The fear of the ocean and water or surfing itself is something quite natural. For the sole reason that water is a foreign element to us that can basically kill us (hand on heart) – ok, that’s a bit drastic and only semi-helpful for the anxious reading this – sorry :)
But the bottom line is: blockages, fear and panic around surfing and learning to surf are normal even though nobody really talks about it. Everybody around you only talks about all the awesome waves they had, but not about the fear during a longer hold down or heavy wipe-out. Then, most of the people who lament loudly are the guys. And that intimidates the girls or automatically makes them the group that is naturally scared since it’s much rather girls opening up about it.
But that’s bullshit. We all are scared. Maybe different facets of fear, but everybody knows it. Talking openly about it and standing by it is the first point in learning how to deal with it and overcome.
Know your fears. Know your limits.
Fear is a good thing, because it protects us. After all, nature put it in place for a reason and so you get scared when you are in a situation of uncertainty. When surfing it is very important to know your own limits and to respect them. It is too big for you? Then don’t paddle out if you don’t fully trust yourself to be ready for such conditions. Moving out of your comfort zone to improve is very different than being unreasonable or reckless.
Most times it is an evil mixture of different fears – fear of big waves, fear of injuries, fear of not being good enough or not looking pretty and fit enough in your surfwear. These insecurities can be so overwhelming that you can quickly come up with excuses not to surf:
- Conditions are not so good today/at the moment
- I’m tired today
- I hurt my shoulder yesterday
- I’ll go later
- So and so forth
Once you get caught up in this carousel of excuses, your long-awaited surf course or surf holiday can quickly turn into a boring beach holiday with an extra dose of frustration. Because all those fired up negative voices will make your self-esteem shrink very quickly. It is exactly this negative self-talk will keep you from becoming a better surfer.
Even more important it is that you have helpful tools at hand to get a grip on your fear and insecurities. Never forget: you want to get on the board!
1 Analyze your fear(s)
One of two points we have already mentioned. Sometimes fears are diffuse. Take time to think carefully about what it is that scares you. Find clear words. Take a close look at these fears and then just send it into the desert. The better you know what it is, the sooner you can work to turn the fear into a positive belief.
For example, often times the root of all fears when surfing is the fear of not being able to do it or be good enough (too weak, too fat, too rarely in the water, too unfit). Problems are only solved when facing them – not when you guys to see them on the horizon. The fear of not being able to do it can only be solved if you start to learn it – no matter where you stand. When this is the focus, everything else collapses by itself.
2 Talk about your fear
Part of the analysis from point 1 is the mentally structured formulating (be honest) and in the end also the openly spoken word. To communicate and exchange openly about fears gives self-confidence and allows you to be recognized quickly: You are not alone. A domino effect sets in here – as soon as an unpleasant thing has been mentioned, it motivates others to join in and open up. The exchange then shows you ways and means how others deal with their fear or how they could perhaps overcome it.
3 Knowledge is key
Ignorance is fear’s favorite food. Why? Your negative voices in your head get a big platform to answer all your questions. Safety while surfing is an absolute priority. (Read about it in one of our last blog posts.) This includes knowing how to behave in the water under certain conditions, how to handle your board or what you should know when you are at a new spot. You can learn all this in a good surf school or by learning to surf in a surf camp.
Exchange ideas with others and ask open questions. It is always best to find out from the locals what is important and what has to be considered. In the process itself, you will then notice that the more you know, the safer you feel.
4 Physical fitness will make you mentally strong
Paddling makes you tired and is even more strenuous, especially if you are untrained. If there is a stronger current or a set rolling in on the horizon, you want to be able to rely on the turbo to get you out of the water quickly. Surfing is scary when you feel exposed to the power of the ocean. Your physical fitness is crucial to how safe you really feel in the water: poor endurance will quickly make you out of breath and being underwater will be even more strenuous or can lead to panic.
Time that you invest in your fitness is never lost. Before a surf trip you should definitely work on your endurance as well as on your core and back muscles.
5 The steady drop kills fear
Practice, practice and more practice. Actually, the key word for this post. All the points I’ve already mentioned end here. The more you are in the water, the more waves you surf or don’t surf and the more often you are exposed to different conditions, the smaller your fears become. Step by step in a process. With experience comes knowledge, with fitness comes self-confidence. How you think about surfing in your first summer surfing or surfing course or how you look at the sea is completely different the following year or almost forward in three years. The good thing is that once the stoke has got you after your first wave, you won’t be able to get rid of it that quickly. In short, you have plenty of time to recognize your fears and work on minimizing them.
6 Calm breathing inhibits fear
Yoga is considered one of the best mind-body methods to complement surfing. Yoga helps you to build up muscles and balance, to improve your body awareness and above all to work with your breathing and feel effective effects. Deep abdominal breathing has a quick calming effect and brings you back to the moment – which is worth its weight in gold when you are overcome by fear in the water.
Regular breathing exercises expand your lung volume and provide relaxation. Very helpful when you are held under water.
7 Do not take surfing too seriously
Last but not least, a tip in my own right. Remember why you would like to learn to surf or why you started. That should always be in the foreground – not the hip (often much too small) board, the chic bikini or general lifestyle that is sold to us. It is the priceless feeling of gliding over the water. This honest and genuine connection with nature. Most of us will probably not become professionals :) What does it matter what kind of stress you put yourself under about how good or bad you (still) are. None! Your fun comes first – start with a smile in the line-up and remember: everyone out there with you has somehow been or is at the same point as you.
Surfing with friends, like-minded people or in groups is certainly the best way to get many of your surfing fears under control. Surfing at a new spot will be easy. You can exchange ideas, you are not alone and you get many tips. Don’t let your fear decide whether you want to start learning to surf or not and book your surf camp today! How about Portugal in spring, for example?