From Core

How Pro Surfer Brianna Cope Uses Meditation for Performance

Good Pillar Guests

April 21, 2020

Aloha! My name is Brianna Cope. I’m a professional surfer, born and raised on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Growing up, surrounded by the ocean, it was inevitable that I would fall in love with it. At just 4 years old, I gravitated toward the sport of surfing, and my father gave me lessons. I was so fortunate to grow up with the ocean in my backyard, so as I worked and worked at it, I found myself competing against my peers at age 11. As I kept working on my craft and competing, I started to realize that my mental wellness was just as much of a factor in my performance as my physical abilities.

Leading up to big events, I had a lot of anxiety and placed so much pressure on myself to perform well. I was so worried about how I would do and what could happen, that it put me at a disadvantage before I even hit the water! My thoughts made me so uncomfortable that I sought out help from my mother, who had been practicing mental wellness through meditation for years. I was open to anything that could help me. To say it was challenging to meditate at first is an understatement. I couldn’t sit still with my thoughts and my mind would wander from one thing to the next, moving from distractions, future outcomes, and past judgements. My mom was instrumental in teaching me how to keep practicing and not get discouraged as I began to practice. Over time, I noticed it became more natural and easier to fall into this new state of mind and focus away from thoughts and emotions that were out of my control. As I developed this new mental “muscle” I found that silent meditative walks on the beach before competitions really helped ease my mind and would take the focus away from the anxiety I was feeling. I could now visualize success without the results-based pressure hanging over me. I am forever grateful for my mother introducing me to meditation practices, as it was a huge factor in my achievement and success early in my career, including realizing my dream of becoming a professional surfer.

My chosen career path, like most of us, has had so many ups and downs. I love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living, but that doesn’t mean every day is easy. Even as recently as 2019, I found myself in a difficult time. I was losing competitions that I felt like I should have performed well in, and my confidence was consistently down every time I’d get out there. I found that I was losing trust in myself and my abilities, and had this urge to completely change my strategies because they clearly weren’t working. This led me to focus more on my physical self and shy away from my mental and meditative work. I would try and get my body as pumped up as possible before events and workout on the beach right before I was up. I figured that if I could throw as much physical energy into surfing as possible it would have to boost my results. As I tried different variations of this over time, I was still disappointed with how I was doing and my ranking didn’t improve. I realized that trying to “fix” myself through strictly physical action wasn’t working either.

As I reflected on this time and my goals as a professional athlete, I realized that I didn’t have the same inner balance that I had felt during my times of success. Meditation was what had helped me feel more peaceful and confident. I could handle undesired results much better when I had been practicing. Something clicked for me at that moment, and I decided that my mental and physical work were both instrumental in my professional wellbeing, and that I could be more at peace with whatever future events came my way. I dove back in and reestablished a devoted meditative practice before events with a renewed sense of optimism. I was meditating for longer periods of time, which helped clear my mind for more positive visualization practice as well. I’d see my whole competition from making my coffee to seeing myself on the winner’s podium! Even if that wasn’t the result, I felt like I had prepared myself as best as I could and couldn’t wait for the next event. This led to a successful second half of the year in competition, and a mentally stronger and healthier me.

After experiencing success using meditation in my professional career, I thought to myself, why not practice in preparation for everyday life? I began meditating daily, and immediately noticed a dramatic change in my mentality. I was more positive and present, less stressed and frustrated. Meditation has given me a better chance of being consistently happy!  As I continue to practice, my mental strength has increased, and my quality of life has improved both in and out of the water. I experience calmness and am present in my day to day life. I love starting my morning with meditation to set intentions for the day, and now I've taken my mental training to the next level with a Core Meditation Trainer.

I hope that sharing my mental wellness journey helps remind you that we can all benefit from meditation, no matter our profession. Mental wellness is the way in which we can be better prepared for all the waves life brings us!

Brianna Cope is a professional surfer from the beautiful island of Kauai! She describes riding a wave as an indescribable feeling, because you can only ride that wave once, never the same wave again. She is currently competing on the World Surf League qualifying series, and her ultimate goal is to be on the world tour. Brianna has always been a firm believer that where there’s a will, there’s a way. In 2018, she dropped a documentary called Surfing to Cope, available on iTunes.