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Learning a new sport related to the surfing and water world can be very beneficial at a neural and physical level. In reality, any type of sport or movement has a significant impact on our brain and our kinesthetic learning systems. As we get older we may lose range of motion, speed and reflex also decrease.

But above all, one of the qualities that we lose quicker is balance, which is why all aquatic activities, related to surfing, windsurfing, paddle boarding, wing foil, and kite surfing, will have a special impact on maintaining and improving our sensory-motor capacity of balance.

Here I share the main processes and changes from wich we can benefit from the practicing this diffrent water sports.

Neuroplasticity: The brain can reorganize itself and form new neural connections in response to experience and learning. When learning windsurfing for example, the brain adapts and creates new neural pathways to process and store the information necessary to perform the specific movements and techniques of the sport.

Formation of new synapses: As you practice and repeat specific movements, the synaptic connections between the neurons involved in those movements are strengthened. This improves the efficiency and precision of your motor skills.

Activation of multiple brain areas: Learning a new sport requires the integration of sensory, motor and cognitive information. Various areas of the brain are activated, including:

a) Motor cortex: Responsible for planning and executing movements.

b) Cerebellum: Involved in coordination and balance.

c) Somatosensory cortex: Processes tactile and proprioceptive information (the perception of body position and movement).

Release of neurotransmitters

During the learning and practising process, neurotransmitters such as dopamine and endorphins are released. Dopamine is associated with reward and motivation, helping you stay focused and motivated. Endorphins, known as happiness hormones, contribute to a feeling of well-being and can reduce the perception of pain.

Procedural memory

Learning any new water sport involves the development of procedural memory, which is the memory of how to do things (motor skills and habits). This form of memory is stored primarily in the basal ganglia and cerebellum.

Development of attention and concentration

Practising a new sport requires a high level of attention and concentration. Over time, you will improve these cognitive skills, which can have benefits in other areas of your life.

Spatial Awareness and Navigation

Navigating and manoeuvring on the water enhances spatial awareness and cognitive mapping abilities. The hippocampus, a brain region associated with spatial memory and navigation, benefits from this, potentially leading to improved memory and spatial reasoning.

Reduced stress and increased well-being

Regular practice of windsurfing and other water sports can reduce stress and anxiety levels, promoting a state of calm and well-being. This is due in part to the combination of physical activity, contact with nature and focus on the present moment.

Stress Reduction and Enhanced Cognitive Function

Engaging in windsurfing reduces stress by lowering cortisol levels, a stress hormone. Lower stress levels are associated with better cognitive functions, including improved focus, memory, and problem-solving skills. The natural environment also contributes to a sense of well-being and mental clarity.

Sensory Integration

Windsurfing demands the integration of multiple sensory inputs, such as visual (assessing the water and wind conditions), vestibular (balance), and proprioceptive (body position and movement) senses. This multisensory integration improves the brain's ability to process and respond to complex sensory information, enhancing overall sensory processing abilities.

Mindfulness and Concentration

Windsurfing requires a high level of concentration and presence at the moment, akin to mindfulness practice. This can enhance the brain's ability to focus, regulate emotions, and reduce anxiety, leading to better mental health and cognitive function.

Cognitive Challenges and Problem-Solving

Windsurfing often presents unexpected challenges that require quick thinking and problem-solving. This stimulates the prefrontal cortex, the brain region responsible for planning, decision-making, and executive functions. Engaging in this area can improve cognitive control and decision-making abilities.

Social Interaction

If practised in a group or with a community, any of this great sports can enhance social interaction, which is beneficial for brain health. Social activities increase oxytocin levels, reduce stress, and improve mood, contributing to better cognitive and emotional health.

In summary, learning any of the sports related to the family of SURFING as a discipline not only improves your physical and motor skills but also induces positive changes in the brain, improving neuronal plasticity, coordination, memory and general well-being.

Robert Brown. Alma Adventures. Mindful Learning.

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