5 mental strategies to progress in kitesurfing, surfing or wing foiling
In our big wave kitesurfing serie we follow Appletree’s team rider Evelien Bolle in her journey towards her absolute goal, kiting Nazaré in Portugal. Haven’t read her other blogs yet? Check them out!
We asked Evelien how she prepares for her big goal and if she could share 5 mental strategies that can help you to progress in kitesurfing, wing foiling or just in your daily life. So here are some tips from Evelien.
When I started my ‘road to big wave kitesurfing’, I often had the doubtful question ‘What if..’ popping up in my mind. What if I crash? What if I panic once I take off? What if my kite crashes? What if I get badly injured?
Why is mental training important to progress in kitesurfing?
Big waves are powerful, make you feel humble and can scare you or even worse, make you panic in a bad moment. When riding big waves there is always a risk and the consequences of bad crashes are big. It is easy to get really nervous even before the big waves season has started. Therefore mental training is as important as physical training for me. I started using some mental techniques when preparing for GKA events. The last years I discovered and tested more techniques to progress in kitesurfing. A lot of techniques can be used. Think of e.g. mental imagery or mindfulness meditation. Some techniques did work for me, others didn’t. The best way to learn what works for you is to try some.
To give you some insights and maybe some inspiration, I will describe 5 mental strategies that I use to progress in kitesurfing. I’m convinced that the techniques aren’t just useful for big wave surfing but can also help the recreational kitesurfer that wants to progress in kitesurfing and most of all have a great time on the water.
To prepare myself for kiting a certain wave, I start with studying the wave. How and when does it break? Which wave of the set is the best? Which swell direction is the best. Once I can imagine the set wave I want to take off on, I see myself riding the wave. I try to imagine taking the best trajectory and performing powerful and stylish manoeuvres if the wave allows. Mental imaginary allows me to work on my decision making, technique and learn new manoeuvres. (You can use it for freestyle tricks as well!). More specifically for big waves is that I try to trigger the emotions that I will have when taking off on a big wave. Becoming familiar with these emotions and learning how to control them is my main goal and helps me to progress in kitesurfing.
The body scan is a technique that I use on land, when static free diving, or during whipeouts. On land I can use it to identify some tension in my body. It helps me to understand the effect of stress and emotions on my body or identify parts of my body that are prone to injuries. When injured, it helps me to localize the pain. It allows me to take some distance from the pain. Painful and longterm injuries can have a great impact on my mood and emotions. By taking some distance, I realize that ‘I’m not my pain’. This helps me to handle better the injury and have a more peaceful and happy mind in general.
When I started preparing for big waves and wanted to progress in kitesurfing, I did hear big wave surfers talking about their ‘happy place’. When having a bad crash and being held underwater, their mind goes to their ‘happy place’ far away from the reality of the crash. It allows them to stay relaxed and consume less oxygen during the wipeout. I actually had no idea what my ‘happy place’ could be and how to find out.
During a free diving workshop I learned to defocus. Instead of focusing on noise or certain images you let all the noises or images interfere. You’re not really aware of the different noises or images anymore. Your mind will automatically go to your ‘happy place’. I like to practice defocusing and going to my ‘happy place’ so I can apply it during whipeouts. For me, it is also a good way to relax my body and my mind.
Breathing meditation is a very basic mindfulness practice. All you have to do is focus your attention on your breathing. The way it feels to inhale and exhale. I like to focus on breathing exercises e.g. the 4 – 7 – 8 technique (Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of 7 and exhale for a count of eight). By becoming better you can use more counts. Breathing exercises helps me to prepare for free diving and have a longer breath hold. It can be performed quite easily during the day (even at your desktop or during your daily commute). Breathing functions as a bridge between the body and the mind.
As Haemin Sunim says : “When our breathing is calm, our mind is calm.” A short breathing exercise before taking off on a wave, before going to kite in challenging conditions or before starting an important meeting can help a lot.
Happiness comes from the moment, not the goal
Mindfulness helps me to live in the moment and worry less about the present or the past. Reaching my goal won’t make me happy if I try to control all the variables. By cultivating quietude in my mind and by enjoying every moment of the process, I try to maximize chances to reach my goals and progress in kitesurfing. Failing and making mistakes are all part of the process. Just keep going and try different approaches.
And to finish just remember:
‘There is no such thing as being completely prepared. Life is an adventure, through which we
learn and mature. Of course, we must consider all our options carefully. But if we wait for
100% certainty, then it is often too late; (Haemin Sunim)’
See you all on the water!
For the Dutchies, Evelien recorded also a podcast with a sport psychologist about this subject. You can watch it on Youtube or listen on Spotify. She will share a lot more than these 5 mental strategies to progress in kitesurfing.
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