Back to the Water: Mental Toughness

This is Nate. I left the water today thinking only about the mental toughness it was going to take to get back to surfing shape and that sharing this process was going to strengthen my resolve to come back stronger.

Today I surfed real waves for the first time in over 2 months. A surfing accident left me with two ligament tears in my knee and I felt ready to move on from rest and recovery. Those 90 minutes on the water revealed that the biggest test was going to be mental.

The moment I arrived at the peak and felt the power of that first 7’ set wave come through I knew I wasn’t ready, not for that. In this instant I realized that the mental challenges of overcoming an injury were going to weigh harder than the physical ones.

My plan was always to ease into it. I knew more about what I didn’t want to do than what I did. I didn’t want to hit the lip. I didn’t want to drive through a hard bottom turn. I didn’t want to set my rail and push through a cutback.  I didn’t want to be caught in a heavy or bumpy section with unpredictable results.

I fought off frustration the entire first hour. My eyes drifted, zeroing in on little wedges, corners and shoulders, softer and more forgiving sections to test my knee. Less confident and out of position I missed a number of waves, most often too far out on the shoulder, hesitant to get where I knew I needed to be.

The healthy version of me would know exactly how to approach the session, how to surf the wave, read it and let my body flow. On the water I found that all the things I didn't want to do left me uncertain of what to actually do. The ocean is unpredictable and I was concerned that weird bump or dumpy section was going to force my body to react in a way my knee wasn’t ready for.

Building a bit of confidence throughout the session I caught half a dozen waves and kept it simple. I trimmed down the line and ejected at the closeout section, built some speed pumping through a steep section on one and smoothly kicked out of another. I was feeling better.

Going to go back out in the afternoon and see what happens.