It doesn’t matter how many holes you have in your surfing, by narrowing your focus and learning a few simple tools, we can turn you into a master tactician, a better surfer – and no matter what level you’re at – whether you have ambitions for the ASP World Title, QS, Juniors comps, a local boardriders club comp or even imaginary heats with your mates - a champion in your own right.
1. What do you do best? Reos, cutties, airs? We have to start getting specific and figure how we can bring your best turn/turns into a heat. When you’re staring blankly into the lineup, figuring it’s probably easier to just see what happens, what will happen more often than not, is that you’ll lose. Of course there are a hundred things to think about here – and if you think of all of them when you paddle out, you’ll probably put your leggie on the wrong foot and forget what stance you are. So, instead of trying to do and be everything, you need to narrow your focus to what you do best – and everything will revolve around that anyway. For example, you might tell yourself to “flow," or to “explode." Use a trigger word that will bring out your best surfing. Before you paddle out know where the waves and the sections are that best suit you, or your best turns? You need to be on these waves.
2. Don’t be scared of falling. “I figured the only way I was ever going to win the title," says Mick Fanning, “was to take risks." Falling is part of the terrain to being a champion – and if you’re to beat your local champ, or a high level pro, you need to be comfortable in taking risks. If you fall or fail, figure out why and move on, but don’t ever stop having a go. This way you will always improve. You want to make the feeling of freesurfing as close as possible to the feeling of competing, so don’t change anything. Do your normal routine and do the surfing you enjoy doing and don’t hold back. If you fall, don’t stop going hard, figure out why you fell and move on.
3. Know your opponent. You need to get them out of their comfort zone, whilst getting in your own. Maybe you could badmouth their mother, take a dump in the lineup, talk about how their board bogs, soap up their wax... Or you could know what sections they do their best surfing on and keep them off those waves. A good tip here is to get the lead in the heat early – and watch your opponent start sweating bullets. Then you can ask them questions like," How you going, how long left? Had any good ones?" Knowing full well they are in trouble. If you can win the first half of the heat, more often than not, you will win the heat, so break it up into two parts and aim to win the opening exchanges. This will put you in the driver’s seat for the last exchanges and out of a hassle situation where you need a 3 and get sat on.
4. Have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself or take it too seriously. Remember why you actually surf and test yourself in contests? Because you enjoy it. As Pancho Sullivan once said to me, “We’re not saving the world, we just surf." Go out there and really enjoy the challenge. Be the one that thrives and answers to pressure situations. And always ENJOY!
5. Sharpen the saw: All your answers will evolve with your surfing, so always know where you’re improvement is coming from and your tools to win will stay sharp. Winning may not be everything, but it sure feels good. So try some stuff, enjoy the challenge and do some bicep work in the gym so you don’t have any trouble lifting the silverware when the wins start coming.