Everyone knows it. You lie in the water, you paddle for the wave, and as you take that last glance back, you already know. You feel the wave breaking on you and you are dragged under water. Tasting and panting you will surface and the next set will arrive again. And again you go under water. But then luckily it becomes quiet. You can climb on your board again and paddle back. However, your mind is anything but calm. The thoughts fly through your head: “You see, you can’t surf at all,” “What a bad wave,” “You are failing again.” The question is how we can recover at that moment. The wipe-out has happened but the rest of the session is still ahead of you and can be fantastic. How can we recover as well as possible after a wipe-out?
Come out of your head and back to your body
Your head is busy. Everything happens there. You can sit there quietly for another two hours listening to the thoughts in your head. This is certainly not going to help! So the key is to get out of that head and back to your body! The trouble with negative thoughts is that it quickly sets in motion a vicious circle in which the thoughts lead to stress symptoms in your body and this in turn leads to even more negative thoughts. This circle must therefore be broken!
This can be as much in your head as in your body, but I notice that it helps better with most athletes to go to their body. Paddle to a quiet spot in the water or if you are a starting surfer just go out of the water. Then pay attention to your breathing. Where do you feel this the most? Chances are your breath is down your throat and your heart rate is quite high, normal symptoms of a stress response. See if you can calm down your breathing again. The easiest way to do this is to breathe through your stomach. You can make your abdomen completely convex like a balloon and then deflate completely. Just at your own pace. Slowly you will notice that your heart rate drops a little and that you become calmer. When your body becomes calm, your head automatically believes that everything is okay. A wonderful mechanism of our body that we can make work for us instead of against us.
I’m calm and now?
Nice! You are already a bit calmer and you have been able to break the vicious circle. Excellent! But what now? Now you could go back into the water, but you can also give yourself a helping hand first. What would you like a friend to say to you now?
Many top athletes use self-talk to motivate themselves. How you talk to yourself really matters in the water! Imagine saying all the time “You can’t do it.” Do you think that you will surf better? So the question now is what you can say to yourself to motivate yourself to pop again.
For example, it works well for me to say: “You know what to do. You can do this “. Then I often remind myself of the last good wave that I picked up to give it that extra boost. And suddenly I get the feeling that I can do it again!
And that wipe-out?
I have almost forgotten that by that time. My body feels calm again and my head also believes that I can do it. The wipe-out was a good reminder to check in again with myself and remind myself that I can really surf. Let that wipe-out come! I’m not afraid of it anymore.
What do you think of this article and how do you handle a wipe-out yourself?