A diminutive professional surfer from Hawaii, Keanu Asing, sent shockwaves through the entire surfing world. With his chances of re-qualification for the World Surf League’s Championship Tour slipping away, Keanu showed incredible heart and determination (along with an absolutely lethal backhand attack) and took down some of the world’s best surfers, including world champions John John Florence and Gabriel Medina, to win the Quiksilver Pro. Social Media went ablaze congratulating “Anu” on his amazing win, with nearly every surfer and company in the industry laying praise on his gutsy performance, often with his signature hashtag #heartoverheight.
Flashback to a month prior, a fit yet stressed Keanu Asing walks into our gym in Carlsbad at NAKOA Fitness & Physical Therapy. A training session to prepare for the European leg of the tour seems like the farthest thing from his mind. Coming off a poor result at Lowers and an unpleasant phone call with a sponsor, Anu seems pretty jaded by the whole professional surfing life. While we go through his standard pre-session and competition warm-up, I let him vent about all these issues and can immediately tell his mind is not in a good place. So, like a typical session since Keanu qualified for the CT, we work to improve on all his physical qualities WHILE improving his current confidence levels and perspective on his career. A mixture of training-induced endorphins, jokes about his good friend and sometime training partner Torrey Meister, and some cliched coach speak (“there’s only 2 things an athlete can control: their effort, and their attitude”) seems to do the trick. Post session he is sweating, smiling and we are chatting about his upcoming wedding with his beautiful fiancee Kailin Curran. With the stresses from an hour ago seemingly gone, we say our goodbyes in typical bro-hug fashion and I wish him luck for France and Portugal.
Keanu is a BEAST. Blessed with an amazing family and support system, Anu is a naturally very well-rounded athlete. With few glaring weaknesses, we typically work to improve on ALL the major aspects of an athlete’s profile including mobility, flexibility, coordination, power, strength and endurance. At times I will select an advanced skill that relates to surfing to challenge him with. An example would be plyometric hurdle progressions, which we use with all our athletes at NAKOA to improve lower body power, rotational body control and overall proprioception (knowing where you are in space). The intention here is to BOTH improve on a movement ability that can apply to his sport AND boost his confidence through mastery of drills that at first frustrated him.
The point of this narrative is to illustrate the importance of an athlete’s self esteem and mindset during their competition season. At NAKOA, we pride ourselves on developing our athlete’s OVERALL abilities to succeed in competition, and that is far from simply increasing their physical fitness. The reality is that many professional athletes like Keanu are CONSTANTLY traveling, competing and engaging in many activities outside of their events, which leads to no TRUE offseason where they can solely focus on their training. If we as performance coaches can help them improve their physical abilities while increasing the belief they have in THEMSELVES, we can smile a little bigger when they win the big competition of their lives.