How to Improve on Land – the Visualisation Practice
Surfing is a very technical and difficult sport in which requires great awareness of a persons body and mind. In an average surf it is likely that we would spend a few minutes of the entire session actually up and riding on the wave. But what if you could practice riding the wave for one hour straight? What if you could practice your turns, your timing and your decision making skills on the wave, when ever you wanted?
Well infact, you kind of can.
Visualisation is a tool that is used very commonly among top athletes through a variety of disciplines. Muhammed Ali even swears by it. From athletes at junior levels to those at the olympics, visualising success more often than not is an important part of their process to get them to where they need to be.
Often when practicing visualisation it is important to feel like we are really there. Is it realistic to just turn up in the line up with nobody out and catch the first wave? Do you complete a huge reo without knowing how you caught the wave? No. We need to incorporate the whole experience to help us really reap the benefits of this mental practice. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to get into the visualisation zone.
What does it sound like when you are surfing? Are there birds in the background? Is there the sound of howling wind? Of people? Does the sound change when you duck dive? How intense is this sound?
Is it cold when your toes first enter the ocean? Were the sand dunes hot to run over? Is your wetsuit restrictive? Does the salt burn your eyes? Or do you feel refreshed? Light?
What are you seeing? The sparkle of the sun on the water’s surface? Faces of familiar people you know? The tree that you line yourself up with? Or the thickness of the lip when you go to hit it? This is a very important sense to include.
What does it smell like when you paddle out the back? Is it salty? Fishy? Or can you smell the pine trees from the shore?
Using your senses will get you started and will plunge you into the mental experience of visualisation. However to improve we need to be mindful that we are visualising the correct technique if we want to make visualisation an effective practice. Before you begin to visualise, watch some footage of a professional surfer. Look at how their body interacts with the wave. What sections do they use to turn on? What subtle movements are they doing with their body for each turn?
Often when we go surfing there are things we know we should be doing but we either can’t – or we forget. Use these manoeuvres as a starting point. Visualise yourself paddling in, building up speed, using the waves force and completing that turn thoroughly and effectively. Rather than watching yourself from the shore, have the perspective that you are actually riding the wave yourself. Practice until this perspective seems familiar and finishing that difficult manoeuvre feels normal.
A good time to practice visualisation is just before a surf. This is because the pathways we have created in our minds will be fresh and we will be more likely to follow those pathways. However visualisation is something that needs practice to get used too. Ideally it is best to visualise in an environment that is quiet and relaxing so you can use all of your energy on the mental process, though if you find yourself dozing off at work, or bored on a bus, visualization could be a productive practice to make use of otherwise wasted time.
Overall the best way to improve surfing is to surf, but there are certain exercises we can do on land to fast track our improvement and awareness of our bodies. Visualisation is just one of many tools that athletes can use to improve performance. By building the connection between mind and body, we increase our chances of performing the way we actually want to physically. Since your mentality creates your reality it really is worth 5 minutes of your day to indulge in this practice and begin to create those mental pathways to follow through with in the water.