How To Surf With Confidence

Mike Parsons on the mentality behind surfing better

Parson's apt pupil, Kolohe Andino, uses power and flow without a second thought. Photo: Lowe-White

With decades spent as a professional surfer, Mike Parsons knows how important confidence is when it comes to reaching your potential in the lineup. Currently working as coach for Kolohe Andino, Parsons has placed a solid emphasis on building not only Kolohe’s physical game, but his mental game as well. Lucky for us, we got a moment with Parsons to talk about how important confidence is when it comes to taking your surfing to the next level.

Confidence is at the foundation of every great surfer. There’s a definite connection between being confident in your abilities and surfing well. You can be a tremendously talented surfer, but if you lack confidence, your surfing will suffer and you’ll never really reach your potential. Confidence is at the basis of all great surfers and confidence comes from surfing well. Surfing well comes from lots of practice and good equipment. So much of surfing is mental; it’s in your mind, you want to feel like you've got an advantage, and that builds confidence.

In competition, be prepared. If you paddle out to a heat and are feeling unsure, you can get rattled really quickly. But if you're prepared for your heat and know exactly what it's going to take to beat your opponent, you're going to be starting the heat off on the right foot. If you want to use Kolohe as an example, when he hits the water, he knows which strengths of his he has to play up to beat his opponent. If you want to surf with more confidence, you need to prepare, prepare, prepare. You have to know yourself, and your opponent. Leave as little to chance as possible.

Know your strengths. A lot of confidence comes with your personality, but that's not to say that you can't learn to build more confidence in your surfing. For me, I remember having Tom Carroll in a heat and seeing him on the beach before we paddled out. One look at him and I instantly knew that he was going to win that heat. To be confident, you have to be able to look at your opponent and know that you can take the heat. Like I said before, a lot of that comes from tons of preparation.

Be decisive. There's another key element that comes with every great, confident surfer: You have to be willing to follow what you believe is right and not worry about what anyone else thinks. Kelly is the perfect example of that. He'll be ridiculed by some people for the boards he's riding, and then he'll go out there and completely own the heat. A few months later everyone's riding what he's riding. He sets his own trends, makes his own decisions, and sticks to his plans without second-guessing himself.

Be confident, not arrogant. There's a fine line between being confident in your ability and being cocky. You don't want your confidence to turn into arrogance and you have to respect your opponent. You need to know that you're going to be able to win the heat, but he's not going to just hand it to you. You’re gonna have to work for it.

What happens on land translates to the lineup. Being confident outside of surfing definitely influences your confidence in the water. The best surfers almost always seem to be really happy people. It all spills over. Look at Mick, Joel, and Kelly. They have balance in their lives and they all seem really content. That's how you build confidence.