Sports Mindset & Performance Coach
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The author racing a certified freight train.


The Inertia

Even the coach has to go out and test his skills when the waves are up. I just love big waves. All the adrenaline rush, the fear, the excitement, the joy, and the glory from riding big waves give me shivers just thinking about it.

Each year in Bali, a solid swell hits the southwest coast. It is quite spectacular. My home beach break usually doesn’t look ideal with less-than-perfect swell direction and conditions. So for many years, I have watched these waves roll through and found excuses not to paddle out there.

Now, I like challenging myself in those big waves and the more I do it, the more comfortable I feel in heavier conditions and the more addicted I become. I have spent time replaying my last rides over and over, remembering and reimagining every single aspect of it.

Stepping up to these types of challenges is a kind of reality check for me. My working with athletes, teaching them how to improve their game by working on their mindset, doesn’t only teach them to become the world’s best but it also reminds me to stay focused, resilient, calm under pressure, and control my self-talk. I put the things I teach into action and you know what, it’s working magnificently.

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Last week’s swell in the Indian Ocean was just phenomenal. Huge 12-14ft waves were bombing all over the coast. The Padang Padang RipCurl Pro was on in massive conditions, Desert point was on, Uluwatu was looking like Cloudbreak, and only a few brave souls were roaming around the best spots to catch what they could — and I was one of them.

The amount of effort I put into my session was minimal. I took my time paddling out to the lineup, conserving my energy. I reached the lineup, had a quick “hello” and a casual chat with the few other guys out there. Sets came every 15-20 minutes with one clean up set every 40 minutes. I’d take one wave every set, score each time, and repeat.

But while I was definitely having fun (and occasionally getting smashed around), some weren’t. Was I just a better surfer? Not at all. Technically, I am sure we were all quite equal. Mentally, however, I was ahead of the game.

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The ability keep your mind from taking control in heavy surf requires regular practice, commitment, and drive. I’d actually prepared for this session for weeks. I did my morning routines each day, combining physical and mental practices. I focused on my nutrition and I did a lot of meditation and mental strength exercises. Now these things are beyond practice. They have become a part of my lifestyle, and are useful tools on and off the field (or the water).

The lesson to take from this story? First, I’ve learned that giving is also gaining: Teaching people how to become the best at what they do in turn teaches the teacher as well. Second, challenges are the best way to stretch beyond your comfort zone and it’s pretty amazing to reach your next level. And finally, it’s awesome to be in heavy conditions and still have fun and remain relaxed. If you can take that to your day-to-day life, you win.

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