing and French language at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri where he also offers a course on the history and culture of surfing.

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