What is a waterman, and how does one become so connected to this massive and vital element of nature—the ocean?

The Waterman Defined  

A waterman is a common term in the surfing culture. It’s not rank or title for surfers, but a mindset, a lifestyle, a way of being. It is an identity for water sports enthusiasts, people who push their limits beyond the average–athletes who are open-minded, courageous and thriving by the ocean. Watermen derive their energy and purpose from the sea.

The ocean is a part of who we are; it’s a source of life. We have emerged from the water and evolved inland, but we forgot about our origins. Some of us still have a strong link to it, but some have lost that connection.

For me, the ocean is a source of energy and power. It calms my mind and recharges my body. When I’m in the water, I experience joy and contentment. There are many people like me out there. Research seems to support this, too. 

It has been also reported that people who are in contact with the ocean have better mental and physical health. Living near the sea has also been associated with lower rates of depression. An analysis by the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland reveals that coastal-dwellers aged 50 and over who have sea views have lower depression rates compared to the rest of the population. It is also not surprising that surfers have been reported to have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety with many describing their sport as a “spiritual experience.”

If you would like to learn about how the ocean heals the mind, body, and spirit, I recommend Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, and Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Doby Wallace J. Nichols. Nichols explains how water inspires happiness and satisfaction with life and how we can establish this link to benefit our health.

Becoming a Waterman

Whether you’re a keen surfer wanting to improve your performance or a regular Sunday warrior water sports person, the first step in becoming a real waterman (or waterwoman) is to develop your waterman’s mindset.

As a surfer, you can improve your surfing or ride bigger waves by enhancing your mental game. Gaining awareness about what’s holding you back will allow you to be better in your surf contests. If you would like to improve surfing performance, you must equally train your body, your mind, and your technique. 

As a mindset and performance coach, I have developed a training program that is specifically targeting water sports lovers, particularly surfers who are learning, competing or challenging bigger waves. I have met so many surfers who are physically tough but are unable to make it to the lineup when the waves are a little bit above their comfort zone. Even if they are well prepared physically, they will still have that mental barrier that holds them back from pushing it to the next level.

During my last trip to Rote island in Indonesia, I met surfers who were less prepared physically but were very comfortable mentally with the size of the swell. They only surfed occasionally when the swell was bigger than average. They could take their guns out. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to one of them. He said that he moved and exercised regularly but gently, and he barely did any breathwork training. What was his secret? Well, he was in his early 50’s, he was more experienced, more confident and mentally prepared.

My conversation with him just reinforced and validated the techniques that I outlined in my Waterman course. Taking apnea, breathwork, and ocean survival courses can be helpful, but you won’t get over that mental barrier unless you are emotionally prepared.

How to Become a Waterman 

  1. Boost your motivation to train harder and betterfind your WHY.

Why do you do what you do? What motivates you? Ask yourself the hard and honest questions. Knowing what you value with being in the ocean can give you a significant motivation boost to practice harder, face your fears better, and become more natural in the water.

  1. Get confident.

Confidence is a little emotional loop that has a switch in your brain. You can turn it on at any time you want. Learn the 3 techniques to improve your confidence. What limits you is often your own limiting beliefs or that inner voice that tells you that you can’t do it. It has been a habit for many of us to automatically magnify mistakes or flaws, dismiss our strengths, and think that negative events will keep happening in the future. The first step to stop this habit is to identify the inaccurate thoughts that make you feel weak.  

  1. Improve your focus.

Learn about one of the most critical mental skills. Having the ability to stay focused and be in the moment can help you stay calm during intense and stressful situations. Meditating can help you improve your focus.

  1. Set positive anchors.

An anchor is simply a stimulus that generates an emotional response. Establish pre-activity drills that you can associate with positive feelings. Develop routines to mentally and physically prepare to reduce nervousness, improve your game, and enjoy your time.  

  1. Commit.

Goals give you a strong sense of purpose. Start with long-term goals or the big picture of what you want to achieve. Break them down into short-term goals that you can achieve right away. 

  1. Practice.

Spend as much time as you can doing your favorite water sports, but also be open to trying other sports. There are always things that you can learn from other disciplines.  

Becoming a waterman is a choice. It all starts with purpose and intention. Training your body and mind equally is the only way to unlock your full potential.