What I’ve Applied From Climbing to Surfing Part 1 - Dealing with Fear

Fun fact - my other passion besides surfing is rock climbing. Although there are a lot of big differences between the sports, there were a lot of things that I learned from climbing that have really benefited my surfing so I thought it’d be fun to dive into this topic a little bit!

My brother and I on our 4th day climbing the Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite

One big topic is fear, which I know a lot of surfers struggle with. What’s interesting about climbing is you have a lot of time to get scared. You might spend an entire hour (or two) completely freaked out at your wits end thinking you’re going to die as your fingers slowly give out to exhaustion and you have to move past that fear.

 So here are my big tips from having spent a lot of time in those situations on rock that I’ve been able to apply to the water:

    • Fear is your friend 
      • It is a warning signal to pay attention
      • Fear and excitement are almost the same biochemically, your mind is just interpreting that experience differently
      • Unproductive fear is when you get stuck in a loop of analysis paralysis. This is the situation I know a lot of surfers find themselves in. It may even be just a small day, but the fear of picking the wrong wave is paralyzing you. 
      • The more you try and push it away, the stronger it will become
    • The key is instead of running away from the fear, to move towards the fear and flipping that frame from fear to excitement. From paralysis to action. Welcome that scary looking wave (whether it be 1 ft or 10 ft) both mentally and physically
      • When I was at the bottom of a scary looking route I would tell myself oh yeah c’mon baby, start slapping my hands together with a big grin on my face and take deep breaths just to physically get that switch going. Fear is in your head, so the key is to shift into your body.
      • Jaws surfer Nakoa Decoite told me that when he saw the massive lump of swell marching towards him that became the wave that got him a XXL award he grinned and said “It’s my day” and started paddling straight at the thing
      • You can do whatever version of the above that works for you
    • If you find that you’re still stuck in that analysis paralysis loop, one of the best things you can do is jolt yourself out by intentionally wiping out on a wave. Usually, the idea of wiping out on a wave is way worse than actually wiping out and that holds you back. Pick a wave that’s a bit smaller, but that you know is safe, and then work up to something that’s scarier, and gradually increase your tolerance. Desensitize yourself to that fear by intentionally doing it. In order to desensitize ourselves to the fear of falling, my friends and I would go and repeatedly jump from the top of climbs over and over again to get over it.

Have fun!


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