Surfing, Skiing, and the Power of the Flow State
There is something mystical about standing up on a wave. And not just riding the wave, but the whole experience leading to that moment; floating on your board as you rise and fall with each passing swell, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, gazing out towards the horizon waiting for the next set to roll through, digging the water and sliding into position, feeling the wave start to take you, rising to your feet, and accelerating towards the shore.
Even better than the sense of accomplishment from this physical triumph is what you are NOT doing in these moments. Thoughts of work and other stressors in your life are completely blocked out as you are transported to the state of flow.
Similarly with skiing, try to recall the last thought you had while staring down a gnarly line, ready to drop in. You are probably drawing a blank. A poorly placed turn or catching an edge could have grim consequences. These challenging moments require total concentration and focus.
If you are a surfer, skier, snowboarder, climber, kiteboarder, etc., you have probably experienced the flow state and the 'afterglow', a melting pot of joy, relaxation, mindfulness, and sense accomplishment. As those feelings fade, the withdrawal beckons you back to the water or snow for another dose. It seems there is a therapeutic benefit to surfing and flow state, and that is exactly what many medical professionals are figuring out.
In fact, organizations such as Amazing Surf Adventures are offering programs such as Operation Surf to help war veterans overcome PTSD and depression. This inspiring story was told in a recent Netflix documentary, Resurface. Check out the trailer here:
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