Richy Bennett has partnered with Deakin University to deliver a free webinar on high-performance psychology on Wednesday September 18.

From big waves to footy: 20 years of high-performance psychology

September 12, 2019 BY

IN September 1999, Jan Juc psychologist Richy Bennett published his first article titled “Overcome your fear: Why surfing big waves is all mind games” in Tracks Magazine – a monthly Australian surf publication.

Richy, better known as “Rich”, then went on to travel globally on the ASP World Tour (now World Surf League), pioneering the field of surf psychology through surfing, researching and consulting with top competitive surfers, free surfers and extreme big wave riders.

Since publishing his seminal book The Surfer’s Mind in 2004, Rich has been sharing surf psychology insights and strategies with individuals and teams across a broad range of high performance settings, including summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games teams, extreme/adventure and artistic pursuits, military, emergency, healthcare, education, career and corporate settings.

This year, he was appointed the role of AFL Umpires Performance Psychologist and has observed a considerable overlap in psychological challenges for big wave riders and the AFL’s elite umpires.

“Like the ocean, the play on the footy field is always in motion and situations and demands often change spontaneously from moment to moment,” he said.

“So similar to navigating the line-up and catching waves in big surf, ideal positioning and decision making is crucial.”

One of the greatest fears in big wave riding is the wipe out as the consequences can be heavy, and while not potentially fatal, consequences of an error for AFL umpires can also be very heavy.

“Whether it’s 50-feet of white water pounding you or 50,000 unhappy footy fans screaming at you, both big wave riders and AFL umpires need to master the process of acknowledging their fear, seeking deeper understanding and responding with composure and confidence in the moment, and for the next wave or performance demand that’s on its way.”

Rich has also observed a number of similarities between big wave riders and AFL umpires on a personal level.

“Big wave riders and AFL umpires share a deep passion for what they do and there is rarely any accolade,” he shared.

“They are simply inspired by the personal challenge to perform on the edge and contribute to the greater good of their respective community and game.”

Most recently, Rich has teamed up with Deakin University to present a free, live webinar from 12.30pm-1.30pm on Wednesday September 18 titled “From big wave riders to AFL umpires: 20 Years of High-Performance Psychology”.

People who would like to learn more from Rich about the psychological challenges, adversities and achievements among world class athletes and AFL umpires are encouraged to attend.

To register, visit

This column was written by Richy Bennett.