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Stress-free Surfing
8 April 2016

WA Surfing: Foundation Elective Workshop

8 April 2016, Margaret River Karate Club
Story by Maia Simmonds, WAIS athlete, World Championship and World Cup Australian Rowing Team representative



What an apt time to be heading down south, with the Margaret River Surfing Pro getting underway the day of our workshop! Jesse Phillips and I had the pleasure of working with 8 young surfers who pulled themselves away from the distraction of the competition to take part in this advanced core workshop.


We kicked things off with a round of true/false in which I was pitted against each surfer to see whether they could trick me into guessing the wrong statement of two about themselves, one of which was true and one of which was false. I think I generally held my own but admit to being thrown by the "I like chocolate or I like lollies” test, where I was skeptical that either could be legitimately false. (It turns out it was more of a ranking of likes rather than one being disliked, which was convenient as the prize for beating me was lollies!)

We began by talking about pressure and stresses and how these impact on sporting performance.

As the group move along their sporting pathway and other life commitments increase, we want to learn how to balance these so that there is still time for surfing training and time for competitions.

We looked to Sally Pearson’s 2012 Olympic race as an example of someone performing under the pressures of the expectations from prior performances and from the nation as a whole. Looking at profiles of successful Olympic athletes we saw those that succeeded in achieving their goals were the ones that planned well and dealt with the pressure situations the best.

As a group we talked about what each athlete’s highest level of competition was, what level and type of pressure they’d felt and how they dealt with it. The different rounds the athletes have to make it through to progress in a competition brought different stress levels and it was interesting to discuss where each person felt that the pressure was the most extreme.

We then brainstormed where these sources of expectation that create the pressure we feel come from. The most consistent across this group were family, friends, themselves, coaches, sponsors and the expectation stemming from the money spent to get to competition.

To see how stress impacts performance we timed ourselves undertaking some seemingly simple tasks, such a tying up shoelaces. Then we stressed ourselves, in this case, by being led by Jesse running around the building, star jumping and doing pushups before attempting the task again. For some it led to fumbling fingers but others seemed sharpened by the exercise and improved. This linked in well to thinking about how different personalities might need to calm down or amp up for competition depending on their general life stress levels.

Given that there will always be long and short-term stressors on an athlete it is important to have some tools to reduce regular life stress. Among a number of options we looked at deep breathing and relaxation and stretched ourselves out on the mats of the karate club to be led by Jesse through some progressive muscle relaxation.

The beauty of being in Margaret River during the Pro meant that in our breaks we could stream the surfing and have some of the intricacies explained by the experts in our group. I certainly gained significantly more understanding of surfing than I had entered the room with! It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm and dedication of the young group to such a different and exciting sport and I wish them all the best in chasing their surfing dreams.

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