We recently posted a picture with the caption: ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ This became a very relevant question to one of our students, Sam who came to stay at Surf Simply a couple of weeks ago. Sam was returning to us for the 4th time and starting to show some real promise in her surfing progression. However there was one factor that was consistently holding her back – fear. Sam had a fear of wiping out on bigger, unbroken waves.
Sam’s fear was causing her to make unhelpful decisions with regards to her surfing. This is because fear can cause the mind to become consumed with the desire to avoid the fear-producing stimulus (i.e. wiping out) rather than planning and executing skills and concentrating on the task at hand. So whilst Sam clearly had the ability to perform these skills, her mind was interrupting with plans to abort at the first sign of danger.
Firstly what we had to do was get to the root of her fear. This turned out to be the lack of control experienced when wiping out. People can be taken off guard when they are suddenly at the mercy of the sea, being tumbled around, causing some disorientation and very briefly prevented from surfacing to breathe. For many unaccustomed to this, a natural reaction is to fight and panic which uses more oxygen, which in turn increases the urge to breath – a vicious cycle begins.
We took Sam out of the sea and into an environment she could better control. The pool. From there, with the use of some graduated exposure techniques we gently exposed Sam to the experience of being under water. We then took Sam out body surfing to experience being in turbulent water but, again, with a higher degree of control. We then body surfed bigger waves to increase the threshold of her comfort in the surf. Pretty soon Sam was back out on a board feeling much more confidant and when faced with wiping out, rather than being resistant and panicked when paddling into waves she was relaxed and calm. This allowed Sam to concentrate on surfing with reduced interference of fear.
This is what Sam did when she wasn’t afraid.