Fear; an emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm. It’s the innate reaction to an external influence controlling how you perform in a scenario. For surfers, it’s the difference between pulling the trigger on one of the most critical waves of your life, fatally hesitating, or backing down and paddling in.
But what if you could manage that fear? There’s a lot to be said about overcoming, controlling and mastering your emotions when faced with huge surf – and needless to say, we’re no experts. So we thought we’d ask the men and women who are.
Greg Long, give his advice on how he manages fear when facing the world’s most deadly waves – and a little insight into what happens when it all goes south.
The current Big Wave Tour champion, Greg is a thinking man’s hellman. Hurling himself into some of the surfing’s gnarliest situations whilst being acutely aware of his strengths and weaknesses.
GL: For me, the greatest trick to overcoming fear, especially in big waves, is the understanding and embodiment of the fact that I have total control over how I interpret and react to every situation I face in life. All of our experiences are a result of how we perceive what is happening around us, and in every moment of our life, we have a choice to perceive them in a positive, or a negative way.
Fear is actually a very healthy emotion to feel. I simply interpret it as I have stepped outside of my comfort zone…and that is one of the greatest things to do in the world.
Unfortunately, many people have been conditioned into believing otherwise and let fear manifest into actions of panic which is the worst thing you can do in any situation, especially riding big waves. Knowing that I have the choice in every moment to decide how I feel and that I don’t have to let the reactive mind take control of my actions has helped me tremendously to embrace those moments of fear.
Here is something I do regularly to help prepare myself for those inevitable times; Well before any big wave session, I think about all the situations I may encounter that may invoke those feelings; be it getting caught inside, paddling over the steep ledge into a wave, dealing with a long hold down etc.
Then I identify the very best way to react in each situation, as well as what I may also do if I were to react negatively out of panic. In identifying the negative, it becomes easy for me to recognize and change, in the event I do start behaving accordingly.
By identifying the positive, I have a thoughtful understanding of the best course of action to achieve whatever goal or overcome whatever obstacle is before me.
And most importantly, in the moment, I never forget that I have complete control over my feelings and actions. And no matter what you do in life, it is always better to keep them thoughtful, constructive and positive.