Surf Fears. We’ve all had them. It doesn’t matter if you are surfing 2 foot waves or 10 foot waves. Fear affects people of all ages and abilities in surfing, and that is why it is so important to get them under control.

When was the last time you went surfing and felt fear?

What was it that caused you to freak out?

Was it the wave size? Fear of wiping out? Drowning? Sharks?

Surf fears come in many shapes and forms. But fear itself is not the problem. In fact, it is our reaction to our fears which really matters.

“Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear.” – Buzzy Trent

The thing about fear is that it automatically drives the mind to do whatever it can to avoid the ‘feared outcome’. That is, fear causes the brain to short circuit more rational pathways. Although such a response has been important to human survival and evolution, it is an emotional response that cannot be totally relied upon. Humans need to learn how to control and understand this instinctive reaction, separating when this response is useful and when it is hindering our ability to grow and develop.

Surf fears - jumping off rocks

As surfers, we train our bodies to learn how to catch waves. However, when we experience surf fears, we second-guess what our muscle memory already knows. The result – we choke!

The good news is that the brain is highly malleable. This means that we can train ourselves to approach our fears and overcome them. When it comes to tackling surf fears, it’s all about taking baby steps.

Get to the Root of Your Surf Fears

The first step is to knuckle down exactly what it is that is preventing you from achieving your surf goals. If it is big waves you are afraid of, start small. Conquer the 1 ft waves, then 2 ft waves, then 3 ft waves. Don’t ever feel pressured to take on a big wave if you haven’t correctly mastered the skill of riding smaller waves. After all, surfing is meant to be an experience. Slow down. Enjoy it.

Trust Yourself

Once you feel you have developed the skills to tackle your goal, the next step is to work on controlling your automatic fearful reaction. When you hear your brain screaming at you “danger, abort!”, you need to remind yourself that you have practised enough times and you are ready to take on this challenge. The goal is to be confident in what you have trained your body to do. The goal is to trust yourself.

Remind Yourself

So what if you fall off the wave? So what if you nose dive? The final step to overcoming your fear reaction is to reverse all the ‘what if i fail….?’ thoughts and focus on the ‘how can I achieve this…?’ thoughts. By doing so, you allow your mind to concentrate on how you will execute the goal, rather then concentrate on how you will fail at it.

As with everything in surfing, learning to tackle your surf fears takes time and practise. Surf fears are something that I still experience, especially when taking on bigger waves or surfing in areas I am not familiar with. I have learnt that trying to remove the automatic feeling of fear can be an almost impossibly feat because humans are naturally conditioned to experience this emotion. Instead of trying to remove it all together, try becoming aware of your surf fears, learn to trust your skills and focus on having a constructive thought process.

Take baby steps. Be patient. Trust yourself.

What is your biggest surf fear? Comment below!