surfing frustration
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What to do in your surfing when feeling frustrated, stuck or in a negative loop

When things in your surfing aren't connecting, feel like crap or are frustrating you may be finding yourself stuck in a loop and feeling like your surfing is going backwards.

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Full Guide

I had no intention of making this podcast episode. Something happened to me this morning that I just went, shit, you need to make this episode, it is powerful and it's something you should talk about. 

It's this concept that we all go through and it's being in a negative rut.

When things in your surfing aren't connecting, when things in your surfing feel like crap, or when you're frustrated in your surfing, it's just eating at you and it's kind of how I've been for a while now in my surfing. 

Frustration with my surfing

In that things in life have been affecting my fun for surfing. It sounds odd. Surfing is my hobby, my love, it’s what I work in, so much of my life is surfing. All of my friends surf and life is centred around surfing, but I was having this frustration and this feeling of just urgh! but that's exactly how it feels. 

Just this big why? Why?

And there are a couple of reasons for this. And a lot of it has to do with life and when things get busy, all these things are kind of detracting from what you're trying to do, and they're finding their way and sneaking their way into how you're having fun, and it's frustrating. 

But I was sitting here this morning going through all these things and I have a morning start-up and I’m trying to get back to good habits.

I've fallen out of some good habits and getting back to them and being back in this space of doing my morning start-ups, trying to make sure that I get everything done that day.

The “OH, SHITTTTT” Moment

During this, I go through a couple of visualizations and some of them are about work, family and some of them are about surfing. They're all there to try and keep me on track of what my goals are for the year. This isn't a powwow about goal setting, but setting the scene.

When I got to the visualisation that I do for my surfing and trying to rebuild this good habit, my first response on seeing it was just uhhhh. 

I just dropped all this tension I didn't even know I had in my body, dropped all these different things, feeling in my body, and I just went…. shit….. 

That was such a pivotal moment.

I need to talk about this because it's instantly just reconnected and reminded me about what I'm doing, why I'm trying to do these things in my surfing, what this should feel like and what the hell are you doing to yourself?

I have been my own worst enemy and need to explain how we get out of this negative rut, because you may be going through this. 

And life is very different to everyone, but very similar at the same time that things get busy. And for those who listened to episode 50 of the podcast or the update episode for returning to the podcast. 

I had the birth of our first child & we moved house on the same day. 

That's the very short and sweet of it and it's a lot of chaos, a lot of things going on and a lot of things that needed to happen and be done. So when life gets really busy and you feel all this pressure on, I have to get A, B, C, D done and I also have to get all these things done for work and all these things for the house and be present with my family.

And you start getting overwhelmed with all these different things happening at once that it starts to impact you. And with my personality type of wanting to try and get all these things done and to-do lists that don't get done, they gnaw at me and start putting me down into a negative spiral to the point that I was getting so frustrated about the to-do list that had to-do lists in them and multiple to-do lists.

Dealing with internal conflict

It just got to a point where I was getting so stressed and my partner was sitting there talking to me saying, “You need to go surf”.

But then when I would surf, if that surf wasn't good, which if you listen to some of the other episodes of the podcast, I'm dragging things out into the surf before I’ve even started.

I'm setting myself up for a bad time and bad expectations, bringing all this negative energy because I felt I had so many other things to do. 

When you've got a young family, this idea of surfing for yourself when you have all these other things to do for other people, you care about them and you want your family to be well while also getting things done, it felt like this internal conflict and that this was maybe not the best thing I should be doing with my time.

When those surfs, weren’t living up to my expectations, I was exiting the water thinking I didn't have a fun surf and now I'm going to feel bad because my partner sacrificed a bit of time and allowed me to do this. It made me feel this sense of frustration or guilt which put me in a negative headspace with my surfing. 

Whereas this morning, going through my morning start-up, visualising and thinking about my surfing - it was completely changed instantly. 

My visualisation

So when I visualize my surfing, I don't tend to do a visualization on a specific skill. I tend to do a visualization on it overall, If I do a visualization on a specific skill, it's because I'm working on that in the moment.

This is more about what I want my surfing to look and feel like to me, and when I say, look, I don't care what it looks like to others, it's very much, am I happy with it? 

So when I went through this visualization, I didn't even start it and I just went, Oh, that is the point. That is the whole reason. And it is feeling good, smooth, effortless surfing, where I'm happy with the technique but it’s more about fun. I'm happy with what I'm doing on the wave and I'm performing at a higher level than what I am, you know, yesterday. But it's not always this grind of like, I have to be better. I have to be better, I have to be better.

It's just this progression towards being better and this constantly chipping away at it. When I got to that and I had this moment, it released all this tension, I was like, Holy crap, this is happening. I've pushed myself to a corner of frustration, trying to do too many things at once, even though the best thing for me is to go surfing, it came down to I need to reset to change those expectations of my surfing and enjoy just being there, but also allow that time away from all the busy life things to be present in the moment.

These are the things I wasn't doing because I felt the stress and the pressure of so many to-do lists, so many things to do. The time for surfing felt not productive, and I hate saying that and using that word, but I just felt there was so much better use of my time. 

I thought I might have to take a break from surfing and I would become more of a weekend warrior than surf when there are good conditions or whenever I can.

I hope that that kind of brings you up to speed, where things are at, how it's been feeling, and you might not feel the importance of that moment because it's it was my moment. It's not your moment, and it's changing how things are moving for me.

The new board dilemma

Another thing that I want to add to that is that a new board was bought during this period as well, and the excitement for that board didn't help. 

I’m so happy to have this new shortboard, love it, stoked, but expectations were built around I want to surf this board, yet the conditions didn’t suit it. I'm therefore going to force myself to ride this board in conditions that don't suit.

And right now I'm sitting here saying this, smiling and laughing at myself because that's just so stupid because I’ve got a mid-length, longboard, foamie. Go pick the board that's the most fun to suit that day instead of forcing a shortboard in crap conditions.

Getting out of this negative loop

So how do we get out? And the first thing for me and other people is identifying it. And I've been aware of it, my partner and friends have also been aware of it. To the point that they’ve been saying, “What do we do to kick him out of this? He's focusing on things that aren't important now.”

Identify the issue: What's Important Now?

And that comes back to this question, and it's been brought up in the podcast before. What's important now? 

Sometimes you have to ask yourself that question and when you've got this to-do list and you have this internal pressure, you have to realise it is entirely self-created. 

Identifying that is massive. 

If you're in a situation where you've got someone above you putting this pressure on you, it's identifying what's important now, what can you control and what's going to make you feel the best in that sphere of what’s controllable. 

Sometimes just getting those to-do lists done is it, and there are times when you need to look at all the things going on and you need to turn around and ask yourself “What's important now?”.

And it might be spending time with your family or running out for a surf.

If you keep trying to force yourself to do a task, is this a good use of your time or is going to exercise, going to the gym, or going for a surf? What's important now? 

Will that reset benefit me for the rest of the day?

Sometimes a reset is powerful in setting you up, stopping you and giving you a chance to not think about it and clear your head. 

But then sometimes surprisingly, in those moments, you have your best thoughts because your head's been cleared. There's no pressure. 

So bringing things back to what's important now, which for me was not to go out and surf your brand new shortboard and force it in conditions that don’t suit.

What was important to me then was either do I go and do this chore, do I go and smash out some work, do I spend time with my family or do I go have fun in the surf? 

And the word fun wasn't being put into my brain. I was going to surf this board the way that I wanted to, even though the conditions aren’t allowing it because you're so excited about this.

But then when that surf doesn't live up to expectations, it all gets negative. So acknowledge what's going on and ask yourself what's important because that should be your first reset. Because if you can't identify what's important, then maybe you need to figure that one out. 

Reset and change the repeating behaviour

Following on from that, it's then how do we properly reset? How do we change the habits, the behaviour, the mood, whatever it is that we're stuck in?

Something has to change. 

This is where things like pattern interrupters can help you break the cycle and do something different.

How do you change that repeat behaviour though? That’s going to come down to your personality and/or what you are working on. 

When you're in this negative loop, for me, I think stopping and setting the expectation or removing the expectation and that I'm just going out to surf because, hey, anything after getting in the water is a win.

Anything beyond that, it's fun and setting the right expectations. That's not about what I do when out in the surf. It's just about being there and being out in the water. I could have also spoken to a friend and said, “Hey, this is what's going on in my head - can you help me kick it”.

It's anything that you can do or use to change that constant loop of negativity. Sometimes it can be just taking a breath after standing up on your wave to reset and think stop monkey brain.

However, that can be hard, and this is where you're fighting your brain and you need it to do something different. 

Make yourself accountable

That's where this visualization kicked in for me. Sometimes it’s easier to take on other people's advice and sometimes it's not, but taking your own advice is hard. It's like, I know that, I know that, but you don't actually action it.

But seeing something you've said, seeing something you've written to yourself. The cue I use for my visualization. It was that, oh shit moment, I said this, this is what I wrote and said to trigger my visualization to keep myself on track. 

It was just unquestionable. This is what it is, this is what it should be and this is what you're doing. 

So writing these things down and making yourself accountable is immensely powerful.

Talking to a friend is accountability. Find a way to socially make yourself accountable to make that change. Call up a friend and just say “Hey, let's go for a surf”.

Or a group of friends, or go be with that friend that is the funnest person to surf with. And it's not about what you do. It's just about the time you spend there and enjoying that. 

Or make yourself accountable to have something where you hold yourself accountable to like my visualisation cue that forces me to go that's what it's meant to be, I've said this, I can't run from that.

So hold yourself accountable if you feel embarrassed to say it out loud.

Do something that will make you change this constant loop. And if you can introduce accountability to it, it's going to change everything.


You need to accept where you are at and what’s going on. You don't have to always be grinding to be better. You don't always have to be achieving something. Accepting that right now is the biggest thing for me. The next surf I have is going to be just about accepting that and setting an intention to just have fun.

It's how that intention or expectation makes something fun. How do they make me feel in this current loop of “I've got so much to do, I need to be productive”?

How do I not allow that productive word to come in for me personally? Now, for others, it might be “Oh, I can't get my pop up my pop-up sucks”. People who have pop-up problems hammer themselves. If you're in this situation, don't look at the negatives, Look at the positives.

Don't look at how many waves you lost or how many you made out of how many you attempted. Celebrate the wins, you had good waves and you did something you’re happy about, and it's not about what you didn't do.

On those waves, you did what you wanted to do and that's fun. And on the other waves, what can you learn(if that will not put you in a negative loop)?

If you get video feedback again, look at that and think, “Cool, what's the improvement? What can I see in this moment or what can I learn from?” Overall, you can see little steps of improvement. Don't beat yourself up, a lot of us are our own worst enemies, especially in improving your surfing. 

Force yourself to say something positive about your surfing or the video footage that you've got. 

Or ask someone else because other people are going to view your surfing in a different way than you do. And this is true for so many people, especially in the OMBE community.

I see them post other videos and they hammer themselves and then other people come in and say “I wish I could pop up like that”, “I wish I could do this like that. I wish I could turn like that” 

And this is something that I should have been doing as well in that I was hammering myself on what I was and wasn't doing, especially when I'm trying to force this board to do the wrong thing, when I feel that I should be doing other things because I don't have much time in the day to get everything done.

You listen to that and you think, Oh, bloody hell, mate, no wonder you felt like crap. No wonder you felt frustrated in your surfing, you were an absolute mess in your head. What the hell were you doing? You just kind of want to paddle over and slap me and say “Shut up, Just be here. This is fun. Enjoy this.”


This episode has been very unscripted because I just wanted to take this raw moment of this is what happened. I need to talk about it. If visualization is powerful do that. So find a way to acknowledge that something's going on. Someone else will bring you into it. If you are feeling frustrated, you will know something's going on.

You may just not know what the cause of it is. So find that frustration, figure out what it is, and try and acknowledge it. Then ask yourself what's important now?

What is and tie it back to fun, de-escalate it, reduce the stakes. Don't make it about what you do. Make it about just being there. Have fun, Find a way.

Hold yourself accountable. My visualization written down for myself was holding myself accountable the minute I saw it, I couldn't run from it - but I hadn’t looked at in a long time.

Have friends hold you accountable. Just go surfing with them. Tell them what's going on. Find a way to improve accountability or introduce it so that when you're there, you're like, yeah, this is what's important.

It's a reminder it's keeping you on track to this is what's important. And then when you're there, find a way to introduce the change. Change your behaviour, change your habit, whatever is that's causing this negative loop, and find a way to stop in your tracks and reset. Now each person and each scenario is different, but a lot of the time it's going to be your head and what's going on in there because it's a negative loop.

You'll find that when these things leave your head, things will change in your surfing. When you're not stressed, you're not tense, you're going to feel better, you're going to move better. Things are going to feel easier. So find a way to stop that cycle in whatever scenario.

Don't beat yourself up. Don't push through all this pain. Ask a friend. They're going to see things differently to you and find ways to be positive about it. Be overly positive to find something to say “This is what I should focus on. This is what I should tell myself”. Because when you start getting out of a negative loop, when you start climbing up out of the hole, things feel exciting.

The difference now is I'm excited to go for a surf, more excited than I've been for probably a month but the to-do lists haven’t gone anywhere. It is just the way I view it all.

But I have to check myself in that, is that excitement set with the right expectation that for me? It needs to be I just want to go and feel what that will be like without all this weight that I have self-inflicted upon myself and just feel free. 

So hopefully this very abrupt, spur-of-the-moment podcast episode has helped you with getting over some negative crap, or just understanding that the next time you get into it, you can stop it before it happens.

Hopefully, there are things to learn from this experience and there might be an update on this story for me. I think I'm going to be doing a lot of wave pool surfing coming up in the next couple of months. I also have wavepool coaching coming up in the UK, so I'm going to be free from excuses that I can make, that hold any weight.

I can't make excuses like the waves were crap at the wavepool because it's 100% me at the wavepool.

I think there'll be an update in the future about this topic because this whole episode, I just feel so much happier about it. It feels like a weight has been lifted.

Written by
Luke Hardacre
surf coaching