Surf Psychology

The Hawaiian Table has become a sport with a lot of global acceptance. Peru is no exception, with Sofía Mulanovich (2004 world champion and 2005 world runner-up) and Gabriel Villarán (2005 Latin American and 2005 Pan American champion and finalist for the Monster Energy Pro in Pipeline). They are not the only ones, behind them comes an important litter of very good values ​​and national promises in this sport. These events have made sport “fashionable”, and in doing so inevitably increases its competitiveness. 

The table circuit is becoming more competitive and of a higher level all over the world. This is in relation to the awards and sponsorships that have grown along with the sport: they benefit and provide mutual feedback. All this brings as a consequence greater demands and greater professionalism on the part of athletes. For this reason, psychological work is becoming more and more necessary in the table, a lot is done at the global level and at the national level it is beginning to be done (in COD it is being done). At training levels, mental work is always important, but especially in high competition. It is true that many may say that it was not used before or that it is only for crazy people ”(sports psychology is not for mentally ill people, it is for psychologically healthy people who wish to increase their sports performance, the pathology is seen by the clinical psychologist) , but times change and needs change.

Sport is increasingly professional and presents greater demands and we must never forget that the athlete is not a machine, he is above all a human being, a being who does exceptional things but ultimately human. And as a human being, he suffers, has anguish, fears, doubts, eats and bleeds, like any other mortal. If anyone has all these situations in a normal, ordinary life, imagine all the extra pressures that an athlete presents who is in constant competition, evaluation, measuring himself with others, testing his ability over and over again, with sponsors, money, fame , egos, prestige and other variables involved. That is why it is quite important to strengthen your mind so that you can cope with this and develop the right strategies so as not to be overwhelmed by the countless situations that will be presented to you in your sports life.

It is very different to run recreationally than competitively. In the first place, a hobby surfer or Free surf (surfer who does not compete). You would not mostly need a psychologist, you could do it to work on some specific issues, but a highly competent one does, since there are innumerable aspects to work on due to the number of variables or situations that can be presented in the competition.

surfista peruana

Sofia Mulanovich

The competition:

  • Training: The ideal is always to run the beach before the competition. But beyond the specific competence, training is complex, since it depends on the access you have to the beaches, to the presence or not of the waves and the quality of them. It depends on nature unlike other sports. To this should be added a peculiar situation which is the fact that you cannot choose which aspect to train, if this refers to the quality of the waves. You can decide whether to run left or right according to the beach, but not the size or quality of the waves. The latter will depend on nature and the athlete may have greater ease or less ability to run a certain type of waves, which are the ones that he must train the most to improve.
  • Competition time: The competitions usually last approximately 2 to 4 days (locally from 2 to 3. in general), this if there are no problems with the sea, doing it several times per day. The wait or delay due to the competition due to the absence of waves can bring with it a whole series of situations loaded with stress, anxiety and / or anguish that the surfer must learn to deal with.
  • Pre-series routines: It is important that the athlete performs a pre-competition routine that has been worked out and agreed upon with a psychologist specializing in sport and specifically in surfing. so that he learns to make the transition from the person self to the competitor self, so that he enters his heat in the best of conditions .
  • Series: Heats last 25 min. It is important to divide the series and make a plan or strategy for how to run the series. The ideal is to divide the series into three parts of 8, 9 and 8 min. (although this must be based on personal characteristics that it is better to see with a specialist sports psychologist) at least, trying to ride a wave per part, with that you already have the minimum number of waves that will qualify you, this does not mean that you getting more but this will give you more balance and peace of mind while waiting or fighting for the waves. This will give you the patience and peace of mind to be able to wait for the right waves and not despair to catch any wave. To achieve this it is important that the surfer see the beach, as it is (if he knows it, the better). Every day the sea reacts differently, you have to observe how it is moving, where the waves come from. how is the wind, current, tide, etc. You have to make a plan for the series.
  • Strategy: You have to know how to read the waves. Having a strategy does not mean that it is fixed and immovable. You must be flexible, if the plan does not work you have to change as quickly as possible, find a new strategy, accommodate it to the situation and proceed. The new strategy may not work, but it is more counterproductive to do nothing, worse is not to make a decision, to be stuck, blank or paralyzed. As one person told me: -It is better to make a bad decision than not to take one at all ‘and this can be linked to what Jackson and Csikszentmihalyi (2002) say: “You miss 100 of the shots you don’t take’. Adapting it: You fail 100% of the things you do not try, so it is better to fail by trying, than to fail by not trying, since by not trying, you are already failing.
  • Brands: It is important to know how to mark. Today it is an essential skill to reach the greatest successes, it is part of the dynamics and reality of this sport, it is part of the competitive game, being as important as running well. You have to be awake to overcome the marks and not get carried away by the anger, rage or frustration that a difficult mark generates. Kelly Slater himself (7-time world champion, record of titles, youngest and oldest champion in the table) won two world titles by marking his opponent.
  • Repechage: In this sport there is a repechage, due to the luck factor that implies that they “touch” or not waves. The more experienced and the local are more likely to deal with the “luck” factor, but the truth is that sometimes good waves arrive and sometimes not.

Running series by series is a very good mental attitude to face the competition. This is what Gabriel Villarán does and what led him to the final of the Pipline Monster, beating the legendary Rob Machado in the quarterfinals and semifinals . Many surfers save something for the linar ‘, because they are afraid of getting tired or exhausted since they run several series a day. However, saving something for the final may be in vain, as this may just mean not reaching it. You must fight until the end, until the siren sounds the heat does not end , that simple attitude of fighting until the last moment will make a big difference in the competitor.

Characteristics of the competition rider:

  • Balance: The ability to stay afloat on the board when performing various, complex, artistic, and difficult maneuvers, while riding the wave.
  • Courage: It is not a sport for everyone. The surfer is seasoned, “commanded”, he does not allow himself to be intimidated by the size, strength and / or violence of the waves. Of course, this always has to have a limit, otherwise we would no longer speak of courage but recklessness or unconsciousness. You must have great courage and determination not only to face the competition, but the waves. where many times their physical integrity is at risk and even, sometimes, their life, due to their size and / or violence. What surfer has not experienced the sensation of drowning? Great surfers have died this way.
  • Beauty: The board has characteristics that resemble dance, ballet or figure skating, since it is really a dance with a board on the waves. It is not only applying the most radical maneuver possible in a good wave, at the most critical point of it. but how it is appreciated. Two surfers can do exactly the same maneuver on the same wave, at the same critical point and not look the same, therefore the score will not be the same. This is in relation to the beauty of the surfer’s movements. It has to do with personal style.
  • Flexibility and elasticity: This is very important in all sports in general, but in the table it acquires more relevance than in others due to the complexity and range of movements that are performed. You can benefit a lot from oriental practices like Yoga. Chi Kung or Ta Chi, or other oriental techniques that imply flexibility, elasticity and / or corporal handling.
  • Physical preparation: You must have a very good physical preparation. explosiveness to perform the maneuvers. a great cardiovascular capacity to withstand the intense and continuous paddling (this depends on the beach) and a great capacity for oxygenation and retention of breath to withstand the “rolling” of the waves.
  • Endurance: You have to have enough endurance to run series after series, day after day, enduring great physical and mental wear and tear.
  • Hydration: Constant hydration is important due to the tough series where a lot of body fluid is lost, but not much is perceived in the water and even more so when there is sun (as happens on many occasions during competitions) by the sun, as well as a adequate carbohydrate intake to have energy reserves, something light to avoid stomach problems.
  • Creativity: This aspect is essential. It is a sport that is quite close to art, since the score lies in the beauty of the movements, the radicality of the maneuvers, in the degrees of greater difficulty. That is, it should be made to look easy and beautiful in the most difficult situations.
  • Disciplined: To train daily, in several sessions, early morning, morning and / or afternoon. Training other aspects apart from the technical: physical conditioning, food (nutrition), adequate rest (not staying up late, going to bed early, sleeping well, etc.), psychological conditioning (work with the psychologist, sports therapies, mental training, psychological work at home . for training, competitions, tasks, routines, etc.).
  • Strategy: Make a competition program. We must consider the abilities and weaknesses, opponents, beach, time, situations, etc.
  • The mental aspect: This is the recipe for success at the highest level. The difference no longer lies in technical but psychological factors, that is the difference between being number 1 and 20. Competition in itself brings with it a whole series of psychological and emotional responses, not every good surfer is good at competition. They are two totally different things, the demands are different and this is related to the personality of each athlete. However, you can always work and improve regardless of personality. You have to know how to handle an influx of positive energy (fun, joy, optimism, belief in yourself and its possibilities, etc.) and control negative energy (anger, anger, frustration, anger, rage, etc.). Sofía Mulanovich’s coach , Martín Potter, said that in the competition, 90 91 was mental, and that if she believed she could win, she would (she stated this before the last date of the 2005 circuit). Kelly Slater said that no matter how difficult the circuit got, he felt and thought that getting his head in order would not stop him. This indicates how important the mental factor is to achieving success.

Elements of the competition that affect surfers:

  • Personality
  • Physical training
  • Psychological preparation
  • Technical preparation
  • Nutrition
  • Judges
  • Waves
  • Opponents
  • Trademarks
  • Being local vs. be a visitor
  • Public
  • Journalists
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Partner
  • Life events (discussions, studies, economic situations, family problems, illnesses and / or deaths of loved ones, etc.)
  • Various comments from any of the above (journalists, family, friends, partner, etc.)
  • Others

All of these elements can be triggers of stress, anxiety, autopresiones , self – imposed , negative thoughts, irrational and / or invasive. The impact of these will be in relation to the mental strength that the athlete has and the mental strategies used to counteract them:  

Situations for which you must have routines for competitor situations:

  • Go down in the score: The surfer must have the capacity and mental strength to overcome and / or overcome that adverse situation.
  • Going up on the scoreboard: The athlete must have the ability to focus on the present, not anticipate the future and think that it is over (a very common mistake that has caused many athletes to see victory slip through their fingers), no It must be celebrated before its time, nothing is said until it ends.
  • That waves do not come being down in the score: The athlete must have patience, management of anguish. anger and frustration. This is a sport- specific situation and it can happen to anyone. The surfer must know how to take things slowly.
  • That things do not go well on that day: There are actually better and worse days than others, not all days are the same (this can be worked with a sports psychologist, to make the athlete more regular and making the maximum performances more recurring). Faced with bad days, one should not say: -well … bad luck I had a bad day, there is nothing to do. If there is something to do, if it is not a good day, it can be supplied with effort, this will make the mental state change and a good performance can be obtained. Give your best effort instead of “throwing in the towel”, that is much more advisable than simply abandoning the competition, not physically but mentally. Finally, it is the same since he only declared himself defeated, therefore he loses before the end, the sound of the siren is only a matter of procedure in these cases.
  • The fun: The fun in competition is the way to success. For example, Sofia Mulanovich said, “I feel like I’m not having fun in the waves. I must take another look at him. This quote indicates to us the importance that he gives to having fun in his search for victory, he makes note of his concern for the absence of fun in the practice of his sport, because he is aware that the path to victory is inevitably linked to fun, or rather fun is the way to success (statement made two dates before the end of the 2005 season, in which he was leading the ranking. He finally came in second place). A surfer who works on the mental aspect with us, at COD, said something very wise to a person who demanded that he win: -if I have fun, the victory comes by itself ”, this was a conclusion he reached after the work done , which made him become a much more even competitor, without so many ups and downs, he assumed that control was within him and not due to external factors. This is very true and it is a great way to take pressure off, maintain positive energy and focus on enjoying the sport, since when this happens things flow naturally, making maximum performances more likely.
  • Recovery: Having the ability to recover from missing a good opportunity (falling into a major wave, not being able to do the good maneuvers that you normally do or others). In other words, it’s being able to regain your self-confidence during the competition, even if things aren’t going well for you.

Introducing mental aspects to your workouts:

What was done in training is done in competition, the action or routine is automated. A great maneuver should not be attempted in competition if it does not go well during practice as it is highly likely that it will not work. You cannot pretend to do in competition what is not done in training, since competition is a more complex situation than training due to stress, anxiety, pressure and others. This is exactly the same for the mental aspect that must be worked on, with a sports specialist and if possible specifically in surfing, and trained in the same way as the physical part.

• Some methods to increase concentration:                                  

Focus on waxing the board.

Looking at the sea, trying to feel closer to it.

Look at the table and think about getting into it.

Isolate yourself for a few moments before the series begins and go over what you want to do.

• Some methods to increase confidence:                                  

Think about what can and cannot be done (look at the glass as half full instead of half empty). This brings positive feelings, thoughts and images.

Remember that much more is known than was known a year ago.

Remember past successful performances.

Remember complicated past situations that were overcome.

  • Train the mental aspects that are worked on with a sports psychologist: Introduce warm-ups, stretching, psychological techniques (activation, positive messages or key phrases, visualizations, focusing, etc.). It is best to work this with a sports psychologist to provide the specific recipe for the surfer, since each athlete has different strengths and weaknesses, therefore different needs, each human being is unique and unrepeatable.
  • Strategies to make psychological changes in the sea if training will be achieved in competition, this must be established with the sports psychologist.
  • Train competition-type situations:

Running for time and with a score.

Running with teammates who score.

Practice situations that in competition are difficult for the surfer to overcome. For example: if it is difficult for you to stay up, start with an advantage in points over the rest or if it is difficult for you to overcome adverse situations that the rest start with an advantage in points.

These are just a few of the many strategies that can be practiced in workouts. Already countless situations can occur in competition, the important thing is that the surfer trains what is difficult during it.

There is also a whole series of techniques that can be deepened and worked with a sports psychologist. In fact, a sports psychology manual would have to be written to delve into all these aspects such as activation, relaxation, motivation, concentration, visualization, self-esteem, confidence, mental strength, creativity, fluidity, personality, relationship with the coach, for just mention some of the more well-known aspects.


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