Windsurfers are inclined to understand the “soul” component of their sport. It’s natural for them to enjoy it, feel connected to nature, and be lost in the incredible “flow feeling.” However, competitive windsurfers (and other athletes) sometimes think that, if they start to pursue “soul” feelings, they will lose the edge – literary, that they will have to abandon competition.

In this article, I would like to convince you that this is not true! You can be a soul windsurfer and, at the same time, a very successful athlete. Actually, there is a chance that the soul approach will help you improve your results on the sports battlefield!

I spend my youth in sports. For some time, I was a semi-professional basketball player. I also enjoyed playing baseball (one of the first teams in Croatia) and swimming. Due to extensive training, my knees suffered a lot. Once I had a terrible injury and was out for a year of rehabilitation. That, and innumerable minor injuries, did not stop me from regular training and competition. I was never a first-class athlete, but I had my share of success. I know what it means to bite hard if you want to achieve your goals. Even today (at the age of 60), I am not lazy and working hard, always trying to improve something and stay in shape and fit.

However, with time I also understood that all these efforts have a price not only in your time and energy but also in your health. Instead of improving it, you may finish damaging it.

During my twenties and thirties, I came in contact with another kind of knowledge: yoga and meditation. At first glance, these two activities are not very much connected with sport. However, yoga has the means to immensely improve your physical abilities (flexibility and static power). Meditation can improve your focus, reduce stress and help you to give your best when needed.

When I came across the book by John Douillard – Body, Mind and Sport, I knew I found the confirmation of my thinking. These seemingly different approaches may join together and create what I later called soul-windsurfing (can be “soul” with any other sport, of course).

Douillard worked with world-class athletes (for example, Martina Navratilova, a famous tennis player) proving that different approaches can give excellent results without causing so much stress on the mind and body while keeping the fun and enjoyment as part of any training, no matter how serious it is.

Some ten years ago, I participated in forming training for a group of young athletes. It was a very rewarding experience, but unfortunately, I did not pursue this line of work.

But, I am using some of the different training principles for myself. I firmly believe anyone can use it and improve their results, whether they are just amateurs like me, trying to see how much they can improve, or professionals and serious world-class competitors.

In the absence of my systematic materials for developing the soul component in sport, I have to recommend Douillard’s book again.

However, I can describe some principles I apply in the soul approach to the sport.

What is important for Soul Sports

  1. Mental preparation

Calm head, focused mind, determination, and will. Peace and relaxation. No stress. A good technique of meditation can give you all of that. There are many techniques available, different in methodology. I prefer and recommend easy, natural ways, not the ones to include great effort (like concentration or visualizations). The best way is to learn to meditate from someone who has experience in teaching. Don’t shy away from this – like a windsurfing skill, and meditation is a skill to learn.

  1. Preparation of the body

Cross-training, jogging, running, using different sports, not only your preferable ones. That helps you stay in shape, especially during wintertime, when there is less windsurfing. As a special addition, I recommend yoga postures to increase your flexibility.

Some principles of nutrition can be added here. Contrary to the usual belief that nutrition for athletes must be concentrated and mainly artificial, my practice (confirmed by Douillard’s book and some others) is to give preference to natural foods rich in carbohydrates, especially the day before the competition (or the day you are attempting to improve some of your PB – “personal best”), not so to protein-rich food.

It will be too much to speak now about different food for different body constitutions – but it is a very interesting topic (so, maybe some other time). However, I want to add that I have been a vegetarian since my 13th birthday (so – 46 years!). I use some cheese, but no eggs, no fish and no milk. There is some discussion about the suitability of such nutrition for professional athletes. Still, Duillard again proves that for some kinds of sports, vegetarian (or even vegan) nutrition could be the right choice.

  1. Warm-up

Some say that trimming the equipment is essential for good results in windsurfing. The same is true with your body. Many (actually ALL!) of the windsurfers I know skip the warm-up exercises before entering the water. That is wrong and can lower your speed (or any) results and of, course, increase the probability of the injury. My estimation: god warm-up is 50% of the success on the water. It may look too much, but I firmly believe in that!

The best warm-up exercises I know also comes from yoga. So-called “Sun salutations” (Surya namaskar) in different variations are an excellent way to warm your muscles in no more than 5 to 10 minutes! Also, that can be done with some other exercises from so-called “power yoga” (or ashtanga, vinyasa and some other kind of yoga practices more similar to aerobic activities than to traditional passive yoga posture exercises).

  1. Breathing techniques

The way you breathe is the way you think and also the way your muscles work. There are two ways to improve your breathing – two breathing techniques: before and during sports activities.

One of the best breathing exercises before (similar to warm-up of the body) is the so-called bhastrika or fast pranayama. Again, this is not the place to describe it (some other time). It is a short technique (not more than 2 minutes), which, if applied the right way, can increase the level of oxygen in your brain and body. Very useful for short and intense sports activities.

During sports activities, especially if it is longish, I practice two breathing techniques. One is again from yoga and it is called ujjayi breathing. It is “through the mouth, snoring like, ‘Dart Vader sounding” breathing. Excellent for long-distance runs (or sailing, of course).

The other is my technique, developed for water sports. Namely, ujjayi breathing is hard to do when swimming or when activity includes sudden moves and ups and downs in muscle activity. Then I use dolphin breath – a simple technique, actually very natural, which includes temporary breath suspension (not too long, though).

Breathing techniques are very efficient in the quick achievement of the zone, “in the flow” feeling or, if you like, windsurfing nirvana! Of course, they will improve your abilities and, consequently, improve your results – if that is what you are looking for!

  1. “In the flow” principle

Windsurfing naturally accepts and demands a windsurfer to apply some simple and natural principles. However, we sometimes tend to forget them. Little refreshment here and there, and also some thinking about how they apply in a different situation, can be very helpful to keep you in the zone while at the same time improving your results.

Seven Principles Of Soul Sports

acceptance

cooperation

oneness

balance

ease

surrendering

learning

Much can be said about each one of these principles. They are kinds of mental attitudes transformed into practice.

Just for example: when speed windsurfing (or windsurfing in general), the point of least effort (ease) is usually the point you are in when you feel the most in control. By the way, control is an oxymoron in windsurfing. You are never in control, just in balance with wind and equipment. It may seem that this is not such an important distinction, but this understanding may help you find that point of least effort. When you find it, you will see that you are the fastest ever!

Searching for ease in windsurfing is a part of the soul approach. But, it should not be confused with quitting or avoiding the hardships of sports activities! Quite a contrary, when you find ease amid hard work, you are on the right soul path!

I could write much more about concrete techniques of soulwindsurfing, and maybe I will in the future. For now, I just wanted to point out that the soul approach is a possible alternative to the usual ways of sports training. It is meant to give you pleasure and fun, to keep your health intact and improved, and, at the same time, to enable you to give the best of yourself – to achieve the most you can!

If you compete in any kind of sport, that is the alternative you should consider – it may surprise you with efficiency, and, of course, unforgettable experiences of the zone!

About the Author: Adrian

Author and writer of more than fifty books, teacher, lecturer, explorer of consciousness, avid windsurfer, and lover of outdoor activities. He’ll write mostly about windsurfing on fin and foil, spot reviews, and camping equipment.
2 Comments
  1. Marco February 24, 2023 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Hi Adrian, this article hits me right in the heart. I am a windsurfer for 40 years now ( I am 50 years), and windsurfing (and now windfoiling and wingfoiling) is a important part of my life. Or should I say it’s my life. Surfing for me is a challenge, to keep pushing myself, it’s keeps me fit and young, but also a way to calm down, and ’empyt my head’.

    With calm weather I catch myself going into a kind of meditation position and becoming completely zen and everything goes by itself. That’s that flow.

    With windfoiling and wingfoiling, I really experience a new dimension. Even more quiet en the feeling of being able to fly (may be you have read this article as well: https://www.windfoilen.nl/en/wind-foiling-feeling-able-to-fly/)

    Keep on going to spread the word!

    Regards, Marco

    • Adrian February 25, 2023 at 8:55 am - Reply

      Hi Marco,
      Thank you for your comment. It’s always good to find a kindred soul. Your article reflects my feelings about windfoiling. I started two seasons ago and felt exactly the same “excitement buster” you are writing about. A kind of renewal of falling in love with windsurfing again. And, yes, the “zone” entrance (“like flying”) is much quicker and more relaxed.

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