BOOKTrainingBlogAboutAthletesConnectGet free chapter

Category: Surfing

How to overcome fear of big waves

"What if I get caught up inside? What if I'm held down for multiple waves?" Taking a set of big waves on the head, staying calm and not panic is easier said than done. One wave on the head is doable for most surfers. But if it's the first wave of the set and the second wave rolls in and you can’t get a full lungs of air, the panic sets in and it's full on survival mode. "If I could just control the panic…"


A while back I got an email from an incredible pro surfer Austin Ware from California, who was competing in the QS. Austin wanted to be able to surf bigger waves and feel more confident in doing so. He was having problems surfing big waves because he had a near drowning experience when he was younger which had created unconscious mental scarring.

These “mental scars” kept reminding him of the incident every time the waves got bigger. Which in turn made him feel anxious and nervous before he even got to the line up. The worst was that when he wiped out and got held under for too long he started to panic. Panicking leads to underperformance, uses your oxygen reserves waster and debilitates your small sensory motor skills. In other words you are physically and mentally unable to perform at your 100%. Austin wanted to improve his headspace. He wanted to learn mental techniques to stay calm and so he could get rid of these performance barriers that were holding him back from consistently performing at his best under pressure.

What if you could progressively surf in bigger and heavier conditions without second guessing, panic or the fear of drowning causing you to underperform and wipeout? Does the fear of big waves cause you to get nervous? Do you panic underwater when you get held under for multiple waves or don't get to catch your breath? Does nervousness cause you to make mistakes that put you at a higher risk of drowning in the first place? When the waves get big, do you have the “What if I drown” thoughts?


With Austin we used various different mental techniques so he could safely perform at his 100%. We needed to disconnect the panic reaction from the trigger (big waves) that started the process of self doubt and lead to panicking and short of breath. For that we used techniques such as LOOPER and PULLOUT. We then went on to use REWINDER to erase the emotional links in his past so those emotions of panic, and anxiety wouldn’t come up anymore to destroy his ability to stay calm and relaxed under heavy conditions.

After I did a few tests to see if he was still having that unconscious panic reaction I was confident that we’d taken care that part of the problem. Now here’s where the important part comes in. You must understand and apply the foundations of accelerated progression. Always. You need to know your skill level so you don’t push yourself too far beyond what you are currently capable of doing. You also need to take progressive steps towards your goal which might be a specific size and type of a wave or a break. And you need to be able to control your focus which plays a massive part in your confidence. So let me show you the 3 foundational mental strategies that you should never skimp out on.


I was fortunate enough to learn and develop these MG180X techniques in the past 15 years during my career as a pro snowboarder and as a mental game coach for US Open Champions, Olympic Medalists and X-Games winners. Whether you surf, snowboard or do any other sport these techniques have been tried and tested to work but only when you actually use them and do it consistently.

Contrary to common belief pro’s don’t take big leaps of faith and try to learn how to fly on the way down. Instead they take take minuscule progression steps consistently. They don’t try to improve 50% in one day. Just 1%.The compound effect of tiny daily improvement over time is staggering. Don’t try to surf waves that are way out of your league. Instead slowly but consistently make your way to bigger waves. If you skip steps fear comes up, slaps you in the face and paralyses you. When you take small progression steps, you don’t give the fear a chance to freeze you. Also you gradually and organically build your confidence. You are building evidence for your case. You’re getting the proof you need to show yourself that you can succeed.When ever you feel fear, ask yourself: “Have I done something similar to this before? Is this what I am capable of doing or should I go back a progression step?”

2. MG180X: PLANB
Always have a Plan B.Accidents happen. If things don’t go as planned, how are you going to safely bail out? “Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. ”What’s your “fire exit” strategy? If you get hit with three heavy waves on your head do you know the mental techniques how to stay calm? Have you practiced breathing and conditioning prior to that to have the lung capacity? Do you know how to wipeout in a more safe manner and protect yourself underwater by covering your head and staying relaxed?

There is a saying “Where attention goes, energy grows and results show. ”If you panic underwater, get nervous before dropping in a big wave, second guess yourself or overthink it’s caused by your focus pointing to the wrong direction.“WHAT IF I wipeout, hit my head and drown?” is fuel for the fears fire. Your imagination gives the instructions that your body blatantly executes. If you focus on all the ways you might fail, you are giving that as a command for your body to follow. Instead what you need to do is reverse your focus. Prime your body to succeed by imagining all the ways HOW you will successfully pull of that heavy barrel or big wave. Fill your mind with the perfect performance so there is no room in your your thoughts for of failure. And if you do end up thinking negative thoughts, smile at them. Don't give them the power by giving them attention or take them seriously. Laugh them away,

Beat fear and control your nerves

When you're ready to step up your game like Austin did and learn mental techniques and mindsets to become the best version of yourself take a look at the Pro Mental Game book.

Subscribe to level up & get 10% off
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

© 2013 - 2019 All rights reserved. Read our terms and conditions.