It’s no rarity for athletes to have some bizarre superstitions: Michael Jordan always wore his UNC shorts under his Bulls Jersey, Tiger Woods wears his red shirt on Sundays, and hockey players have their playoff beards. In fact, science has shown that superstitious rituals actually tend to make athletes perform better on average.
So it probably comes as no surprise that perhaps the most superstitious athletes of all are found in extreme sports, where they must defy death on a near daily basis. Of particular note are surfers, who are constantly challenging one of nature’s most powerful and unwieldy forces: the ocean. Since its inception on the shores of Polynesia hundreds of years ago, myth, superstition and legend has been an integral part of the surfing life. Here are some of our top picks from the surfer mythos:
A New Block of Wax
When you have talent like ultra-pro Kelly Slater, having a superstition becomes kind of superfluous. Nonetheless, this pro has claimed that one his superstitions is to start each event with a fresh block of wax and refuses to use another one until it’s over—seems to be working out alright for him so far.
Don’t Tell the Other Boarders You’re Leaving
Unless you want to be an asshole, that is. It’s not uncommon for surfers to just paddle back to shore unannounced, the idea being that if you tell them you’re catching the next one in, everyone else who chooses to keep on is in for a long lull.
Don’t Ride A Yellow Board in Africa
As Aussie Nick Fanning has put it—there’s a reason they call it “yum-yum yellow.” Word has it that if you ride a yellow board in Africa, you’re due for a shark attack; surf a green board in Tahiti and you’ll get swept out to sea. The last one might be a bit far-fetched, but as it turns out, the US military has done some tests on how sharks perceive color and it turns out the likelihood of a shark interacting with an object floating on the ocean is directly tied to its color. Yellow is a strong candidate, so unless you’re looking to catch wave with Jaws, might want to stick to something a little less flashy.
Sleeping With Your Board Before A Comp
I’m not sayin’ you shouldn’t treat your stick like a real lady; I’m not sayin’ you shouldn’t pamper her and take her out to nice dinners. I’m just sayin’ that if you think spending the night with your board in your bed before a surf competition will improve your chances, it might be time to ease up on surfing and go hit the dating scene instead.
Strapping your board to the roof of your car and driving up and down the block while making jet engine sounds so it will give you extra speed when you hit the waves…
C’mon, I can’t be the only one who does this…right?
Ask Your Priest For Better Waves
For the ancient Hawaiians, surfing was more than just a recreational activity—it was a means of communion with their gods, an art and way of interacting with the ocean. Thus, when the surf was slack, they’d hit up their kahuna (priest) and ask him to pray for some awesome waves.