Mindfulness and goal setting with Felicity Palmateer

  • January 25, 2021

Setting goals

Looking down the barrel of a big wave isn’t for the faint hearted, but for Aussie pro surfer Felicity Palmateer, it’s a regular day in the office. Here Felicity shares her best advice for peak mental and physical health, as well as what keeps her grounded during competition time.

  • When you’re about to compete in a global surf contest and the audience and cameras are watching, how do you mentally prepare for the task ahead?

    “I have a routine which I do, and it’s something I do without thinking about it because I’ve done it that many times. This routine really helps get me into the zone. Sometimes I’ll do it even if I’m not competing – even if I’m just going into a free surf during the day. This routine involves analysing the surf before I go out. If it’s for a heat or if I’m competing, I’ll analyse the surf for at least an hour. Then right before I paddle out, I have an exercise routine that wakes up every single muscle in my body, and I also wear my headphones which allow me to listen to a meditation / visualisation that one of my coaches made for me. It talks through certain moments, and because I’ve listened to it so many times, my body knows ‘right, this is the sound I’m hearing and now is the time to get into the zone’. It basically triggers my body to get ready.” 

  • Do you ever allow yourself to get nervous?

    “Well, my main focus is the Big Wave world tour – the biggest waves in the world in the most challenging spots in the world, and it’s life or death… people die during these comps, so I get nervous but that also turns into adrenaline, especially once you’re out there in the surf. You just have to manage that. You don’t want that to overcome you. I try not to sit out there for too long before catching a wave because yes you have to be physically fit, but you also need to be mentally fit.” 

  • Do you feel like competition is healthy?

    “One of the biggest things I’ve learnt in life from competition and health and wellbeing in general is to just try and find a balance. It can be tricky but one thing I always find is that competition can bring out the best and the worst in people, and if I find myself getting too highly strung or too intense, I always come back to my friends and family. Usually a few phone calls with them or conversations with those who matter really helps centre and ground me. It’s just a really weird thing anyway, where you’re going out catching waves and people are scoring it! It’s just very strange. If you think about what we’re really doing, it’s not the end of the world if you lose.”  

  • Are you a big goal setter? Do you have any goal setting advice?

    “I’m a big believer in journaling and writing things down. There’s something to be said for putting pen to paper. I think it helps your brain register everything and make your hopes and dreams more real. I journal every single day. You have to chip away at these things and you have to break down the big goals – like, what do you need to do to be able to achieve this? Do you need to be fitter in this area, do you need to change something in your diet, spend more time with your family because that’s what makes you feel good and then you compete better? All that stuff contributes to the big goal. Then there are the things like replying to emails, cleaning house, everyday things I know I have to tick off. Goal setting is a massive thing and having little goals for each day provides a sense of achievement.” 

  • Is it important for you to keep yourself feeling healthy inside and out?

    “For me it’s about finding that balance. I love exercising and surfing, but I have to find the right reasons for why I’m doing it. A lot of people go through body confidence issues and I think as I grew up, I started to realise that I loved to work out because it made me feel strong and empowered, and when I feel good, I look good. It’s the inside shining out.” 

  • What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

    “It’s super cliched but ‘it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon’, and the other one would be, ‘it’s not what you do but how you do it’. That’s in relation to not just winning comps, as at the end of the day, there’s only one winner and comps don’t come around super often. It’s more about how you engage with everything you do – what you take into that activity every single day and how you go about getting there.”