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16 December, 2011

build mileage

Oops … I think I missed a week. Sorry about that. I thought I had it covered while I was away.

I was on a Tropicsurf trip in the middle of nowhere. Must have been having too much fun. We had to catch three planes and a local boom-box taxi to reach our boat – where we then spent a week cruising by night and discovering virgin surf breaks by day. It was epic.

Unfortunately pesky things like work and mortgages mean that traveling long distances is what most of us need to do these days to reliably score empty waves. But when we do, the rewards are typically LONG rides and an ABUNDANCE of them.

Sure, surfing weekends on the closeout beach-break at home is fun. And it’s all practice. But for some, more time is spent actually standing and riding waves on their annual surf trip than they do in a full year at home.

So I am a huge fan of surf travel. I don’t travel because I want to take a holiday and relax. Rather I travel for all of the eye-opening, broaden-your- horizons type of experiences which can transform your life. Plus to get better waves than I would at home. And more of them. The upside of the ‘more better’ waves normally means rapid improvement.

I call this MILEAGE. And it’s very difficult to achieve surfing improvement without it. You simply need a lot of time on your feet riding the face.

In the ‘The Making of an Expert’ by K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, and Edward T. Cokely, latest research proves that outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, and not of any innate talent or natural skill. This research challenges conventional thinking because it points to the fact that Kelly Slater is not a natural. Rather they’ve calculated it takes anybody about 10,000 hours to reach a basic level of expertise in any activity. There are simply no shortcuts I’m afraid. Like I always say … you can’t cheat in surfing. You just need to build mileage.

Many beginner or intermediate surfers, through no fault of their own, paddle around in circles, sit and wait endlessly for waves, and catch a few skerricks after 2 or 3 hours of trying. While this will definitely improvement your fitness, positioning, and wave judgement etc… it’s not really improving your RIDE component much is it? To actually learn to ride better, you need MAXIMUM TIME ON YOUR FEET. 10,000 hours of time would be nice.

For some, this means you need a bigger board. Do not buy into this myth that you are improving on a shorter board unless you are catching a lot of waves. You need mileage. Time on your feet. It’s hard to generalize but if you are not catching 10 or 20 long rides in a session, get a bigger board and build mileage first. Trust me.

Also – not all practice makes perfect. You need deliberate practice in order to develop expertise. When most people practice, they focus on things they already know how to do. Deliberate practice is different. It requires considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t yet do well – or even at all. The problem with surfing crowded areas is that waves are so scarce that you don’t wish to try something new and risk falling off, or hitting somebody. Thereby you surf in a comfort zone and don’t really improve.

So… “get to the point Ross” I can hear you saying ….

Well – the reality is that these are some of the challenges of improving for most people. I’m, not denying that achieving mileage is tough. But you cannot deny the importance of it. If you are serious about improving, you should save your pennies, book a ticket and go find some long, empty waves someplace. Find a place where you can catch wave after wave, try new things, fall off, and do it all over again.

Travel and make a decent dent in your 10,000 hours.


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