Wipeouts: don't worry, having fear is natural | Photo: Ben Margot

Surf fear. Who hasn't experienced it yet?

Every surfer dreams of surfing a giant 30-foot wave in Hawaii, Jaws, Mavericks, Todos Santos, or Teahupoo, but fear is a very powerful thing and can sometimes simply drive you away from the things you might dream of.

Experiencing fear is normal. When you fear something, your body and mind protect you from what it perceives as a danger or menace.

Fear is a healthy, natural instinct of defense and survival. There are many fears associated with surfing and wave sports.

The most common surf fear is that of wave height.

Many fear riding big waves for three commonly cited reasons: the wipeout from the top of a giant wall of water, the chance of hitting a reef or a rocky bottom and drowning, or the loss of breath.

A smaller proportion of surfers report other fears associated with the sport, including fear of sharks, storms, lightning, currents, localism, and being hit by surfboards.

These surfing fears are very often associative in the mind.

A surfer who has been forced to duck-dive for longer than he felt comfortable with, or one who has experienced a bad wipeout, can already anticipate the potential sensations, and a fear response based on memory is triggered.

We've all had a few bad experiences, but managing our experiences effectively is the best way to prevent fear from building deep layers in our minds.

Managing Fear

There are some tricks that can be rehearsed to reduce the fear of big waves.

A good idea is to go swimming instead of surfing. The process of getting used to a scenario without fully committing helps you build confidence.

The feeling you get 15 minutes after playing around big waves is completely different from the one you get when you first arrive at the beach.

Why? Because you got used to the environment.

Positive visualization is a technique that can help fight any surf ghosts you might have from past experiences. This helps build strong positive emotions.

Whether you're already in the lineup or just dressing in your wetsuit, try to imagine yourself successfully surfing a big wave.

Replay this image as many times as you can.

For any fear, one thing is certain: there is no pressure.

You have all the time in the world to ride a four-foot wave, a six-foot wave, a 10-foot, and finally, a 20-foot wave.

Surfing is supposed to be an enjoyable sport. Take your time, build your own confidence, and train for rides by degrees.

When you know, you know. Go for it. No fear.

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