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Reality check: Does your confidence match your ability?

What a difference a day can make.

On Saturday, after having just delivered one of our final Learn to ocean swim clinics of the season, we had to cancel the Negotiating the surf clinic that was next up.

Why? There was no surf. Not a wave in sight. And, as the name suggests, if there is no surf, there is nothing to negotiate.

Twenty-four hours, and a switch in swell direction later, The North Bondi Classic was called off due to dangerous surf conditions.

By Monday the swell had subsided, and it stayed that way through Tuesday too.

Then yesterday morning, I arrived at the beach at 5.45am to a strong southerly and some pretty decent surf, I’d say it was on par with Sunday. I was at the beach to lead one of my regular morning ocean fitness classes.

The six participants in this group are your average enthusiastic developing ocean swimmers. In the preceding 5-weeks, we’d had hardly a bump to contend with, but, the crew were fit, had great technical skills (of course) and were confident in the open water.

Here’s the thing. When we hit the surf, self-confidence at an all-time high, it all counted for nothing. The waves were relentless, the technique went out the door, and all of a sudden the confidence had gone. No one made it out the back.

While we had enjoyed some fantastic sunrise ocean swims in the weeks leading up to this, the crew had become overconfident in their ability and out of practice. It was a reality check!

By the end of the class, we were back on track, everyone had found their rhythm and we’d all made it behind the break.

At an ocean swim, organisers don’t have the luxury to coach everyone through the surf, tweak techniques and build up confidence. While some swimmers would have no issues taking on the conditions, there would be a considerable number of swimmers, under the pressures of an event, who would quickly find themselves out of their depth.

For every swimmer I’ve coached in the ocean whose ability has matched their confidence, there has been a dozen who have overestimated their ability.

The ocean is a great and powerful leveller, ensure you’re giving it the respect it deserves. Trust the experts.

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Andre Slade

Andre is the owner of OceanFit with over 20 years in the swimming education, lifeguarding and coastal safety industry.

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