Are you going insane in the surf?

It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

This quote has come to mind a lot lately as I’ve watched ocean swimmers swim out through the surf.

I see them start well, they’re full of enthusiasm and they hit the water with gusto.

Then it starts to break down, and it happens pretty rapidly.

The first wave approaches, and they prepare to negotiate it.

They know they should be getting under the wave, into the calm water beneath, but they’re cautious, and then they don’t quite get under in time, get down deep enough or spend long enough under the water.

While they’re catching their breath and recovering from the first wave, the next one approaches. Fresh with the knowledge they misjudged the first wave, the second wave should be a cinch, right?

But, the same happens: too cautious, too late, too shallow, too short.


So what’s going on here?

Well, this ‘insane’ behaviour is likely due to one of the following:

  1. They’ve never been taught surf navigation techniques, so they’re winging it, or
  2. They’ve been taught (or taught poorly), but are unable to execute.

In the case of the former, this is fixed with lessons, because winging it obviously isn’t working out. Navigating the surf should be continuous, smooth and effortless.

When it comes to the later, either one or both, of these two things are stopping you executing properly.

  1. You’re inexperienced, or you’ve never had feedback on your technique in situ. You need to get into the surf more and practice, but more importantly, you need real-time feedback so you can address any bad habits.
  2. Your swimming conditioning is poor, and it’s holding back your ocean swimming. There’s no substitute for being a fit and strong swimmer, so hit the pool and work on your fitness, speed and strength as a swimmer.

The start of the season is a good time to check in on yourself in the surf. Does it feel effortless swimming out through the waves, or are you going insane?

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