As I’m sure most of you already know, Surfing started as a Polynesian sport and Art. Before the Europeans discovered the islands of Hawaii and Samoa, the locals were already surfing the beaches with their wooden boards. They not only considered surfing as a pastime or a sport, it was also considered as an Art. Hawaiians considered surfing as an art to please their gods.
Today, most of us surf not to please the gods, but to get that Feeling. The feeling where we “lose ourselves” in the moment of the wave, where we feel so deeply “at one” with what we are doing. The concerns of our day to day, don’t even flutter in our minds because we’re so deeply connected to the sound, smell and the moment of the Ocean. We are truly at “One” with the Wave.
“Not to sound too deep or weird, but I think that the times when you really appreciate surfing are the times you’re really sort of becoming one with the nature.” – Kelly Slater
Science is now caught up with what all Surfers already know.
Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist who discovered that a person’s optimum performance arise when in a state of complete engagement during an activity. He called this the Flow State. When we are in the Flow State, our mind’s chemical and electrical patterns transforms through triggering a change in how we process information. Allowing us to do things spontaneously and heightens our senses. We experience a distortion of time and the sense of self also disappears when we are in the Flow State. In this state we are calmer and totally aware of our surrounding, giving us the ability to accomplish our goals, easily and in great fashion.
Research done on Tibetan Buddhists during meditation found that the monks would experience a temporal shut down of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This process is called a Transient Hypofrontality. In these areas of the brain is where we distinguish the difference between self and other. “Being at one with the universe” is what how the monks would describe this state. Well this Transient Hypofrontality is what you will experience when you feel “at one with the wave”.
It’s really hard to explain unless you’ve tried it. It’s being out in the ocean in the sun, the water on your skin and the adrenalin rush when you catch a wave. You have to be creative so it’s like an art form in a way.” – Bethany Hamilton
The Neuroscience of Flow State
In Flow, our brain and the body releases neurochemicals that help us focus better. These are Potent reward chemicals, meaning that once tasted, we want more! The following are 5 of the Neurochemicals released in our body when in Flow State.
Norepinephrine – Considered a neurotransmitter and a hormone and its role goes to concentration. When norepinephrine is released in our body it gets our blood pumping and heart pounding, allowing us to shake off during stressful situations.
Dopamine – This neurotransmitter is in charge of cognitive alertness. Dopamine’s functions are also involved in our movement, memory and attention.
Endorphin – Also known as the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals. Endorphin acts as the body’s natural pain killers. It gives us the feeling of pleasure and euphoria and eases pain.
Serotonin – An essential chemical neurotransmitter in our body, it is responsible for maintaining mood balance. Serotonin also affects our social behavior, appetite and sleep.
Anandamide – Plays the role of producing the state of heightened happiness in our body. Anandamide also has an important role in pain, appetite and fertility.
All this neurochemical changes happen in our body when we are in the Flow State. This also gives our brain performance enhancing and pleasure inducing neurochemicals while surfing. It is only in flow that these powerful performance enhancing neurotransmitters are all released.
“I can be surfing the exact same wave and then sometimes something will just set off, even if I’m riding the same board the whole time. Something will just set off and it feels like you can push just that extra bit harder.” – Mick Fanning
The Waves of Flow
In Flow, our body creates brainwaves from synchronized electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other. There are 5 types of brainwaves, named: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta, these are in the order from the fastest to the slowest. The speed of our brainwaves is measured in Hertz (cycles per second).
What we are doing affects our brainwaves. So, if we feel sluggish or tired, slower brain wave is dominant. Feeling more energized and alert means that faster brain wave is dominant.
Gamma Waves – The fastest brainwaves, it is connected to the immediate processing of information from the different areas of our brain. Gamma waves are also comprised in our cognitive functions and higher processing task. It is essential for memory, learning and processing of information.
Beta Waves – Considered to be involved with normal waking consciousness and the sharper state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning. Beta waves increase our focus on the task at hand, whether it’s about sports or studies. Too much beta wave can mean more stress.
Alpha Waves – This brainwave takes over when we are in deep relaxation or while we daydream. It is the brain frequency between our conscious thinking and subconscious mind. This is the Flow State Zone.
Theta Waves – It is often when we sleep where Theta Waves can occur, but it is also present when we are in deep meditation. Theta waves allow us to dream vividly and involve information beyond normal consciousness awareness. It is also considered to be a Flow State Zone. Theta waves help our intuition and improve our creativity.
Delta Waves – The slowest, yet the loudest brainwave. It occurs when we are in a deep, dreamless sleep or if we undergo transcendental meditation. If we are in a healing process, deep sleep is essential.
The Wave of Flow
The Brainwaves of the Flow State are at the Alpha-Theta border. The Flow State zone is where our conscious and subconscious mind meets. When we begin to get engaged in the task at hand, we start from beta but rapidly move to alpha and eventually arriving at the border of theta. As Alpha brainwaves increase it precedes our peak performance. When we are in the state of intense creativity, a theta burst occurs in our mind. This opens the door to the “aha moment” a gamma spike. Those times where we get a sudden moment of insight or discover something previously now understood.
In Flow our brain and body goes through a performance enhancing series of chemical changes. It’s only in Flow that all these processes happen in unity of the task at hand. We have no internal or external distractions holding us back from being in complete focus. The blockages that would limit our performance are eradicated allowing us to excel with exponential growth. And with research done by the flow genome project we have found that this growth in performance is at 300% to 500%. So performance in the flow state is a must for anyone looking to be the best they can be.
You can find our more on getting a 300% – 500% improvement in performance by hacking into the Flow State. Get the free Flow State Course Package. Inside, you will get tutorials on the Science of Flow, the Instant Flow meditation course and the Elite Flow Blending course, where you will physically trigger the flow state while conditioning the body to physically deal with the Flow State.