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The Spiritual Side of Windsurfing - Surfer Today

An essay on the spiritual side of windsurfing
Surfer Today:  Wednesday, 04 December 2013 12:32

Windsurfing: a spiritual sport

Is windsurfing a spiritual outdoor activity? How can sailboarding connect with unorthodox experiences?

Henrik Beyer, a Swedish expert in strength training and author of "Health & Fitness for Windsurfing", believes there's an exciting link between windsurfing and spiritual practice.

While windsurfing may result in a great sense of loss of time and space, just like meditation, Beyer suggests the concept of "flow", a theory developed by Mihály Csikszentmihályi, back in the 1960s.

"Csikszentmihályi introduced the term 'flow' to describe a mental state in which a person in an activity  is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement
 and enjoyment in the process of the activity", explains Henrik Beyer.

"The flow can be experienced in all kinds of activities and windsurfing is a prime example of an activity that provides a natural setting filled with mental and physical demands that benefit from having a focused mind".

So, Csíkszentmihályi identified ten factors that accompany the experience of "the flow", and windsurfing fits perfectly. Henrik Beyer adapted the psychology professor's theory to windsurfing. So what conclusion did he reach?

1. The goal of windsurfing should be clear and attainable and aligned with the person's ability.
2. The sailor should have the opportunity to concentrate and focus deeply on sailing.
3. There should be a merger of the physical action of sailing and awareness as well as a loss of feeling of self-consciousness.
4. The experience of time is altered when sailing.
5. There is an immediate response in terms of what is successful or not when sailing and the person can adjust his/her technique.
6. Windsurfing should be performed according to the individual's ability and not be too difficult nor too easy.
7. There is a sense of personal control when sailing.
8. Sailing should be intrinsically rewarding and may appear effortless when performed.
9. The sailor may lose awareness of bodily needs and may reach a high level of fatigue without actually realizing it.
10. The sailor may experience absorption into sailing and his/her focus of awareness is on windsurfing alone.

Henrik Beyer underlines that "sport psychology has studied the ideal performance state for athletes", and "not surprising, the ideal state for performance seems to be similar to that which is experienced in the "flow".

"For a windsurfer to perform at his/her very best there should be no fear involved when sailing and the sailor should not analyze or think about the technical aspect of next technique".

It's all in the mind. Can you connect to the spiritual "flow"?

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