Surfing outside of our comfort zone is something we can all probably relate to. The butterfly feeling, the dilated pupils, the shakey hands. Keeping calm in bigger surf is something that is learned over time, however here are a few tips to have a better session when surfing in waves larger than what you are comfortable with.
Take 10 deep breaths
You were probably expecting this one, but for good reason. Taking 10 deep breaths allows us to effectively lower our heart rate, stop shallow breathing and get sufficient oxygen flowing to our muscles and brain. This will enable you to think more clearly, feel more in control and see the situation more for what it is, not for what you perceive it to be. Try it.
More often than not, thinking about the worst case scenario is more terrifying than if the actual event happened itself. Thinking about going over the falls on a double over-head wave is terrifying. What if I hit the bottom? What if I get rolled? Turns out if that does actually happen to you, it will be over in about 3 seconds, and you will pop up thinking, “well that was wild.” Quite often it is best to just give it a go, see what happens and put the fear back into its rightful place.
Have a back up plan
If you are feeling really sketched about the ocean a good thing to do is to have a back up plan. This could be an area that you can paddle to. A place where the waves aren’t breaking to catch your breath, an exit route back into shore, or even a person who you can talk to that will help calm you down. Being vigilant about the aspects that we can control will give us more confidence about the situation that we are in.
Go out with someone you trust
Heading out into the surf with someone we trust give us a lot more confidence that things will be ok, because we have a buddy watching out for us. This is both comforting and indeed sensible in sketchy ocean conditions as if you do get into danger your buddy can act as a flare, a signal to others that things are not ok for you. Generally speaking surfers look out for each other but to have your own personal lifeline through a friend is a powerful thing to have.
Be confident in your equipment
Riding the old shitter thats been in the shed for 2 years? Feel as though your leg rope only has a thread to go before you say see ya later? Having confidence in your equipment is very helpful for your peace of mind when you are out in uncomfortable surfing conditions. Our boards and leg ropes do act as a lifejacket for us and with them gone, we are much more vulnerable to disaster. Before you head out in conditions that are above your comfort zone check that you are trusting in your equipment and you are much more likely to make the most of your session.
When making decisions in uncomfortable surf, don’t hesitate. Now in saying this I do not mean don’t think about what you are doing. Not at all. I mean when you have thought about it, decided that you are going to do it, do it with everything you have. If you are paddling into a solid wave, you are much more likely to make it, if you go ahead at full speed, rather than hesitating on the last paddle and getting hung up in the lip. Hesitation is the death of success.
When surfing in conditions that are beyond your skill level be sensible. If you can’t get out the back no matter how hard you try, there is probably a reason for it. Though to progress we have to be put in uncomfortable situations and overcome them, awareness of the dangers and your own ability level is key to ensuring your safety and having fun. Be aware of the dangers, have confidence in yourself, and put in place the blocks you need to ensure that you can make the most out of the challenge that is offered to you.