Here's The Key To Taking Control Of Your Mind In A Wipeout

1 Jan 2017 1

That moment before you expend all the crucial oxygen in your lungs, Photo by Fenna De King

That moment before you expend all the crucial oxygen in your lungs, Photo by Fenna De King

COASTALWATCH | TRAVEL

The Power Of Breath

Words by Doug Lees

Being a keen surfer and having a fear of the water is more common than you think.

Have you ever felt the fear of gasping for air while being held under a wave? The feeling that you are not going to make it to the surface in time for another breath.

Have you been close to panicking underwater, with your head and body almost bursting from lack of breath?

All of us have experienced this in a surf session, regardless of skill level and experience. Once you’re in this position, how best should you handle this situation, and how do you overcome your underwater nightmare?

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David Mesnard is a French-born surfer who has been operating surfing charters onboard his boat, Ocean Divine in the Maldives for the past 10 years. As a long-practiced free diver, he found comfort in, and below the water at an early age. Practicing Freediving changed his thinking in many areas of his life and gave him the advanced mental development required to improve his skill, and control his breath underwater.

In 1989, David arrived in the Maldives as a young dive instructor and windsurfer. As a diver he naturally took notice of the perfect waves that peel onto the reefs surrounding the islands, and the increasing amount of surfers from all over the world coming to surf these waves. In this environment, it was just a matter of time before he started learning to surf and quickly understood how valuable his freediving skills were, especially when he progressed into waves of consequence.

He improved his surfing ability at a rapid rate due to his lack of fear of the water and hold-downs. He was noticing quickly, how many surfers were skilled in the waves but not the depths below them. Many struggled underwater or during a wipeout and were missing many of the relaxation techniques that freediving had taught him. So he decided to start up a program designed for surfers, teaching them to enjoy their underwater experience as much as the waves above; and The Power of Breath was born.

From 2006, David had finished building a luxury boat called Ocean Divine and began running surf charters, with a unique inclusion for surfers – his freediving and breath control course. As the program developed with each group of guests, he was able to design a course that worked well for both the touring professional surfers like Tom Carroll and Stephanie and the recreational surfers who frequent the atolls.

The Power of Breath combines the art of free diving and it’s techniques, to help you understand how to take control of yourself and your emotions through relaxation, mind set and breathing techniques. Us surfers can be a tricky and unique bunch, so David has tailored his approach and works with building confidence around the difficult surf-related situations we all have, or could get into.

David works with legendary, Tom Carroll in his breath control

David works with legendary, Tom Carroll in his breath control

David’s tips for increasing the power you have over your breath:

"What am I doing wrong when I am down, underwater after a wipeout?"

Just as in life in general, everything is about control and your mind. Here are few steps that you should avoid before you are consumed by a wave that you would consider bigger than you are used to surfing, or paddling outside your comfort zone.

Firstly try and get your breathing in a rhythm so you can move with the rhythm of the waves. Every one of us can normally see the moment when we are going to be taken down by a wave in a wipeout, just ahead of time. At this moment you have still the time to prepare yourself before the beating.

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- Take a large amount of air into your lungs! The more air you have in your lungs, the longer you can handle the situation and remain in control.

- Most surfers release their air as soon as they hit the surface and they can feel the carbon dioxide rushing in their veins; this is totally wrong. You have to keep the air in. This will keep you more buoyant and will reduce your time underwater.

- Timing is everything. With no air in the lungs, most of us are trying to rush back to the surface with extreme energy, this is consuming so much oxygen regardless of how and when the wave releases its power. The water is 800 times denser than the air, and all movements should be controlled in an efficient way.

- Your lungs are like a bank account; don’t spend all your oxygen at once. If you can stop and keep the maximum amount of air in your lungs you will last longer underwater, and keep yourself buoyant.

- If you fight the wipeout, you’ll feel the pain. You have to go with the movement and motion of what is happening, switch to a relaxed mode from the time that the wave releases it’s power until it lets you resurface.

- Go to your “happy place” during the turbulence and begin to take back control.

You will be bumped and tossed sideways and upside down, you will find it hard to concentrate and all kind of illusions will appear to your mind. That’s when you will need the resources to be in control of your thoughts and emotions. Mindset is the key. This is when you find your happy place to retrieve your control and peace in the time you’re under extreme pressure.

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Generate positive thoughts that take over the negative ones, naturally creeping in with the feeling of panic, anxiety and loss of control. The mind is so powerful and efficient when it’s clear of negativity and panic, as soon as you regain control it will be clear what is happening and how you will survive.

A wipeout is something that is going to happen in almost very surf session. You may not like it, but the worst thing you can do is to fear it. You have to avoid the panic zone, and try and be in control no matter the situation. We spend hours working on manoeuvres, but how much time are we spending working our underwater skills and developing our fears into facets of strengths? For the sake of our own safety and comfort, it is so important to train our mind to hold our breath longer.

You can learn to hold your breath for three times longer than you can right now with just one week’s training with David aboard the Ocean Divine. It could save your life and change the way you live each day.

More than just a surf trip

More than just a surf trip


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