Sharon’s Blog: Conquering a Phobia Of The Ocean

Words by Ru Hill

A lot of people come to stay with us at Surf Simply to overcome a fear of the ocean. Surfing is a good way to do it and there’s not many phobia beating techniques which are quite so much fun. Sharon took a break from her pole dancing school in Vancouver, to stay with us a few weeks ago for exactly this reason. Not only was she confronting her fear of the ocean but she also unfortunately had to contend with one of the worst storms to hit Central America for years. Once back home, she took the time to put down what was going on inside her head as she overcame her fear of the sea. We thought it may resonate with a few folk out there, so we posted it here on the Surf Simply blog –

My fear was not just of the ocean, it was waves, sea creatures, what was on the bottom, and of course drowning. My desire to learn how to surf was a personal goal and part of my “bucket list”, plus once I had paid for this trip I was certainly not going to back out. The professionalism of the instructors and positive energy of the people around me were the most dominant aspects in the fight against fear. I guess there was also a bit of fear of failure too. My experience has taught me that anything is achievable if I set my mind to it and of course you only fail if you give up. Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Although luckily for me it didn’t take 10,000 attempts at surfing!

I practiced visualisation a lot, particularly in the evenings after a “hard day’s surfing”. The visualisation occurred mostly when I wasn’t on the surfboard and I had time to relax. I also set no limits to my visualisation and even allowed myself to visualise surfing in a barrel! Guess watching all those movies that Ru puts in the chill room actually left a more lasting impact than he probably imagined. Sometimes the self-doubt would creep back in especially when I would have, what seemed like, a massive wipeout or when I couldn’t get my balance on the surfboard a few waves in a row but I would encourage myself, occasionally out loud and sometimes make myself laugh in the process.

I was fortunate enough to have my own personal instructor, Sam, I need to mention that his teaching methodology was well-suited to my learning curve. It was positive reinforcements all the way. Not once did I feel that he criticised any of my mistakes of which there was no shortage! I would forget the technical stuff sometimes as I was too busy getting frightened by the waves but kudos to Sam for being such a great motivator!

I also have a tendency to dramatise any unforeseen sea creatures in my mind. Big fish, sharks, sharp objects, stingrays I might feel one under foot at any moment! So I would talk to myself and attempt to think things through logically. I had to keep re-programming my mind to think that I won’t be eaten by a shark or step on a stingray every minute I’m in the water. I can’t say that I’ve mastered meditation but I tried to apply meditative techniques including breathing and focus. Breathing helped enormously. Obviously those go out the window when I’m actually on the surfboard and I have Sam yelling at me to catch the next wave which would freak me out! (Not Sam’s voice, the waves!) I can’t overstate my fear of the waves, the depth of the ocean, sea creatures and even drowning since I never took any formal swimming lessons.

What really was a tremendous help was the personalities. The positive energy of the instructors, their enthusiasm, passion, dedication and the healthy dose of humour of everybody around me had.

Was I successful in my goal? A resounding YES. I still need to practice my newfound skills… can’t honestly say that I’m good at surfing… yet… but the biggest thing is that I feel that I’ve crossed that fear barrier. I probably will continually have to keep crossing that barrier but now I have the tools and experience to ease me through it. And it’ll keep getting easier every time. The inspiration that I’ve gained from my instructors and surf mates was an added bonus to my experience as well. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Hopefully next time it’d be in sunny weather though! Did I have fun? VERY MUCH SO!

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