The "Confidence" Thing
I just got a comment from a surfer in Australia about thanking me writing about the fear. Funny because lately I have also been thinking about the confidence thing, which is either exactly or almost other side of the coin from the fear.
I would say so because as more we conquer the fear the more we become confident.
I am now remembering the first day out at Montara, and I paddled out and I thought that I could never be able to come back to the land. I paddled out with other better surfers when I only had just a few sessions under my belt. Quickly I was pulled away from the comfort of being able to sand on the shallow water, and the panic ensued. I was frantically trying to paddle back, but no matter how hard I tried to paddle I felt like I was getting away from the shore.
Remembering that day from where I am today, it was a sunny clean day without much wave action. But, I do remember that day clearly, and I did think that it would be a horrible day for me and my friend when they would have to call the Coast Guard or something to come rescue me.
Though the fear was mostly inside my brain. I did manage to paddle back to the shore. It was probably only the first 5 minutes that seemed like forever as the shore did not come closer, but once I saw the shore closing in, I felt much better.
At that time, I thought and admired many people having so much confidence in being able to paddle out much further out in the ocean.
Many years later in a local bigger break, a big wave was braking and it was too late to paddle to the outside. The only option was for me to bail (throw the board to the shore just in time -- normally we should not be doing this sort of things, but there was nobody around me so I felt that that was the best thing for me to do.) Instead of my leg being dragged under water, the board slipped away, the leash came undone and I could not find the board. This is probably one of the worst case scenario where it is bigger, stronger and I was already fairly way out. By this session though, I was confident enough that I can swim toward the "zone" so that I can take advantage of incoming wave and I can also take my time getting back there. Still a bit scary, I could keep my calm and slowly swam away from the rip current and toward the shore. Sure enough, in no time I was standing back on the beach and picking up the washed up board, and paddling back out after resting a bit from the swimming. This is where years of short boarding have been really helpful.
Should I have panicked at that moment the situation could have been worse, but I did feel a true sense of confidence.
Sizes of the wave is the same thing. I am now starting to look forward to the days when the swell period is more than 14 or 15 seconds and height can be more than 10 ft. Just a few years ago, I was hoping that it won't get that big. Of course, for many real surfers that probably would be on a smaller on scale, but I know where and when to hit breaks when the situation is like that and how to position myself to enjoy catching waves. The confidence in this area comes from a lot more experience in the wave. Frankly I have not changed too much physically in the past 2-3 years, but my minds are more set to deal with these types of situations, and as a result, I am not particularly struggling to "show off" how strong of a surfer I have gotten, but it is more like part of the environment, like a cat that can easily jump several times over their height, so as a result I am enjoying a wider variety of conditions.
The process was definitely not overnight type thing for me. I do say that I have been working on it on a very gradual basis, but I did identify the various causes of the fear along the way and worked specifically on them.
One of the worst fears that I had for the longest time was that I would get carried away by some strong current and swept away even on days when it is calm and clean, and the more I think about it the more fearful I have gotten. There are one or two news stories like those in a year that usually happen in Pacific Northwest on huge Alaskan swell days (I know enough about it that I won't go out on these types of conditions.) What actually helped me on these fears was that when my board came apart a few times and in all times, I was able to get to the shore in a short time and realized that these types of the fears are not really warranted under the situations I would go out. Also as I have been writing off and on, surfing with other stronger surfers provide additional opportunities to expose myself into the "next level" situations and once I do those a few times, my fear levels tend to go lower.
I know many of you are like me, but I think that with identifying your own fears and then work on them gradually would go a long way in overcoming the fear, and I am using this in my other real life scenarios outside of surfing.