Posts Tagged ‘Mental toughness’

Keep Calm and Foot On

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013


We all know that there are a lot of different aspects when it comes to the challenges of barefooting. Would it surprise you that the hardest part of barefooting is overcoming the mental obstacles?

It came as a bit of a shock the first time I heard Swampy say, “Barefooting is 90% mental toughness and 10% physical strength.” But it wasn’t long before I started to see just how much of an obstacle your brain could be in barefooting. For most of my life, no matter what sport I’ve been a part of, I almost always over think something or mentally tense up. It came as no surprise to me when I started to advance in Barefooting that I found a similar problem occurring and one I wasn’t aware of.

Often times, people can complicate the simplest things. Barefooting is no exception to the rule. Between all of the different concepts you think about on the water it is no surprise that someone could over-complicate a situation or think about something too much. I found myself faced with this problem this year. “You need to relax and smile while you’re out there. You look like your just forcing it,” KSO told me one morning after I was having trouble getting my basic toe hold, a trick that I was able to do quite comfortably at the end of the previous season. Sure enough as soon as I relaxed and cleared my head, my toe holds came back with ease like I had never lost them.

At first glance, barefooting is a pretty fast-paced sport, but when you dig deeper into the sport you see that inside the fast exterior, you have a networking or slow-controlled movements. However, from time to time our brain has trouble seeing the slow inside of the fast and we feel like our brain is racing or as I like to call it “tensing up”. I recall an afternoon set working on slalom with Smallz. After my first pass, the first thing he told me was to calm down and to try not to muscle it so much. Once again, I was mentally tense. I was thinking so much about trying to get so many crosses that I was hurting myself more than I was helping. As soon as I relaxed and just thought about the key points of slalom, my crosses sped up, my form was cleaner, and I felt more confident with my slalom.


Fear. Fear is probably one of the biggest mental obstacles we face. Whether we are aware of the fear or not, to succeed in Barefooting you have to learn to face that fear so you can get pass it. Most of those fears are somehow related to falling. Now, It’s only natural that in interest of self-preservation to not to want to fall. After all, water at 42 MPH is not the most enjoyable feeling in the world. Once again, I find myself hearing Swampy’s voice saying, “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying. I would rather see you fall trying to do something right then watch you do something the wrong way.” Now our fears are normally pretty understandable, the other day I was out in the boat watching Ben Groen ski and he was working on his toe hold back to front and he kept falling out the back and then finally he took a hard fall out the front and did the splits so well that an Olympic Gymnast would have been jealous. At the end of his set he got in the boat and said he was glad that he took that fall because on the same trick previously he had pulled his groin and now that he had done a similar fall and survived unscathed he might be able to stay more forward. The next day he succeeded.

When you ski with the WBC crew, they give the instruction you need to succeed on and off the water. From overcoming your fears, to learning how to relax when the word “chill” isn’t exactly the first word on mind, they help you figure out what you need to do to succeed. If you apply your mentality on the water to your work, school, or whatever endeavor you embark on, you will find that your potential to succeed will be exponentially higher. Thank you to Swampy, Keith, Smallz, Ben, Ash, and the entire WBC Team for such great memories and coaching, and for all fun still to come.

Robert C. Gerstad