Astronaut Christina Koch: ‘There are a lot of parallels between space walking and surfing’

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is a big name in space. Koch completed the first all-female spacewalk with Jessica Meir in 2019, and she’s one of nine female astronauts who could be the first woman to walk on the Moon. As SURFER explores in their final issue, Christina Koch is also an experienced Texas surfer — a sport she says isn’t too unlike spacewalking.

Koch describes the mental preparedness that goes into both surfing Texas waves and space walking outside the International Space Station:

In both surfing and space walking, you have to channel any fears or anxieties into focus. Seeing a wave approach and just knowing it’s go-time and that there are going to be ten different things to think about in the space of 3 seconds, you can’t get distracted by any one thing or any fear. I found myself relying on that same technique in space walking, where you know you have a job ahead of you, you know things might be risky and things may make you nervous. You have to compartmentalize those fears and also have a plan for what you are going to think about and techniques you’re going to use.

She kept up with surfers competing in the Championship Tour during workouts on the space station, which she says helped her prepare for space walks:

Space walking is my sport. I watched surf contests while I was in space and they inspired me to approach space walking with the same bravery and commitment as the athletes on the Championship Tour. I usually watched the competitions while I was working out, which we do largely to be ready for the intense physical and mental demands of spacewalks. So I would literally push myself harder seeing the strength that goes into being a professional surfer.

Koch adds that the ISS perspective gave her great insight into the best surfing spots back on Earth:

I had no idea how perfect space would be for scoping surf spots. The first glimpse I had from space of Tahiti, I could just see how perfect it was for swell. You can see in stark detail how and why certain sides of the island might get waves. You can see the swell shadowing. You can see how if a storm system comes from a certain part of the Earth, it’s going to light up certain places. You can even see the reefs. You can see lines of swell peeling left and right off of point breaks. It’s quite amazing.

The full interview includes Christina Koch’s perspective on getting women involved in male-dominated fields, the value of exploring space, and much more. Find it here.

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