Apart from the challenge of competition, professional surfers deal with a lot of pressure from media, sponsors, and family. But how do they manage their stress level? And what kind of training can help them with the pressure?
FREE-SURFING VS. COMPETITIVE SURFING
Competitive surfing is very different than free surfing. In competitive surfing, surfers have a specified time to be in the water and catch waves, while there’s also someone else there trying to do the same. In free surfing they are free to run away from whatever may be pressuring them, hence giving them that sense of escape and relaxation. Still, many athletes have a more mature competitive instinct and know how to deal with such pressure, while others struggle more in this environment of competition. Understanding how to separate things is essential, since they may often face their free-surf partner in a heat.
THE BIG CHALLENGE OF SURF COMPETITION
The most significant challenge is pressure. Once an athlete gets into the chase for the title, there’s a change of behavior and performance, since there’s more at stake. Surfing is a sport of self-expression so any external pressure will influence the athlete’s performance. One must feel light to surf well, so I believe the most important thing to do is to learn how to manage pressure, and to find the flow. The key lies in the connection between body and mind, which is obtained by believing in something more than what’s tangible and going through moments of reflection. Being mentally prepared, and improving mental strength is crucial to consistently achieve higher performance levels.
FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO INCREASED PRESSURE
Nowadays, it’s common to see athletes as young as ten years old being pressured by their parents, who tend to envision a career for their children. Such a dream is relatively new all over the world, but it is already more developed in the United States and Australia for example, where training centers are working on sustaining the professional development of athletes.
I believe this has a lot to do with the culture, and family pressure is often due to financial goals and a wish for young athlete to be successful. So sometimes they start surfing with the goal of becoming a professional surfer and making a living from it. That’s not always healthy. Aiming to work through a gradual evolution in all aspects, in regards to their responsibilities and career goals, personal conduct, and even nutrition is the way to approach things.
TACKLING THE CHALLENGE
Mental preparation in sports is often overlooked, yet it is so important. For professional surfing, mental coaching exists to help athletes where other coaches, nutritionists, and trainers don’t. It’s an essential practice to add to the field. Mental training can help athletes of all ages and abilities benefit from the principles of sports psychology.
Professional athletes need it to progress gradually, so when they reach the top of their career, they don’t burn out. The market of professional surfing is as competitive as any other, and I think athletes must be complete. They need to work hard to obtain a good salary, like any other professional would and obtain sponsorship contracts to make a living from surfing. And not only through performing in their game, but also by taking care of their image and positively advertising their work. They need to be professionals in all aspects, and their mindset is the key to their success.