Independent Surfer

Fear in surfing is very common. I mean, surfing can be a very intimidating sport and many people will have fears of certain aspects. Your fears might be physical – the ocean, drowning, sharks, hitting the reef, getting hit by your board; or they might be emotional – failure, being judged by other surfers, or even the fear of feeling fear itself. 

Personally, my fears are of hitting the reef and of being judged by other surfers. As Jordy could tell you, I come back from many surf sessions with tears in my eyes. Usually these tears aren’t from my actual fears, but rather from my acknowledgement of the fact that I let my fears control me once again. 

Manifesting Your Fears

Because I am so worried about hitting the reef, I often avoid waves that are even slightly steeper than others – usually leading me to sit too wide to catch waves. Interestingly, my reaction to this fear often leads me to make poor decisions that actually cause me to manifest this fear. When I am paddling for a steep wave and look down to see the reef deep under the water, I bail – typically leading me to dive head first over the falls and actually hit the reef. In these instances, it’s very likely that if I hadn’t bailed, I would have at least tried to stand up and either made the drop or fallen feet first (much safer than being throw head first over the falls). 

The same thing usually happens with regard to my fear of being judged by other surfers. If I paddle out into the line up and immediately start thinking that everyone is better than me, then I tend to sit too far on the shoulder so that I am out of the way. If I see people looking at me when I take off on a wave and worry they will judge my pop-up, then I often mess up my pop-up. Ultimately, my fear of people thinking that I am not good at surfing make me surf below my ability – essentially making my fear come true. 

How Do You Overcome Your Fears?

So, the question really is, how do you face your fears in surfing and overcome them?

First, acknowledge that your fears exist, but don’t let them control you. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by ignoring your fears when they are not immediately in front of you. For example, if you just pretend that you aren’t sacred of big waves on land, but then feel scared once you are in the water and end up not surfing your best, then you aren’t doing anything to help yourself overcome your fear. Instead, take the time to think about exactly what it is that you are scared of both before and after you surf. Acknowledge that you are scared and note exactly the details that scare you. Think about where the fear came from, what the outcome would be if your fear comes true, and realize that it make take you several surf sessions to get over this fear.

Next, tell yourself it is okay to feel your fears. There is nothing wrong with being scared – it would actually be much more concerning if you were willing to throw yourself into potentially dangerous situations without any reservations. The only thing that it not okay is letting your fear prevent you from doing something you genuinely want to do. 

Third, come up with a plan. Your plan should be specific and it cannot be that you simply won’t be scared next time. Trust me, I know this from experience. I have told Jordy a million times that I won’t be scared of barrels when I’m at home, but when the time comes to take off on a barrel, I freak out. This is happening because I am not coming up with a plan of what I will do when the scary situation happens. A better approach would be to plan what to do if my fears come true.

Make a Plan

Third, come up with a plan. Your plan should be specific and it cannot be that you simply won’t be scared next time. Trust me, I know this from experience. I have told Jordy a million times that I won’t be scared of barrels when I’m at home, but when the time comes to take off on a barrel, I freak out. This is happening because I am not coming up with a plan of what I will do when the scary situation happens. A better approach would be to plan what to do if my fears come true. 

For example, I am worried about taking off on barreling waves because I don’t want to hit the reef. I worry that I will hit the reef because in the past, when I have taken off on barrels, I bailed, went over the falls head first, and went straight to the bottom and hit the reef. If I hit the reef, I might cut myself and get hurt. In order to overcome this fear, I could learn how to bail and fall properly so that I don’t hit the reef – in this case, it would be to fall backwards or feet first instead of go over the falls, or to starfish instead of curl into a little ball. I could plan to practice this a few times on my next surf session where the waves are smaller and I am more comfortable. Then, once it comes time to surf more intense waves, I know what to do when faced with a barreling wave that I might wipe out on.  

If you need help coming up with a plan, please reach out to us and schedule an online surf coaching session. We can walk through your fears, help you identify your feelings, and come up with a plan before your next surf session.

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