All it took to overcome a fear of the ocean was a little time

Some people are afraid of heights, snakes, flying, needles or public speaking. For me, it's the ocean. I'm a big wuss when it comes to waves. 

I wasn't always scared of the sea. In fact, I'd never swam in the ocean until moving to the coast for university. But that's when my fear began. On the first day of orientation week, we were taken to the beach and let loose. I had no idea what to expect and to be cool, I copied what the other first-year students were doing. 

You can probably guess what happened. 

I got dumped and rolled by the waves, swallowed a stomach-full of sea water, lost my bikini top and came up from the crushing swell splattering and heaving for air. My left hip and pride were bruised and most of all, I was shit-scared of it happening again. 

That was nearly two decades ago and in the years since, I've managed to discreetly disguise my fear of the ocean by offering thinly-veiled excuses like 'it's too cold to swim' or if push comes to shove, wading in just up to my waist.

Challenge accepted

All that changed last week, when I plunged head-first into learning to surf and a side of stand up paddle-boarding (SUP). 

As someone who's always on the lookout for a challenge, I figured I shouldn't let my fear of the ocean stop me from experiencing new things. 

Knowing that I'd experienced instructors on hand to help went some way to quelling my fears, but what got me over the line was my watch.

Apple Watch's Emergency SOS function, which when activated, dials emergency services and your predetermined emergency contact or next-of-kin - even without an iPhone nearby.

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I've worn an Apple Watch for several years and I know my way around its buttons, dials and apps. Cycling, yoga, swimming, high-intensity interval training. You name it, Apple Watch measures it. I record and analyse my runs, yoga workouts and pram walks through the Activity or Strava apps, and if necessary, I'll punch out a few minutes' worth of squats or go for a brisk walk around the block to 'close my activity rings'. 

But it's the watch's lesser-known activity tracking capabilities that have impressed me lately. 

What's beneath the surface

When I went surfing for the first time, the watch through the Dawn Patrol app, recorded how many waves I managed to ride (yes, I did stand up!) including the distance and speed travelled. On my iPhone after the workout, I could see exactly where I surfed as well as my longest ride. 

To provide users with this level of data, developers are taking advantage of the built-in GPS, compass, gyroscope and accelerometer in the latest Series 5 watch, which enable tracking of specialised metrics.

Another example is the clever GoSUP app. It's the perfect companion for stand up paddle-boarding. During my workout, the app gave me detailed information including duration, distance, pace, number of strokes, heart rate and more. Because of my fear of open water, I was comforted to know that with the watch's in-built compass I'd be able to see the direction and distance from my starting point - should I go off course. Thankfully, that never happened but it was nice to know the safety feature was there. 

Wet and wilderness

Being water-resistant to 50-metres, Apple Watch is ideal for water sports, including pool and open water swimming. The Pool Swim workout automatically records splits and sets, and can recognise your stroke. And the Open Water Swim workout visualises your route on a map, while precisely tracking active calories burned, distance and overall pace. It's a stroke of genius. 

If water sports aren't your thing and like me, you prefer land than sea, then you'll be stoked with the ways Apple Watch can take your running further. 

My favourite feature of the Outdoor Run workout is when pace alerts give me a gentle tap on the wrist to let you know if you're behind or ahead of where I want to be. Cadence lets me see my steps per minute and helps me to improve my running technique, and rolling pace constantly updates, allowing me to see my split for the preceding kilometre at any time.

Watch this space

These fitness tracking features and more really do inspire a healthier life. 

By surfing out of my comfort zone, I've learned there's still a lot more to discover with the Apple Watch on my wrist. Features I thought I'd never need have quickly become part of my life, like the Breathe app, which throughout the day reminds me to stop, relax and practice mindfulness or the Noise app that senses when noise levels may pose a risk to my hearing. It really is the first watch that watches out for you.

The writer travelled to Byron with assistance from Apple.