How to turn your fear in surfing to your advantage

Finding the right amount of confidence and fear in surfing

Did you ever wonder what is „the right amount of fear” and how much fear has been holding you back from more (and better) surfing?

This is a simple, easy to use summary on how to understand your fears in surfing and start taking the steps to overcome them. It is based on my conversations with pro surfers, teaching hundreds of beginners and my own experience.

This is not a post that you just read and forget about.. we made it interactive, so you can start using this to explore your fears and take action to improve your surfing.

How many times did you not try something in surfing because of your fears?

Did you notice how many times fear has taken over when you want to catch a bigger wave?

  • You paddle more out to make sure the wave doesn’t break over you?
  • You avoid surfing reefs even though you know you could handle the waves there?
  • You are not comfortable surfing when the wave is slightly bigger than what you are used to?

You are not the only one who is limited by your fear.

Fear also makes a lot of professional athletes underperform, which is why so many pros don’t surf to their potential in contests.

Fear makes you:

  • start to second guess your original idea
  • get nervous
  • start telling yourself all those stories of what can go wrong, how you will get hurt etc.

The result is always the same. If you succumb to your fear, you end up not doing the thing that you wanted.

Fear is perfectly normal. I also shit my pants when I see a wave like this charging towards me in the water.

How to turn fear into an advantage

Fear can be good. Fear is like a compass. Fear usually points to the direction where you want to go (like riding a bigger wave, or an awsome reef break), but you are not comfortable with.

Fear illuminates the path towards your goal (like barrelling, or cutbacks, or riding monster waves). Its shows you where your true north is, where progress is.

Because when you overcome your fears, when you overcome yourself, your own limitations, do a new trick, ride a huge wave, it is the biggest thrill in life.

The more you face your fears, the quicker you will get to your goals.  You have to push through it.

Even the pros feel fear. Its totally okay. But you don’t see that, you see them being confident.

What is fear?
It is a fight, flight, or freeze response coming from your body’s automatic nervous system. Fear wants to make sure that we don't do anything that will get us hurt physically or socially. Llike charging down on Mavericks on a 20 foot wave that can kill us. Or public speaking. Or snakes and spiders.

Confidence is not that you don’t fear anything. But then what is behind that confidence that you see in the pros, or your break hero?

Confidence is knowing your strength and knowing what you need to improve upon and being fine with the potential outcomes. Knowing that you prepared for every outcome.

Get started by listening to your dreams and fears

To overcome your fear in surfing, first of all you need to know your goal. What are you working towards? Is there a certain type or size of wave you want to be able to surf? Or do you want to learn a specific trick? (e.g. barreling, riding 20 foot waves, cutbacks etc.)

You can use this form to record your answers (you can send your results to yourself in the end):


The path of progress

Once you defined your goals and understand the main gaps, it is time to break down your physical and emotional obstacles and overcome them one by one. I can help you if you fill in the above survey.

Apart from being able to perform the trick/move physically, you need to work on your bail out plan.

If things don’t go as planned, how are you going to safely get out?

If you have not thought of the possible ways things might go wrong and how to successfully bail out, your chances of escaping are slim. (e.g. if you get held under water for three waves, are you able to stay calm without panicking? If not, do some exercises to improve your lung capacity and learn mental relaxation and focus techniques).

But when you prepare yourself to act, by running through such scenarios in your imagination, you prime your body to be ready if they do come about.

Have a mental plan for any situation so you know how to act if they come about. Print my Surf confidence and fears cheat sheet and hang it near your desk. It will remind you of what are the top mental blocks that you need to overcome. Prepare for it, so you can have more fun and confidence paddling out next time.

Call for action

If you just read through the whole article without taking notes, you can fill in the survey here and I will get back to you with your recommended next steps. You are not alone in this. My mission is to help you become the best surfer you can be and this starts with the clarity of knowing what you want and how to get there.

Do you know what is the number 1 thing holding back your progress in surfing?

Takes 2 minutes

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