We’ve all experienced the thoughts that creep in when we see sharp rocks, pumping waves, a crowded lineup, or strong current. Should I really be going out? I don’t think I’m good enough for this. It looks cold and I wouldn’t catch anything anyways. Our inner dialogue suddenly turns into a cranky critic instead of the motivational speaker we need it to be.
Sure, at times, these fears are completely valid and stop us from paddling out into conditions that are well above our abilities. After all, most of us probably shouldn’t be charging waves like Nazare when it’s 100ft. However, we shouldn’t be treating waves that are within our limits as if they aren’t. Surfing even when it scares you is the best way to become a better surfer and shapes your life out of the water too.
Is Your Fear Even Legitimate?
Before we can conquer our fears, we need to know if they are even legit. Pinpoint what you’re so afraid of and whether this fear is valid. Think of the worst that can happen. How likely is it to come true? Be honest with yourself. It’s really easy to fool ourselves into thinking that something is more terrifying than it actually is.
Are you afraid of embarrassing yourself? Getting stuck inside? Wiping out? While these fears might come true, the worst thing that can happen usually isn’t too bad. Wipeouts, kooky moves, and getting stuck inside are all a part of surfing. Though annoying or uncomfortable, they rarely cause damage. Fears like drowning or getting eaten sound mental alarm bells but are beyond unlikely to actually happen. If the waves are small and your arms are strong, is that rock sticking out of the water really a threat? The best thing to do if you are feeling afraid in conditions that are within your ability is to paddle out anyways.
You can always come back to shore if your fear doesn’t subside or you feel overwhelmed to the point where you can’t think clearly.
Reap the Benefits
Surfing even when it scares you trains your brain to overcome irrational fear. Your surfing will improve immensely, especially as your fear threshold increases. Paddling out into three foot waves will soon turn into four foot waves at your local spot and you’ll continue to progress from there. Conditions that used to scare you won’t anymore once you prove that the things that you’re afraid of either aren’t so bad or won’t ever come true.
Once you’re open to being scared and surfing anyways, surf breaks and variable conditions all around the world become available just for you to have fun in. After you do this for a while, you’ll probably even grow to like this type of fear because it becomes associated with catching exciting waves and pushing your mental boundaries.
You’ll not only build confidence in surfing but also in other types of risks. If you’re used to feeling fear, talking yourself through it, and overcoming it, then dreams in all areas of your life will become attainable. Aspirations like pursuing your ideal job, auditioning for that part, or traveling solo require the same fear assessment and persistence that surfing does. Doing the things that scare you ensures that you won’t live a life filled with regret and an internal voice that asks, what if I went for it?