The smaller of the two specks is me!!
This weekend has been pretty epic. Despite it being February, the coldest month in the UK to surf, I pushed myself out of the warmth of the house and into the icy Atlantic – twice. Why? Because of this head over heels in love relationship I have with surfing and my desperate desire to get better at it.
I rarely suffer from lack of motivation but my confidence needs some work. So this weekend, I was determined that things would be different, and with clean small waves forecast, it was the perfect opportunity to try and get out back which still freaks me out. Once my feet can’t touch the floor anymore that’s it, the nerves creep in. I’m frightened of rips, wearing waves on my head and drifting out so far I end up in America.
Mind over matter
Deep down, I know all of this stuff is in my head. I just needed a gentle reminder. It’s the same with the pop-up – I know I can do it and when I caught up with Stretch from Oceanflow Yoga for a one-to-one session last week (and demo’d a pop-up to him), he came to the same conclusion; it’s all in my mind.
On Saturday at a 3ish foot Polzeath, I spent 10 minutes before I even got in the sea on doing some yoga and running through a routine which Stretch put together for me. I’m generally pretty bad for just diving in there but I was curious to see what difference it made to my surfing. Following this up with 2-3 minutes of meditation gave me the focus I needed and after a couple of waves, my pop-up was faster and felt more fluid than ever.
And then I did it.
I actually popped straight to my feet…no knees…not just once but a couple of times. I couldn’t believe it and because there was no-one there to witness it, I thought I had imagined it. But no, I actually did it!!! It was the best surf I’ve had since moving to Cornwall – it was all there – high wave count, pop-up, feeling focussed and everything just coming together and flowing.
Except getting out back…but I saved that for today.
Addressing my fears
During the week, Joel from Westcountry Surf contacted me and asked if I wanted to go surf with him. I love to learn and get perspectives from as many people as I can and he genuinely wanted to help me progress. It was forecast 1-2 foot waves at Watergate today – perfect for getting out back and catching green waves.
When we got to the beach in the morning, it was a bit bigger than I thought. I was nervous but wanted to give it a go. It wasn’t until I got in there and started paddling out that I started freaking out and telling myself I couldn’t do it. The waves were pretty consistent in between sets – when I hesitated, and saw the waves looming up at me, I panicked.
But Joel had given up his time to help me and I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, so after a breather on the beach, we headed back in. This time, I paddled as hard as I could, managing to keep up with Joel until we got beyond the breakers. I did it! I was out back and it felt amazing – so serene and calm. I could have sat out there all day but the point was to catch waves in. Joel reminded me to commit one way or the other – let the wave pass me by or go for it.
I let a couple pass me by and just as I was setting up to catch one in, I could see I was out of position, caught inside and that the wave was going to break right on top of me.
Taking it on the head
At that moment, I felt a moment of total calm and recognition that the wave wasn’t going to kill me or hurt me. As it loomed up and started to break, I ditched the board, ducked under and let the wave ragdoll me. And then I surfaced, not gasping, spluttering and panicking like I usually do. I couldn’t believe it. I actually grinned….and then I saw the next wave breaking…
So again, I dived under with this sense of calm. I was out the back in what was up until that point my freak out place, in what felt like deep water with this wave breaking on top of me and then the weirdest thing happened…I started to enjoy it.
I thought of the guys who surf Mavericks and get caught inside and imagined I was like them, knowing the waves would repent eventually. This sounds dramatic and stupid to compare it with 15ft foot Mavericks monsters, but it gave me a massive confidence boost.
Beyond my comfort zone
I wore about 4 or 5 waves on the head until I realised I had drifted close enough to the shore to catch a white water wave. I was knackered after getting pummelled and I could hardly get to my feet but I was absolutely buzzing and I haven’t stopped grinning all day. I’m more stoked by getting totally worked and wearing wave after wave on the head than popping-up successfully the previous day.
Why? Because I needed to finally get over that fear of taking a beating. I was at the point in the white water where I had stopped feeling the same amount of stoke and exhilaration that I used to. I was well and truly in my comfort zone and I wasn’t challenging myself enough so I knew it was time to move forward.
I really feel like something has shifted in my mindset this weekend and whether that’s down to yoga, a confidence boost or a bit of both I’m not sure. All I do know is that I can’t wait to get back out there. Thankfully the nights are getting lighter and I’m looking ahead to more clean and small days so go after those green waves!