If you’ve been surfing for a while, it’s definitely happened to you. You took off too late on a wave that may have been a tad out of your league. You missed your drop, you skipped down the face of the wave like a smooth stone on a pond, and then you were picked up and tossed over the falls as if you weighed next to nothing.

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Most likely that wasn’t the end of it either. Chances are you were rolled under water, tumbled, and pulled in every direction. And as soon as you were able to fight to the surface for that breath of air you so desperately needed, it happened again. Another wave lands on top of you and you feel like you are in a washing machine all over again. You panic a little and fight toward the surface. All you can do is wait until the set passes and you get a break long enough to grab your board and head back out… or toward shore.

This is a reality of surfing, especially once you graduate to larger, more advanced waves. And no matter whether you have been surfing for a year or a decade, mentally, wipeouts like this leave their mark. They cause you to hesitate in the water. They may cause you to limit yourself to smaller waves and easier take offs. Or maybe they even keep you out of the water for a significant period of time. And that’s normal. But it’s time to get back in the water and get over your fears. Here’s exactly what you need to do to put that wipeout behind you.

1. Face the facts

Think about your wipeout. Think about the time you spent underwater. Really think about it. Chances are each hold down was less than 10 seconds, even a wipeout at some of the world’s biggest waves will only leave you under water for 20-30 seconds. Now, if I asked you to hold your breath in a pool for 10 seconds 10 times in a row, you would be just fine. So, next time you’re under, remember that. Remember that your lung capacity far exceeds the amount of time you will be under water and stay calm.

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2. Don’t Panic

Armed with knowledge that your hold downs aren’t as long and as scary as they once seemed, you can now approach the water, and each wave, with confidence. Use that confidence to stay calm under water. Don’t waste energy and oxygen panicking and fighting the wave, relax and wait till it’s over. You will find that when you relax, most wipeouts and hold downs are really no big deal.

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3. Study the Break

One way to avoid bad wipeouts all together is to be knowledgeable of the break you’re surfing. Don’t just show up and paddle out, really make an effort to get to know the spot. Watch the wave, observe the tide, make a mental note of where all rocks, reefs, and other surfers are located. Look for channels to make your paddle out easier. And only once you feel you have a firm understanding of the spot, should you paddle out.

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4. Remember Why You Surf

It’s easy to forget when you get scared, apprehensive, or anxious in the water, but surfing is something you choose to do. It’s pure recreation with just you and the ocean. There’s nothing better than gliding down the face of a wave. Sometimes we forget just how fun surfing is supposed to be. So, relax, have a good time, and get out there.

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