How Breath Hold Training Can Make You a Stronger and More Confident Surfer

You don’t have to be a big wave surfer to experience a scary hold down or an uncomfortable ocean scenario.  The ocean can be, at times, an intimidating place if the situation you are in pushes you too far outside your comfort zone.  By practicing hold downs and breath holds in a relatively predictable environment, you will be better prepared mentally, physically, and psychologically when you are in a more chaotic environment.  

Breath hold training will allow you to:

  1. Manage Anxiety and the Urge to Panic in the Water

    Physically, breath hold training can give you confidence knowing you are strong enough to deal with a wipeout. As a general rule, the more confidence you have going into a situation, the easier it is to handle it.  If your mental state is your biggest challenge during a wipeout or a hold down situation, learning to deal with the mental stress associated with holding your breath at an elevated heart rate allows you to cope better when the real thing happens.

  2. Prepare for Challenging Conditions

    Besides being useful out in the lineup, certain breathing techniques can be useful to do before you even paddle out. Breath work will help you oxygenate your body before you hit the water, and can help you override your body’s fight or flight response during or after situations of adversity. Finally, focusing on your breath will improve your concentration and focus not only out in the water, but in every day life.

  3. Build Mental and Physical Tolerance to Carbon Dioxide

    The ability to hold your breath while experiencing the urge to breath is invaluable when it comes to staying calm in a hold down situation. The urge to breath is triggered by the accumulation of Carbon Dioxide, not necessarily a lack of Oxygen. and dealing with elevated levels of CO2 can be uncomfortable and mentally difficult, but is trainable over time. By taking a slow and steady approach to CO2 tolerance training, you will gain a better understanding of how your body responds to Carbon Dioxide and will make it easier to manage the urge to breathe.

    For some drills you can use to work on your CO2 tolerance, click here.

  4. Expand Your Comfort Zone

    As is true with anything else in life, the more time we spend pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone, the more comfortable we will ultimately be. By practicing breath hold training in the right way, you can turn what used to be a panic-inducing hold down into something that you are confident you can manage. That said, with breath hold training it is important that you work your way up slowly. If you try to push yourself too hard, too fast, you run the risk of developing bad habits and stressing yourself out which ultimately will end up shrinking your comfort zone instead of expanding it.

  5. Recognize the Signs and Symptoms Associated with a Blackout and How to Prevent one from Happening

    Problems with hypoxia (lack of Oxygen) on the surface tend to occur gradually and can be recognized when you know what to look for. During controlled breath hold training, you can learn to recognize the signs (things you see happening to your buddy) and symptoms (things you personally feel) associated with low oxygen, as well as how to manage them.
static apnea with buddies

While breath hold training has many benefits not only in the water, but on land as well, it is important to mention that you should NEVER practice breath hold training alone. Drowning is always a possibility, regardless of your ability level, so make sure you always train with a buddy, especially when training in the water.

To learn more about and practice breath hold training with us, we offer both adult and grom courses in the Orange County area. If you are interested in joining us for breath hold training, click here for more info.