#DoOrDie: Overcome Fear in kitesurfing

#DoOrDie: Overcome Fear in kitesurfing

Here’s a transcript of an article I wrote for IKSURF Mag earlier this year. It’s all about facing fears that prevent you from pushing your personal limits and can be applied to kitesurfing, surfing, SUP, public speaking, or just about any situation that gets your nerves jangling. Cheers!

#DoOrDie: Overcome Fear

Words: Dom Moore

Speak to Dom at facebook.com/thesurfsanctuary  surfsanctuary.co.uk

I’ve got a fairly open ended ‘head space’ tutorial for you this issue, and it’s all about how you can use simple commands to help deal with the butterflies in your stomach when you’re taking things to the next level. You know the days: it could be in a competition, it could be the most critical surf you’ve encountered, or it could be that you’re going to try something technical that if it fails, will result in a lot of pain.

The challenge of a wave like this is making your way down the face without getting bounced off
The challenge of a wave like this is making your way down the face without getting bounced off

 

The commonality is that FEAR is starting to become a factor in your session. This is important; we need increments of fear in our sessions or else kitesurfing would become a boring procession of increasingly easier and dull days, all the while our bodies getting fatter and our skills getting softer. Fear announces itself on day one in a kiter’s life, pretty much as soon as the instructor hooks them into that seemingly massive kite. But, once the challenge is successfully navigated, fear is replaced with exaltation, and the addiction is formed. That’s the ying and yang of kiting – ‘oh my god I’m gonna die, no wait I’ve made it, wow this is the best I’ve ever felt’!

If fear is given a free reign though, it can stifle performance. At one end, it can stop you from even going out, at the other end, it can cause hesitation at the worst moment, say, halfway through a kiteloop, resulting in the leading edge tomahawking into the water about half a second before the rider does. Ouch. Fear can come from a past failure resulting in a sketchy situation at sea; it can arise from low confidence in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. Fear creates out of control thinking and this leads to out of control kitesurfing; we want to break this cycle before it establishes by disciplining our thinking.

I was sitting quite far out and waiting for a while before this beast swung into my crosshairs.  I had only surfed once before this in six weeks and it was my first wave of the morning.
I was sitting quite far out and waiting for a while before this beast swung into my crosshairs.
I had only surfed once before this in six weeks and it was my first wave of the morning.

We are going to organise our thinking right now, so that the next time you’re out on the water about to do something you’ve never done before, you’re going to flow right through it and enjoy a euphoric rush of endorphins rather than balk and fail and take a dunking in the bath of pain. What I want you to do next is get a pen and paper, and divide the paper into three columns. At the top of each column write: Session, Technique, and Action in that order. Think of what we’re about to do next as a bit like ascribing ‘tags’ to larger pieces of information that your brain can retrieve in a nano-second to carry you through the most intense situations. Now, start to let your mind drift around words that mean something to you, these could be song lyrics, quotes you like, whatever.

Create your kitesurfing tags

Session Commands

When you need to give your self-esteem a bit of a boost because you’re a bundle of nerves, say even as early as driving to the beach when you suddenly glimpse masses of whitewater in the distance, you want to get your mindset orientated towards success otherwise indecision will follow and your limbs will feel like lead, coordination will go out of the window and the reef is going to rise up sharply and hit you. You need to reassure yourself in a global context that everything is alright. Phrases like:
‘I know this beach like the back of my hand, it’s my second home’

‘I’ve worked hard to get here, I deserve to score’

‘My kite skills can see me through anything’

‘This is the best day and I’m going to charge it’

You can draw on the good energy and feelings that these phrases promote anytime during the session when you need a pick-me-up. Rehearse them at home with a good pair of headphones and a carefully crafted Spotify playlist and learn to associate them with a lovely spike of adrenaline. Write a couple down on the sunvisors in your car and flip the visor down when you pull into the car park.
Technique Commands

These are the words you use to coast you through a manoeuvre and to maintain perfect form, and avoid falling into bad habits. A couple of examples could be setting up for a bucket-throwing re-entry and remembering to compress your legs through the bottom turn, or to look back down the wave to lead you out of your turn AND NEVER LOOK BACK AT YOUR SPRAY. You’ll be riding when you call on your technique commands, comfortably zoned in but not freaking out under the pressure, so they must be short and snappy and descriptive. For a top turn you could use:

‘Bury the rail’

‘Drive the back foot’

‘Kite first, board second’

Technique commands work best with a bit of mental rehearsal before the session. Watch a video, or study a photo sequence of someone ripping a turn like you want to and pick out the bits that mean something to you. Try replicating the body movements on land and ascribe your tags.

Not exactly a fearful situation at all, but still you need to rally yourself a bit before throwing in a good hack
Not exactly a fearful situation at all, but still you need to rally yourself a bit before throwing in a good hack

Action Commands

Really simply, these are the words you call on in the thick of the action, when the line between becoming immortal or brutally reminded of your own mortality is at its thinnest. About to gun down the wave of the day, going up for a hopeful abandon lip smack, pulling into a barrel; high pressure situations where there is no time for pause, reflection, or running away…

‘Do or die’

‘Stomp it’

‘GO!’

These are the words you hear in your ear when you are running away from tigers, chasing buffalo, hauling yourself up a swim ladder while a shark snaps at your heels…Short, direct, they carry you through the moment. Write them on the backs of your hands, on tape and stick them to your kite bar or on the deck of your surfboard so that they become an automatic slogan that pings into your head when you need it most.

Now that you know how to create your own kitesurfing performance tags think of two of three situations in kitesurfing that are currently just out of your grasp or that have you a little worried, and start to build some positive language around them. Remember that out of control thinking leads to out of control kitesurfing and if you want to free our bodies, we must discipline the mind first.

This was a very fast drop. I remember telling myself 'compress!' to keep weight low and balance up. It looks smooth but any surface undulations will buck you off.
This was a very fast drop. I remember telling myself ‘compress!’ to keep weight low and balance up. It looks smooth but any surface undulations will buck you off.