Surfski, like any sport, requires hard work and discipline. But just as importantly, an athlete has to learn how to lose. Success doesn’t come without setbacks, as any champion will tell you. You have to keep looking forward and not let those moments define you. Once you have the physical skills to win, you need the mental fortitude to keep fighting.

This is one area I find most challenging. I have never had a problem making myself train hard. I can set up outrageous workout programs, sometimes to the point of overtraining. What I have learned over the years is the importance of knowing how to train my mind, especially after a disappointing race. The goal is to stay physically balanced as well as mentally tough.

If you aren’t blessed with an innate bloodthirsty desire to crush your opponents, then you have to go to battle with yourself. Rather than beat myself up with punishing workouts after losing a race, I had to learn a new strategy that worked for me, what I refer to as “reset.”

The Molokai Challenge in Hawaii this May is a good example. After spending months pursuing one of the best training build-ups of my life, finishing the race well below my potential was a huge blow.

In the past I would immediately start training hard after a disappointing race to tackle things I needed to fix, convincing myself that harder was better. This typically delayed my ability to bounce back. I have since found more appreciation for the time it takes to properly heal the body and mind.

When I returned home from Hawaii this time, I made a point of giving myself plenty of time to recuperate. Knowing that I would need a lot to physically recharge (and maybe more to overcome my mental dip), I programmed a week of full and active recovery. But when I finally got back on the water, my sessions were way off my standard paces. Plus my confidence and mood refused to rebound.

More and more, I am finding a strong link between my mental and physical state. I know now that when I find myself in the weeds I need to totally reset. With this year’s surfski race season now in full swing for the Northern Hemisphere, it was crucial for me to bounce back as quickly as possible.

Four Step Reset:

1) More Time Off

Despite my initial desire to get back in the flow of training, I forced myself to take another 3-4 days completely off. The key for me is to trust that even though I want to be faster and fitter, rest is actually what I need. I put my boat away and didn’t think about training or racing or even paddling for at least 72 hours. The only thing I tried to focus on were my nutrition, my sleep and the other wonderful things in my life.

2) Enjoy Paddling

While I love solo grinding, my favorite paddling is competitive sessions with friends. After my time off, I asked a friend of mine in San Diego if he wanted to go out for an ocean paddle. While we were not paddling on the same level, he came out with his competitive spirit blazing, I strapped some resistance weight to my boat, and we had a battle.

It was a gorgeous day and we were treated to an unexpected downwind and a pod of nearly 50 dolphins joined us. It’s hard not to enjoy a paddle like that. As usual, I couldn’t help appreciating how lucky I am to compete in this sport and live in a place where I can take advantage of the Pacific Ocean on a daily basis. The joy was back. Now I could start training again.

3) Build Momentum

Whenever my confidence is shaken, one of my go-to mantras is “start with small wins and let small wins build to big wins”. By that I mean, instead of expecting to go out and smash a time trial or marker workout with a personal best, I need to start with daily, easily-attainable goals. I started small, with goals like nailing my nutrition for the day, sleeping 8+ hours, meditating, working out any tightness on the foam roller, mobility work, prehab shoulder exercises, and simply completing the workouts on my schedule (not caring about pace).

Once I started knocking down wins, I let the momentum build by setting more ambitious goals. For example, instead of just completing a workout, I tried to improve my paces from the session prior. Or instead of daily nutritional success, I aimed to stick to my nutrition routine three days in a row. The goals gradually built.

By the time I traveled up to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon to train for the Downwind Champs race, I was competing in Race 3 of the Vortex Series and feeling like my old self. In fact, I crushed my personal fastest time ever on the Viento to Hood River course there.

4) Fatigue Buffering Training

The final piece of the confidence puzzle for me was not to let myself slip backwards. I knew that with the latent fatigue from the Molokai race, overdoing it could not only be disastrous physically but would seriously shake my confidence. Therefore, I structured a very conservative training program.

Instead of a full week of intensity and volume and one rest day on Sunday, I switched to an on/off training schedule: one day on, followed by one day off. For the on days I would go hard, completing a challenging interval session in the morning and pushing with what I had left on the ocean in the afternoon.

On the off days, I would only do active recovery. This varied depending on how I felt, but the rule was to not do any workouts or intensity of any kind. When I was feeling good, I would go out for an easy 10km paddle, but if I felt beat down, I would stick to just foam rolling, mobility stretches, and light yoga.

The first week felt excessive with three rest/active recovery days following my chunk of off days during my “reset.” However, while I may have left some fitness gains on the table, I accomplished my goal and was able to get back to feeling like myself without backsliding into overtraining.

In the end, my restrained programming allowed me to crush a brutal week-long training camp at the Columbia River Gorge. Now I am feeling charged and ready for the races ahead.

  • NAC Classic 2019

    Newport Beach, CA
    February 9th, 2019
    Austin's Blog

  • Maui to Molokai

    April 13, 2019  - 26 miles.

  • Molokai Challenge

    May 26, 2019

  • Canadian Downwind Champs

    Squamish, BC, Canada
    July 13, 2019

  • Gorge Downwind Champs

    Colombia River Gorge, Oregon
    July 15-20, 2019

  • Lighthouse To Lighthouse 2019

    Sept. 14 & 15, 2019
    Norwalk, CT

  • Irish Coast Paddling Champs

    Saturday 28, Sept. 2019

Surfski, like any sport, requires hard work and discipline. But just as importantly, an athlete has to learn how to lose. Success doesn’t come without setbacks, as any champion will tell you. You have to keep looking forward and not let those moments define you. Once you have the physical skills to win, you need the mental fortitude to keep fighting.

This is one area I find most challenging. I have never had a problem making myself train hard. I can set up outrageous workout programs, sometimes to the point of overtraining. What I have learned over the years is the importance of knowing how to train my mind, especially after a disappointing race. The goal is to stay physically balanced as well as mentally tough.

If you aren’t blessed with an innate bloodthirsty desire to crush your opponents, then you have to go to battle with yourself. Rather than beat myself up with punishing workouts after losing a race, I had to learn a new strategy that worked for me, what I refer to as “reset.”

The Molokai Challenge in Hawaii this May is a good example. After spending months pursuing one of the best training build-ups of my life, finishing the race well below my potential was a huge blow.

In the past I would immediately start training hard after a disappointing race to tackle things I needed to fix, convincing myself that harder was better. This typically delayed my ability to bounce back. I have since found more appreciation for the time it takes to properly heal the body and mind.

When I returned home from Hawaii this time, I made a point of giving myself plenty of time to recuperate. Knowing that I would need a lot to physically recharge (and maybe more to overcome my mental dip), I programmed a week of full and active recovery. But when I finally got back on the water, my sessions were way off my standard paces. Plus my confidence and mood refused to rebound.

More and more, I am finding a strong link between my mental and physical state. I know now that when I find myself in the weeds I need to totally reset. With this year’s surfski race season now in full swing for the Northern Hemisphere, it was crucial for me to bounce back as quickly as possible.

Four Step Reset:

1) More Time Off

Despite my initial desire to get back in the flow of training, I forced myself to take another 3-4 days completely off. The key for me is to trust that even though I want to be faster and fitter, rest is actually what I need. I put my boat away and didn’t think about training or racing or even paddling for at least 72 hours. The only thing I tried to focus on were my nutrition, my sleep and the other wonderful things in my life.

2) Enjoy Paddling

While I love solo grinding, my favorite paddling is competitive sessions with friends. After my time off, I asked a friend of mine in San Diego if he wanted to go out for an ocean paddle. While we were not paddling on the same level, he came out with his competitive spirit blazing, I strapped some resistance weight to my boat, and we had a battle.

It was a gorgeous day and we were treated to an unexpected downwind and a pod of nearly 50 dolphins joined us. It’s hard not to enjoy a paddle like that. As usual, I couldn’t help appreciating how lucky I am to compete in this sport and live in a place where I can take advantage of the Pacific Ocean on a daily basis. The joy was back. Now I could start training again.

3) Build Momentum

Whenever my confidence is shaken, one of my go-to mantras is “start with small wins and let small wins build to big wins”. By that I mean, instead of expecting to go out and smash a time trial or marker workout with a personal best, I need to start with daily, easily-attainable goals. I started small, with goals like nailing my nutrition for the day, sleeping 8+ hours, meditating, working out any tightness on the foam roller, mobility work, prehab shoulder exercises, and simply completing the workouts on my schedule (not caring about pace).

Once I started knocking down wins, I let the momentum build by setting more ambitious goals. For example, instead of just completing a workout, I tried to improve my paces from the session prior. Or instead of daily nutritional success, I aimed to stick to my nutrition routine three days in a row. The goals gradually built.

By the time I traveled up to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon to train for the Downwind Champs race, I was competing in Race 3 of the Vortex Series and feeling like my old self. In fact, I crushed my personal fastest time ever on the Viento to Hood River course there.

4) Fatigue Buffering Training

The final piece of the confidence puzzle for me was not to let myself slip backwards. I knew that with the latent fatigue from the Molokai race, overdoing it could not only be disastrous physically but would seriously shake my confidence. Therefore, I structured a very conservative training program.

Instead of a full week of intensity and volume and one rest day on Sunday, I switched to an on/off training schedule: one day on, followed by one day off. For the on days I would go hard, completing a challenging interval session in the morning and pushing with what I had left on the ocean in the afternoon.

On the off days, I would only do active recovery. This varied depending on how I felt, but the rule was to not do any workouts or intensity of any kind. When I was feeling good, I would go out for an easy 10km paddle, but if I felt beat down, I would stick to just foam rolling, mobility stretches, and light yoga.

The first week felt excessive with three rest/active recovery days following my chunk of off days during my “reset.” However, while I may have left some fitness gains on the table, I accomplished my goal and was able to get back to feeling like myself without backsliding into overtraining.

In the end, my restrained programming allowed me to crush a brutal week-long training camp at the Columbia River Gorge. Now I am feeling charged and ready for the races ahead.

  • NAC Classic 2019

    Newport Beach, CA
    February 9th, 2019

  • Maui to Molokai

    April 13, 2019  - 26 miles.

  • Molokai Challenge

    May 26, 2019

  • Canadian Downwind Champs

    Squamish, BC, Canada
    July 13th

  • Gorge Downwind Champs

    Colombia River Gorge, Oregon
    July 15-20, 2019

  • Lighthouse To Lighthouse 2019

    Sept. 14 & 15
    Norwalk, CT

  • Irish Coast Paddling Champs

    TBD Fall 2019