It’s normal to feel some trepidation when paddling out into pounding surf. But excessive fear and anxiety can ruin your surf sessions and hold back your progression. Learning to overcome apprehension is key to boosting confidence and unlocking your potential. Here are strategies to conquer fear so you can thrive in all conditions.
Assess Your Comfort Zone
The first step is evaluating your current skill level and fitness realistically. This helps identify conditions that fall within versus beyond your comfort zone:
- Can you consistently stand up and ride unbroken green waves?
- Are you comfortable swimming out through moderate whitewater?
- Do you have basic familiarity maneuvering your board?
- Are you in adequate paddling and breathing fitness?
Know your limits to determine appropriate surf.
Slowly Expand Your Limits
Once you have an honest grasp of your present abilities, slowly start expanding them:
- On small days, venture out a little further from shore
- When conditions permit, stay out a bit longer each session
- On clean days practice sprinting for and catching unbroken waves
- Take a lesson to refine fundamental techniques
Small incremental progress pushes your comfort zone outward.
When tackling more challenging conditions, safety becomes paramount:
- Research optimal entry/exit points and potential hazards
- Always check in with lifeguards for recent conditions
- Make sure you have adequate flotation from your wetsuit and board
- Attach a leg rope and know how to use it in emergencies
- Surf with others who can assist if needed
Preparation prevents panic when conditions intensify.
Utilize the Right Gear
Having the proper gear for your level and conditions instills confidence:
- Use a larger, stable board like a longboard when starting out
- Choose a wetsuit with appropriate warmth and buoyancy
- Wear a rashguard to avoid distracting chafing
- Use fins suited for the surf size and your ability
- Carry essentials like sunscreen, water, and snacks to stay safe
Gear tailored to you and the conditions keeps you feeling secure.
Focus on Technique
When feeling fearful in larger surf, shift attention to mastering techniques:
- On the paddle out, practice strategic timing duckdiving under waves
- When catching waves, concentrate on popping up smoothly
- Look to trim across the wave rather than riding straight
- Work on keeping knees bent and centered on the board
Refining performance engages your mindset for success.
Breathe and Stay Loose
As challenging conditions test your nerves, remember to breathe and loosen up:
- Take deep breaths walking to the beach or sitting on your board
- Repeatedly flex and extend your limbs before padding out to stay loose
- Pause to take a few breaths after duckdiving under big waves
- Shaking off tension prevents overthinking and anxiety
Proper breathing and relaxation sets you up to surf your best.
Celebrate Small Achievements
When you conquer a new milestone, celebrate it:
- Catch your first green wave? Hoot with joy back to the lineup!
- Finally make it out past the breakers? Pump your fist and smile.
- Manage to stand up on a steep wave? Raise your hands in victory.
Acknowledging progress motivates you to keep at it.
Stick With It
Becoming an experienced, confident surfer doesn’t happen overnight. But with continual practice, humble progression, and patience, comfort levels will grow steadily. Before you know it, you’ll be shredding waves that once seemed intimidating. Stay positive and keep at it!
Frequently Asked Questions About Overcoming Surfing Fears
Conquering fear is instrumental to progression and enjoyment in surfing. Here are answers to common questions about managing anxiety and building confidence:
Should I let my fears hold me back from surfing bigger waves?
It’s wise to know your limits, but fears should motivate rather than paralyze. With preparation and small steps outside comfort zones, fears diminish over time.
If I’m afraid to surf alone, should I wait for companions?
Surfing with others is ideal for progression and safety. But not letting a lack of companions stop you helps build independence. Start in safe areas and inform someone on land of your plans.
Will more advanced equipment like shorter boards help me conquer fear?
Not necessarily. Mastering basics on larger boards suited to your level is advisable first. Progress to shorter boards as fundamental skills improve. Avoid equipment overreaching skill.
Is fear of bigger surf common even for experienced surfers?
Yes, unease in larger surf is totally normal, even for veterans. But experience trains reaction and focus when facing size. Trust your abilities and don’t panic.
If I haven’t surfed in awhile, should I expect to be more fearful?
Absolutely – losing touch with timing, fitness and the ocean environment can increase anxiety. Ease back into surfing incrementally in mellow conditions to regain confidence.
How can breathing exercises help minimize surfing fears?
Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing tension and fear. Brief meditation before paddling out can work wonders to clear panic and sharpen focus.
Should I surf certain spots that make me uncomfortable?
Don’t rush into overwhelming breaks. But judiciously forcing yourself into manageable yet uncomfortable conditions does foster progression and confidence. Face small fears.
With the right mindset, training and progression at your own pace, surfing fears and anxieties inevitably wash away over time. You got this!