The heat is on: Investigating the effect of psychological pressure on competitive performance in elite surfing

Fabian C. Klingner*, Barbara C.H. Huijgen, Matthias Kempe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

43 Downloads (Pure)


Competitive sport often creates a high-stake and thus a high-pressure environment for its athletes. In the past, research has pointed to the negative effect that competitive pressure might have on skills and movement executions that have been perfected through prior practice. The Attentional Control Theory: Sport (ACTS) suggests that specifically high situational pressure and prior performance failures may negatively affect an athlete’s subsequent performance. This study aimed to investigate the influence of situational pressure and previous performance errors on performance (i.e., wave score) in elite surfing while considering various contextual factors. A total of 6497 actions, performed by 80 elite surfers (female n = 28; male n = 52), were annotated based on video recordings of the 2019 World Championship Tour (WCT). A multi-level model was used to analyse the effect of pressure, previous errors and other contextual factors on the wave scores of individual surfers (i.e., events were nested within athletes). Partially confirming previous research, prior errors caused a significant decrease in surfing performance on the following ride. However, neither a significant effect of situational pressure on performance nor inter-individual differences in how prior-errors and situational pressure affected performance were found.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)596-604
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2023


  • anxiety
  • choking
  • coping with failure
  • coping with pressure
  • Wave riding


Dive into the research topics of 'The heat is on: Investigating the effect of psychological pressure on competitive performance in elite surfing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this