Surfing waves: fear is manageable | Photo: Shutterstock

Are you afraid of heavy closeouts, white-water foam, getting caught inside, or deep water? Do you feel stressed when you observe a swell forming on the horizon? Learn how to overcome cymophobia, i.e., the fear of waves.

Surfing big waves can be too much for our brains to handle. But, in exceptional cases, the mere act of paddling for a two-foot summer roller is, per se, an impossible mission.

Why? Because there are some of us who just panic over the image of a wave.

For some people, waves ignite an anxiety disorder. The rare dysfunctional phobia associated with waves even includes ripples generated in man-made wave environments, like surf pools.

Cymophobia, which derives from the Greek word "kymo" (wave), keeps people away from all sorts of water bodies and, in extreme cases, may only be treated with psychotherapy, panic treatment, hypnosis, or acupuncture.

Surfing waves can be a challenging task for our brains, regardless of age and gender.

Because, like Buzzy Trent once stated, "Waves are not measured in feet and inches. They are measured in increments of fear."

So, if you want to become an accomplished surfer, learning to cope with fear is compulsory. In some cases, it's simply a momentary lack of confidence; in others, it's the fear of drowning.

Waves: the fear of waves is called cymophobia | Photo: Shutterstock

Fear: It's All in the Mind

There are several techniques to address the mental problem, but the following exercise is valid for surfers who are afraid of large waves and also for first-timers to surfing;

  1. Talk about your fear with family and friends: Share your hidden demons, and they'll tell you about their experiences. Sometimes, all you need is someone to unlock your issue with moving waters;
  2. Set your primary goal: Do you want to become a surfer today? Do you dream of riding a wave all the way to the shore? Are you aiming at double overhead surf?;
  3. Select your favorite beach: Find a place that you know well and that brings fond memories. Pick a quiet break, and book a surf lesson if it makes you feel safer;
  4. Swim in waves: Get used to the tumbling surf and currents without a surfboard;
  5. Focus on your breathing: Exercise it, hear it, and feel it. Get into yoga and meditation, and learn to control and overcome fear through breathing;
  6. Get comfortable with the environment: Take your time - watch others get into the waves. Slowly build the motivation to ride the wave of your life because if they can do it, you can do it;
  7. Pull back if you're not ready: Let your body tell you when it's time to ride and enjoy the wave with a fearless and open heart;
  8. Catch the wave that has your name in it: Spot "the one," and don't hesitate - go for it, ride it, and celebrate your accomplishment;

Remember that fear is a natural reaction. If you're afraid of something, your brain is telling you that it is not comfortable and ready for what your eyes are revealing.

Panic is different. Panic is being out of control, and you don't want that.

So, keep your head clear, and invite some friends for a joyful summer surfing session when the waves are transparent blue and the sets are overhead, yet perfect and harmless.

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