Riding the Waves of the Mind: How Mental Training Can Power Your Contest Surfing Performances to the Next Level

Having the confidence to show your best moves under pressure is one of the qualities that separates the best, from the rest.  Welcome to the powers of the mind.

Unleashing Your Inner Power To Master Your Performances

Are You a Surfer Who Performs Your Maneuvers Even Better at Contests than when Freesurfing?

If not (and not many do) - mental training can quickly help you become the competitor that surfs your best maneuvers brilliantly under pressure.

It also gives you that vital confidence to go for waves and maneuvers that you may not have previously had the confidence to go for.

Top Surfers Use Mental Training

Professional surfers use their minds in powerful ways to bring about their success. 

Kelly Slater attributed his success to visualization techniques and positive self-talk, which he uses to overcome fear and anxiety and improve his focus and concentration - and also used hypnosis to break through internal barriers and build confidence.

Lakey Peterson also used hypnosis for the same reasons, and to improve her performance - using visualization techniques to rehearse her surfing movements and build confidence, as well as mindfulness and relaxation techniques to manage anxiety and stress.

Ian Walsh is a big wave surfer who used visualisation and hypnosis to overcome fear and improve his performance - to prepare for the big waves, and also address previous barriers and reduce anxiety.

Gabriel Medina, the two-time world champion known for his powerful aerial maneuvers and competitive drive, has credited visualization and meditation as key parts of his training routine, while John John Florence, Hawaiian surfer and two-time world champion (known for his technical surfing skills and big wave riding ability) also uses mental techniques to stay calm and focused in high-pressure situations.

Just a few more - Tyler Wright, the Australian surfer and two-time world champion, has spoken openly about her struggles with anxiety and depression and how she has incorporated meditation and other techniques to help manage her mental health.

Italo Ferreira, the Brazilian surfer and 2019 world champion, uses various methods to remain focused and confident in competition, while Stephanie Gilmore, the Australian surfer and seven-time world champion, also credits the mind as a big part of her competitive success.

So... you're in good company!

A big secret of the mind is... the perfect surfing performance (such as when you are in The Zone) always happens instinctively - not from thinking through all your moves.

Which makes sense as that's not what you do when you are freesurfing, either - you only think hard about the moves when you are practicing a new maneuver for the first time.

All those instinctive moves come directly from your own memory bank, with your subconscious - and by working with your mind, you learn how to plug into this, and bring out the magic when you need it - at the surf contests.

You can spot surfers without inner strength a mile off, because the unexpected errors only come out when under contest pressure.

Pressure of competition events often brings out problems which simply never exist when relaxed freesurfing. eg. confidence issues, playing it safe (not going for difficult maneuvers or big waves), massive nervousness etc.

"Surfing is 80% mental"
Layne Beachley - 7 time World Champion

"When you are in the moment you can tap into all the energy around you and use it to create your destiny"
Garrett McNamara - surfer of the highest wave in the world


Uses / Advantages

Mind techniques can be used to help prepare mentally for a competition, including:

• Pre-Competition Preparation - visualization and self-talk techniques can help you rehearse your performance, overcome barriers, reduce anxiety and build confidence

• Overcoming Mental Barriers - such as fear or negative self-talk. Through the subconscious, positive beliefs and thoughts can be embedded to increase resilience and overcome obstacles

• Rehabilitation - for surfers who have experienced physical injuries, rehearsing movements in your mind, and improving muscle memory to strengthen the healing process

• Practice - it can be incorporated into regular training routines and practice sessions to develop the internal skills that complement your physical abilities to improve focus, concentration, confidence and overall performance

Program Your Surfing for Success

The good news is that any surfer can dramatically improve their contest performances.

Virtually everything else you need can all be 'programmed' in, yourself - using techniques like visualisation.

Confidence, board skills, your whole range of maneuvers, courage, acceleration, balance, control, determination, endurance - whatever you need.

This is where you vividly imagine handling the most difficult sets, waves and conditions brilliantly in your next contest.

To make this more effective, its best to include various amounts of detail - the venue of the contest, paddling easily through its whitewater and currents, successfully taking big, medium and small sized waves, etc.

This helps you to mentally 'experience' aspects of the next event, even before you get there - so when the day arrives, you will feel in sync with the environment and conditions.

Let Your Performances Flow Instinctively

Visualisation is just one of aspects of your inner preparation - as your mind already knows exactly how to perform your entire range of maneuvers, in all kinds of wave conditions.

So you also need to be able to free your mind of internal clutter, so your surfing can 'flow' automatically during the contests. This can be achieved with regular relaxation techniques.

Luckily these two techniques work well together, firstly using a relaxation method - as this moves your mind into the correct state, ready for visualisation.

Then you follow this with your inner surf 'programming' - 5-10 minutes of vividly imagining surfing at your optimum level, in all conditions, to suit your next competitive contest.

Do this on a regular basis, particularly in the lead up to an event - and you will notice the changes and improvements over the weeks and months ahead, particularly in your contests.

See below for more information - and for those of you who prefer to be guided through the entire visualisation experience, with hypnotic suggestions also included - I created a surf program which has had excellent results, see Products below.


Audio Products to Master Performance
by Craig Townsend - Mental Trainer / Clinical Hypnotherapist


Information on mp3 downloads or customized recordings specifically designed for your sport.

  play audio file


Audio - 'The Power of Visualization & Belief'
- Craig Townsend explains how these transform performance.

Click the 'Play' symbol to start the audio.






Of course, there are also the slower and longer-term methods, such as:

• Physical Training - to improve levels of physical fitness, including strength, endurance, and balance - including exercises such as cardio workouts, weight training, yoga, and balance training

• More Regular Practice - Consistent practice as frequently as possible builds your skills, develop stronger rhythm and timing, increases your experience, and allows you to become more comfortable in the water

• Work with a Coach - Working with a coach can improve technique, identify areas for improvement, and set achievable goals, as they can provide feedback on technique, offer guidance on physical training programs, and help develop strategies for competition

• Video Analysis - recording your sessions and reviewing footage to identify areas for improvement, such as body positioning, timing, and wave selection, as well as develop a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses

• Cross-Training - with activities such as swimming, yoga, and weight training to build strength, flexibility, and balance, which can improve your overall performance in the water

• Better Nutrition - for maintaining fitness, focus and energy levels, with a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains

But just keep in mind that the inner side of the sport is the quickest way to see accelerated improvement.