I always knew there was a chance of improving my performance if I worked on my mental strength !
But I never really took it seriously. I read a couple of books (like In pursuit of excellence, The secret etc. ) and explored my own feelings, I was too busy being a kid to actually think about thinking. The irony was, thinking back I was present, I felt no pain, I didn't know the meaning of anxiousness. I simply surfed hard and felt good, bad, angry, and so on, normal emotions that drifted in and out like the tide. To be honest as a kid all I really worked on for my surfing was physical fitness. It made me feel strong and I suppose in a sense it gave me mental confidence knowing that I had strength and flexibility on my side. This was about as far as my mental strengths went back then. I would still get frustrated and angry when having bad surfs, or losing an event. I couldn't control my mental emotions, I didn't have the tools to do so. My brain stem did not have the capacity.
But what if I found the tools and turned it all around. What if I decided I was in charge now, that I can control my own brain stem and the messages it sends out ! What if I could calm the anger and settle the frustration. We all have the capacity to do this, and without going into the science I can tell you it's possible, I have felt it and it feels good.
I surfed competitively all over the world from the age of 11. I won and lost, I gained knowledge and experience of a traveling professional surfer. It's a dream right ! Let me tell you the dream is only a dream if you feel it is in your heart, I certainly had moments of this for sure, but take a look around and you will find some of the people you think are the dream livers of today's world due to their external entities i.e money or nice things are actually depressed and still haven't found what they're looking for.
Traveling the world surfing and getting paid to do it, I'm not saying I was depressed at all, but I certainly felt lonely and lost at times. Traveling as the only English in a group of French will certainly do that to you. Sure I should have learnt how to speak French, but no, instead I studied their expressions and their body language and most of the time thought they were bad mouthing me behind my back. Looking back now, I really doubt that was the case, but I now know that only my mind was manifesting these thoughts. I could have easily choose to think they were all talking about how much of a legend I was, but instead I choose the opposite, which lead to a lack of confidence, resulting in bad surfs and heat losses. My mind simply was in the wrong place to be a competitor. My thoughts grew weaker with my modest approach, lack of enthusiasm and lack of fight. I remember in a few heats paddling to the second best bank to surf on my own and to get away from the battle. Occasionally this worked, but most of the time my scores would be less due to surfing waves with half the potential.
I was happy with my achievements of English, British and UK Pro Tour champion, but I really couldn't see how to take it to the next level !
Over the last few years I had lost Rip Curl as a sponsor and lost my drive to compete. The compassion and feelings just weren't there. I started letting out a bell tent on Airbnb in my parents field for some pocket money. That then grew to a small property let business that I now run with my partner Hannah. The last 4 years I must have changed 1000 beds and scrubbed many toilets.
In doing this my mind became aware of normality, I had stepped into a different way of life, with a 'normal' job, which in a way was quite satisfying. Self employed with no pressure, quite a luxury really. Nonetheless, day in day out cleaning properties can become quite mundane and I came to realise it might be time to step back into what I was good at and what I had worked on my whole life.
Having some time out and a bit of a reality check has given me that fuel to surf with passion again. I'm fired up to see where surfing can take me, or even where I can take surfing !
I was sitting out in the lineup one day at my local surf break Porthmeor, when good old friend of mine John Navin turns and says to me "so what about the Olympics then Jayce ? You're surfing well enough in my eyes"... Sometimes all it takes to shift your mindset is just that. A little nudge from a close friend or a little vision of madness ! That comment has set me on a path of positivity. I sprinted up the hill after that session, my eyes were wide open and something had changed within me. I had a paradigm shift in the right direction. Since then I have been training hard, exploring my mental capacity and in general just feeling great to be buzzing on surfing again.
I don't know if I will qualify for the Olympics and I don't know if I will even qualify to surf for Britain, but I know that the hard work and the positivity that is coming already from the challenge to do so has given me a greater purpose. It has given me the fire that we all have inside of us when set upon the right task, whatever that may be.
You might be asking, so how do I find this task ? I will answer by saying a few things you probably already know, but don't we all need reminding every now and then !
"Be patient, be positive, walk with good posture, a smile on your face and appreciate all things around you, don't be scared to open up a conversation with a stranger and feed on the energy of others around you. Don't look to hard externally, instead listen to your feelings inside and follow your instinct. Find your intuition through meditation and breath in deeper than you normally do on a regular basis. Challenge yourself often, even if it's something small like jumping in the freezing ocean, or maybe try fasting for 24 hours. Eat healthy, wholesome foods and let your body thrive in the goodness. Don't be scared to change, if something needs to change in your life, only you can make that decision."
photo - Kevin Matalier