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The Benefits Of Surf Journaling

The Benefits Of Surf Journaling

(photo Tommy Pierucki/Xanadu Surf)

Journaling is fast-growing in popularity because it’s a simple but powerful tool for wellbeing – but have you ever thought about starting a surf journal?

The act of putting pen-to-paper might seem too trivial to have a big impact but it can bring a tonne of amazing benefits to your mental and physical health. Research shows that journaling regularly can help to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, improve your mood, cultivate gratitude and optimism, help you to sleep better and even boost your immune system (one study showed that people who journaled healed their wounds from surgery quicker than people who didn’t, incredibly). 

Journaling also creates space for you to record memories, explore and understand your emotions, set and achieve meaningful goals, feel a greater sense of purpose in your life and generally get to know yourself better…the list of benefits goes on. And all you need to start journaling is a notebook and pen! 

When it comes to how to journal there are no hard and fast rules. As long as you’re making a written or creative record of your thoughts and feelings in some way, you’re journaling. The practice can take all sorts of forms too: gratitude journaling, bullet journaling and art journaling, to name a few. Some people spend five minutes journaling everyday, others thirty minutes once a week. Everyone’s experience and practice will be different depending on what personally works for them – and the same goes for surf journaling. 

surf journaling

Why Surf Journal? 

Surfing and journaling are activities that go hand-in-hand beautifully, in our opinion. 

Surfing alone comes with all kinds of mental health benefits, as you’ll know. It clears your mind, allows you to let off steam and release stress and (sometimes, at least) helps you to focus on positive feelings like joy, awe and gratitude. Plus it gives you a chance to practice mindfulness and more deeply connect with nature and the ocean. When you pair surfing with journaling you’re bringing more attention to all of those benefits and they are amplified, creating an upward spiral of feel-good! 

But keeping a surf journal isn’t just good for our inner wellbeing. Recording our surfing experiences can also help us to recognise our thought-patterns, track our progress, hype ourselves up and learn from our mistakes, which in turn can improve our mindset and overall surfing experience. 

Looking back on your surfing journey and seeing what you’ve achieved can be super motivating too, which is likely to help you work towards more positive goals in the future.

Keen to give it a try? Here are some tips for how to get started from Hannah Bevan, Cornwall-based surfer, author and founder of Journal For Joy

Surf Journaling Tips

Choose a journal that you love

Just like choosing the right surfboard, picking out a journal that you like the look and feel of (both the cover and the paper inside) will mean you’ll be more likely to want to pick it up and use it again and again – and over time, you’ll learn to associate this tangible object with feelings of positive wellbeing. I’d recommend finding some pens or pencils that you really enjoy writing with too. Maybe you’re a roller ball kinda person like me!

Keep a surf tracker

Using your journal as your own personal surfing logbook is a great way to help you record your best memories and track your progress. How this looks is up to you. You could note down data like the forecast, the conditions, the weather, the sea temp and your wave count. You could rate how much you enjoyed your surf on a scale of 1 to 10. You could write about the waves that you caught or any other experiences that stuck out (‘Had a nice chat in the line-up’ or ‘Saw a baby seal’, for example). You could also note down anything new that you tried or learned – and how you might like to apply your learnings in the future.

Notice how you feel and set intentions

Before your surf session, take some time to notice any thoughts or feelings that are coming up for you. Whether they’re positive or negative emotions, you can use your journal to explore these emotions and why you’re feeling them. You could answer questions like ‘How do I feel right now?’ and ‘What do I need in this surf to make me feel good?’. Bringing this kind of awareness to your feelings can help you set intentions that are right for you that day – and everyday might be different, depending on your mood and confidence levels! 

Be playful with your creativity

Journaling doesn’t have to be about reflective writing alone. You can express yourself and capture your surfing experiences with sketches, doodles, paintings, photography or scrapbook-style collages. Or you can try creative writing like poetry or short stories. Having a safe, non-judgemental space to be playful and ‘have a go’ with your creativity can boost your self-confidence and help to quieten any negative voices from your inner critic. So try channeling the eight year old version of you and let loose with the felt tips.

Focus on gratitude

As human beings we tend to have a ‘negativity bias’, paying more attention to the bad than the good – and that can be especially true with surfing right? Gratitude journaling is one of the simplest ways to flip this narrative. Bringing attention to the positives is not about ignoring or disregarding the crap stuff or difficult emotions, but rather helps you to create a more balanced mindset…which might be just the thing that you need. Regularly noticing the things you feel grateful for is proven to boost optimism in all areas of your life, too. 

Set meaningful goals

We all set surfing goals for ourselves – and that can be a really positive thing! But, if like most of us you’re surfing for fun and not striving to win any competitions, journaling can be a useful way to check in with these goals and make sure you’re setting them from a place of joy and authenticity rather than ego or social pressure. A good way to do this is to ask yourself how you want to feel in your surfing and what actions or goals could help you achieve this feeling, rather than setting precedents about what you think you should be achieving.

Remove distractions

Journaling with one eye on the TV or your phone means you probably won’t feel the wellbeing benefits as strongly. See if you can commit your full attention to your journal, even if it’s just for five minutes – setting a timer sometimes helps with that because it creates a boundary for you to temporarily let go of anything else that’s going on. You could also try making a habit of journaling in the car or at the beach once you’ve dried off post-surf, before you have to head to work or get on with your other tasks for the day. On that note…

Try journaling at different times

If you’ve never had a journaling practice before, it’s worth experimenting a little to find out when you prefer to spend time with your journal. Some people like to do it first thing in the morning with their coffee, others last thing at night. With surf journaling you might like to try it just before you get in the water, or straight after your session when your post-surf buzz is still high! Maybe it’ll be a mix of all of these, depending what mood you're in. The important thing is to find a time when it feels good, not like a chore. 

Remember there’s no right or wrong

One of the brilliant things about journaling is that there are no specific rules. Your journal entries are completely personal to you and might look different every time – and that’s ok. You might miss a few days, or enjoy it some days more than others – that’s ok too! Take the pressure off yourself and embrace the freedom that your journaling practice allows you to have. 

Let go of perfectionism

Similarly to the point to the above, journaling gives you a space to write or create, raw and unedited, without too much concern for a perfect finished result. In fact, it’s the process of writing or creating that’s more important than the outcome here. That in itself can be a liberating experience – and can even help you to let go of perfectionism in other areas of your life. Like surfing, for example. 

Use prompts

You can, of course, just freely write on blank pages but if you find yourself repeatedly stuck about what to write or create, find a journal with prompts instead or get some ideas online. I like to keep a list of some of my favourite prompts on the back page of my journal so I can turn to it if I’m in need of a little inspiration. 

Surf journaling prompts to try

    • List the three things that you enjoyed the most about your last surf session.
      Even if there were some things that didn’t go well, you can use this exercise to bring a more focus to the positives.
  • Pay attention to your senses.
    Next time you’re out back waiting for a wave, bring your focus to each of your five senses, one by one. Post-surf, write five headings in your journal - sight, sound, smell, touch and taste - and list as many things as you can remember experiencing for each.

  • Intention-setting
  • Complete these sentences before your surf:

    I’d like to feel …………….. whilst surfing today.

    Something new I’d like to try today is …………………

    Something I’d like to let go of is…………………

  • Quick draw
  • Divide your page into quarters. Make a quick sketch in each to capture four memorable moments from today’s surf. 

  • Write a short poem…
  • …titled ‘The best wave I ever caught’. See if you can let go of what you think a poem should be and instead let yourself freely express your imagination and whatever memories or emotions come to mind.

    • Rate your surf
      Answer these questions post-session:
      How much did I enjoy that surf on a scale of 1-10?

    How can I try and raise that number by one point on my next surf?*

    *unless you answered 10/10, in which case, go you!!

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