Ocean Paddler Talks about Ocean Paddling Mindset

Paddling Mindset

I’ve been an ocean paddler now for just 18 months and in that time have noticed that some beginners advance at a faster rate than others.  In this article I reflect on what I have seen and offer a hypothesis that relates to mindset.

When I first stared ocean paddling around eighteen months ago, I quickly progressed to the stage where I felt entirely comfortable in most conditions.  This was partly due to the decision to start with a very stable ocean ski (an Epic V8).  After about six moths I sold my ocean ski and bought a club ski (a surf ski that is certified to be used in surf lifesaving competitions).  That’s when my confidence dropped.

The difference between paddling my new surf ski and the old Epic V8 was huge!  I felt like I was starting all over again.  The next few months were very frustrating as I learned how to cope with a ski that was less forgiving in the stability department.

Nevertheless, I have made steady progress and am beginning to feel more confident in rougher conditions.  I guess this is a typical path for a beginner ocean paddler.

When I started padding in the ocean there were a number of beginners who started at the same time.  Some have excelled and others have barely progressed.  So I began to reflect on what was different.

When I consider those who have not progressed I can see two common reasons:

  • They started with equipment that was not suitable for a beginner.  Many of these people just weren't having fun and gradually drifted away from the sport, and
  • Others lacked confidence and limited themselves to safer waterways.  Most of these paddlers have persisted but not progressed as far as some others. 

When I look at ocean paddlers that have excelled, and there are some who have just progressed in leaps and bounds; way beyond what I have achieved, I see two main reasons:

  • They practice a lot - many are in the water three or more times a day; and
  • All are willing to challenge themselves in tough conditions.

My hypothesis then is that an ocean paddler who has a positive mindset and is willing to overcome the challenges we all face will progress faster  I'm sure there are exceptions but it sure seems that way to me.

That brings me to the mindset of an ocean paddler. Let's explore this further...

Some time ago I read a book called "The Winners Bible" by Ian Ferguson. In the book Ian explains how to use psychology to rewire your brain so that you become a "winner". In the book he explains concepts like visualisation and refers to world famous sports people who have used his system. One of them was Jackie Stewart, who won 3 world drivers championships.

Jackie Stewart and the Ocean Paddler Mindset

Jackie Stewart

My (limited) understanding of the psychology is that if you teach your brain to believe you can achieve something then you will.  Apparently Jackie Stewart practiced these techniques daily and attributes much of his success to them.  So let’s connect this theory with what I have observed in the fast progressing ocean paddler.

All the paddlers that I have seen progress quickly believe in themselves.  They are willing to tackle conditions just beyond their capabilities.  Furthermore, they do this often.  When they learn to overcome one challenge they raise the bar and go again.  It’s almost as if they have no fear – or is it rather that they have supreme confidence in their abilities?  I’m not sure if it’s one or the other or both.  They just do it!

So why do they do it?  I’m referring to people who are not involved in racing and some are in their 60’s.  So it’s not just the competitive spirit within them; or is it.  Perhaps they are competing with themselves?  They visualise themselves achieving a certain skill level and strive persistently to get there.  So they are competing, just with themselves.  At least that’s my hypothesis.

So does the ocean paddler who has the right mindset progress quicker than others?  What is it about their thinking that makes the difference?

I will be keen to hear your thoughts on this.  Have you seen someone progress rapidly and did they behave as I have described?  What did you observe?  Let us know by adding your comments below…