Aired on 2021, Apr 07th  in Legends and much more! / Podcast

Interview with Cris Mills

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Welcome to the 25th and last episode of the second series of our podcast.

We hope you enjoyed the episodes…. we will be back in one month with the 3rd series full of great guests.

Thank you so much for the thousands of you that are now following us every month, it has been an amazing journey!

Today’s guest from Tweed Heads, New South Wales , surf coach Cris Mills.

Let’s discover more about him, surf coaching and much more!

You can listen to the episode in all major podcast platforms ( Spotify, Amazon, Google, ITunes, YouTube) or read the interview here on our website (please forgive us of spelling mistakes)


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TTOS: Aloha Cris, welcome to the show! Where are you today?

I’m at home in Tweet Heads Banora point Australia.

TTOS:  How's it going over there?

Pretty okay, the sun is out, there have been some waves….that's what we need in this moment man…more sunshine, some occasional surf, the ability to be outside helps with the mindset and the physical health as well.

TTOS: I was talking with some people from Hawaii, couple of months ago, and they told me that there surfing cannot be stopped, it's kind of a Royal Decree that allows you to go to the beach.

You cannot stop surfing, it is number one medicine! That's how it should be, bro.

TTOS: First question for you is, what is the most important thing in surfing?

Oh, big question…. first off, fun.

I think it's me having been involved in surfing now kind of in a professional scope, but also being very personally driven, like in all aspects of life. I want to be good, I want to succeed, what is the next step at times it's kind of cold, but it has also made surfing not fun at times. I think, at the end of the day, we are all drawn to surfing initially from a play energetic level of experience… as kids were just like, “it's awesome, let's play, my buddies are doing that, I'm going to go surf”, but there's something deeper to it.

For me personally, there is an energetic kind of metaphysical thing with it, I think it always just needs to come back to realize while you're surfing, it's the heart, your soul just wants to have fun. Your soul just wants to play and, as adults, we kind of get caught up in all of our life and sometimes we bring that to our surfing and it's especially true if we're trying to get better and, you know, we bring outside circumstances to our surfing and to the art of surfing.

I think, at the end of the day, the most important thing is lighten up and remember, you're there just to have some fun….

I think a lot of us forget about it, they get into the ocean and be stressed out, they go for a surf and all they do is keep replaying all the that they have got to do afterwards.

They bring that stress to a situation that should be very fulfilling. In Surf you got to become present, you're floating in the ocean, you're just like this walking amalgamation of energy floating in this big pool of energy, waiting some waves to arrive that are just energy.

My recommendation is just lighten up and smile and have some fun.

TTOS: Do you remember your first surfboard?

Yes I do, the brand was I don't know how you even pronounce it, bahne bond or bond a bain. It was, I think, my uncle's board and I just kind of inherited it because I grew up at the beach, but there available, were just a lot of boogie boards and skim boards. The board I had was this old, single fin, It had this retro, rainbow kind of paint on the bottom and, the top, was this like lime green…..we still have it, I actually repaired it and I gave it to my cousin cause it was my uncle’s.

My first like custom surfboard was a brand named Quiet Flight, still operating, I think it's still a board design manufacturer in Cocoa Beach area in Florida….

TTOS:  I saw in Instagram, a surfboard that you colored yourself…. That was cool!

Right! that man was cool, I'm going to go probably glass it this week, I think it came out pretty rad, so bright for the first time ….

TTOS:  How was your transition between surfer and surf coach?

We started with the coaching technique aspect probably in the last couple of years, initially I was doing, let’s say, from over a decade now, strength and conditioning and rehab and training.

From that, it came the opportunity to work more with surfers and having a voice because of my YouTube channel, so we started running coaching surfing trips. Being around high level technique coaches very often and having an understanding biomechanics, I've directly benefited from that and I have improved my own surfing from what I have learned, it's very experiential based….

Over the last couple years, I've started doing some surf coaching as well, depending on the skill level, I'm very clear about who I'm willing to coach or not coach as I believe that you need to have a certain skill level in place and a certain understanding to be able to coach certain levels of surfers.

It's probably only in the last two or three that I've really started talking about techniques and talking about some various aspects of coaching, but it all initially came about just because I was always involved in athletics, I was always involved in surfing and then I started doing the personal training thing.

That steam rolled into where we are today, sitting here and having a chat.

TTOS: In your opinion, what is the most important thing in coaching?

What I find to be one of the most relevant aspects is initially caring.

Us,as coaches, we often do have an emotional vested interest in those we are coaching, we want them to succeed, there's this level of compassion, but I think most importantly is knowing how to be able to communicate, it can be tough with coaching because we're trying to impart to somebody a feeling.

If I tell you to, “you need to do this on the top turn, you need to put your elbow here and 10 more degrees and you need to rotate further”, but none of that matters unless you actually feel it and embody it. You gotta find a way to communicate to an individual in a way that they understand, finding a way to relate to them and maybe needing to rephrase things repeatedly until that does reach a physical understanding for them, but then also having an understanding of when to dose information… for instance, I can sit here and flood you with facts and info and pressures, but it's just overload…..knowing how to feed information when to do it and then reading an individuals when they are becoming overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated….

People want to get better and we have a lot of people that join our surf trips that are really successful professionals in their own business, CEOs, lawyers, doctors, smart individuals successful in a lot of areas of life and then, suddenly, here's surfing….it's hard, man! There can be a lot of frustration and a lot of emotional baggage that goes with it while trying to do it. The harder people try, the more difficult it's going to become….

We don’t need to over-pressure, we need to emotionally understand them, just tell them, “go chill, go sit in the boat, drink a beer, have a laugh, something to lighten the emotional load” it just makes the coaching process better...

TTOS:  What is the most common advice that you're giving them?

There's a lot of needing to laugh, honestly, in a coaching perspective in the water, there's a lot of needing to laugh because a laughing's going to get you to start breathing, a lot of you'd be astounded. How many people go, they start paddling into a wave and they hold their breath and they surf a whole wave and don't breathe the entire time….it's crazy because not only is dangerous in terms of like progressing into bigger surf, but if you're not breathing, you're tense….

What does tense surfing look like? It looks terrible, it's just stiff too, it needs to be light and flowing and the way we start to do that and it's like, can I breathe? Can I relax? Can I float? not only lighten the mood emotionally, but it also gets people starting to breathe. I've heard some coach tell people to make a fart noise as they do a turn because… hey, it's stupid, but it gets them to breathe. This whole aspect of how can we lighten up, how can we start breathing is important

Let's laugh, let's breathe, let's lighten all the mental load and then realize again, why are we surfing? Cause we are just trying to have fun!

TTOS:  What are the key benefits of hiring a surf coach?

Pretty simple, right? A coach is going to fast-track the process, if he is a good coach….look at any skill endeavor, if I'm want to go learn the piano, I can watch some on YouTube, I could self-teach but I'm probably going to be a little better off by just getting a piano teacher at the start. We often equate it to golf, right? What's the quickest way to get better at golf? “hire a coach” because it's a technically precise sport and there's a lot of nuance into a golf swing, same thing for surfing is that the biggest impediment to most intermediate surfers is their “bad habits”, if they just keep trying, trying, and trying, they're just going to further cement, their bad habits and most intermediate surfers don't have enough time in the water to, to figure things out.

If you hire a coach, the biggest thing is this there are usually one or two big technique flaws that are just stopping all progression. The coach must figure out what those biggest flaws are, the bad habits so you can start changing that because that's certainly going to open up some pathways towards the next level of surfing. It just comes down to fast tracking, do you want to spend the next year trying to figure out something just by watching a pro surf video or something and just trying it over and over and over and over in the water, which is what kids do.

As an adult, you get one surf a week… do you want to fast track some? I let you know what's wrong and how to start creating a better pattern

So we talk about it a lot on our coaching trips, we get into motor pattern development, skill development, skill acquisition, that's what we're trying to do with surfing, we're trying to create new motor patterns, new movement habits, and the motor cortex of the brain is as a kid, you learn patterns to play. Play is really essential to this whole developmental process, especially with movement.

Kids are just doing it over and over and over, no matter how the surf is or going out, they are paddling around and laughing, whereas adults, don't play,it's very driven: “what do I need to do right now? How am I going to get better?” It's kind of counter-intuitive into how our brain and the neuro-plasticity of it kind of lights up and learns.

Again, learn to enjoy, laugh, have fun, try and play and it's in these play moments usually where things are really figured out.

TTOS:  Tell us more about the surf app project….

It's essentially a surf fitness app, there's fitness within it, there's breath work, there's technique work and  there's skills. It's kind of become an app that has a library for things that surfers want to learn and want to improve upon. A large encompass of it is the surf athlete 12 weeks program. That's just a comprehensive fitness program.

We've got a paddling specific program, that's more fitness directed just towards upper body endurance. We'll probably have a program that comes out just for old dudes.

TTOS:  We're going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please the first thing that comes up to your mind…. The best surfboard you ever ridden….

There are these new prototypes coming from my shaper Clayton, they're kind of like an electro model, I think from Weber kind of variations since it's like amalgamation of like, you got this weirdshape and this stubby nose, but this high performance tail….they're really interesting surfboards that feel really good under the feet.

TTOS: Your favorite shaper

I'd probably just go with Clayton, because I've been getting gourds from him for a couple of years now. We have a good working relationship.

I get lazy too, he's like, “Cris, what do you want?” I'm like, I kind of want this, you've seen me surf. I'm going to be surfing it mostly here….

TTOS:  Your favorite song…

I can give you some favorite bands Assault, Norma Jean like hardcore black metal black metal, the Mars Volta,Motoric, Rufus du Sol, he is really good.

And then old school, probably and Black Sabbath, Neil Young in there. That's kind of an eclectic bunch of music, it just depends on the mood.

TTOS: Your favorite surf spot

Hollows Trees in Mentwaii

the waves are incredible and I've just rifles always stands out in my mind is one of like these waves that I'd really like to go spend some time at and get some familiarity with, you can have some magic waves there.

TTOS: Your favorite surfer….

 Ooh, that's hard, man. I always liked the Hobgood brothers. Pete Mindia was a surfer from Florida back in the day and I think to this day, he is one of the most impressive  power surfers. I really like watching Asher Pacey on twin fins.

TTOS:  The last question is ….we want to know your best relationship advice.

God, I'm the last person to ask for this,

I think what I've come to find as I've gotten older is that there the aspect of communication, there is the need to be very calm, clear, open communication, all relationship faults and issues, I think often boiled down to the inability to communicate with each other in a relevant and constructive way. Things aren't said, or aren't heard and things aren't spoken about clearly and openly, then it becomes embittered and angered and then it finally lashes out. I think, if people could be very concise and clear with our words and take off some of the emotion at times, I think that would help, at least all the relationships I've been in, but, I need to take that advice a bit more then giving it…

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