The Dark Side of Flow: A Qualitative Study of Dependence in Big Wave Surfing

in The Sport Psychologist
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  • 1 Northumbria University
  • | 2 University of Abertay Dundee
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Flow has been described within sport psychology as an optimal state underpinning peak performance. However, the consequences of experiencing flow may not always be beneficial. One negative consequence might be that of contributing to dependence on the activity that interacts with, or is associated with, the flow experience. This study explored the dichotomous consequences of flow, using case studies of big wave surfers. Fifteen elite surfers completed in-depth, semistructured interviews. It seems clear from the results that the surfers experienced positive consequences of flow. However, they also exhibited symptoms of dependence on surfing. It is suggested that there may be an association between the experience of dimensions of flow and the compulsion to engage in an activity. Some specific recommendations for further research into the relationship between flow and exercise dependence are made.

S. Partington and E. Partington are with the School of Psychology and Sport Sciences, Northumbria University, Northumbria, England, UK. Olivier is with the School of Social and Health Sciences, University of Abertay Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK.

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