ThesisPDF Available

Well-being, Flow Experience and Personal Characteristics of Individuals who Do Extreme Sports as Serious Leisure


Abstract and Figures

Even though surfing is not a very typical sport in the landlocked countries, its popularity has grown in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the recent years. However, research in this phenomenon is not very widespread. There has not been any study written on this topic in the Czech and Slovak psychological literature. The main of this thesis was to find information about Czech and Slovak surfers, who do this sport on a regular basis. In particular, we examined the relationship between surfing and flow experience, life satisfaction and personality characteristics. We worked with two samples in our research. The first sample of a Surf group consisted of 34 women and 35 men aged between 20 to 47 years of age. The second group of non-surfers, respondents who had no previous experience with surfing, consisted of 31 men and 39 women aged between 18 and 50 years of age. The respondents came from the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The data was collected by an online questionnaire which consisted of the Flow State Scale-2 (Řezáč, 2007), the Life Satisfaction Questionnaire (Fahrenberg et al., 2001) and the NEO 5-factor Personality Inventory (Hřebíčková & Urbánek, 2001. We also administrated the Flow Questionnaire (Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi 1982, as cited in Han, 1988) for the Non-surf group to identify flow activity. The results of the two samples were compared together. Some significant differences were found between the surfers and non-surfers in connection to flow experience. Surfers scored higher than non-surfers in the dimensions of autotelic experience and time transformation. Non-surfers scored higher than surfers in the dimensions of unambiguous feedback and sense of control. No significant differences between the groups were found in life satisfaction. However, the group of surfers had higher rates in all the dimensions of life satisfaction as well as in the overall life satisfaction. Significant differences between the groups were found in personality characteristics. The results of our research suggest that surfers are more emotionally stable, more extraverted, more open to new experiences and more conscientious. The results of this study can serve as a launching pad for further research in inland surfing.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Masarykova univerzita
Filozofická fakulta
Psychologický ústav
Well-being, Flow Experience and Personal Characteristics of
Individuals who Do Extreme Sports as Serious Leisure
Dana Sidorová
Vedoucí diplomové práce: PhDr. Katarína Millová, Ph.D.
Brno 2015
I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently, using only the sources listed in the
In Brno, date: …………………………………...
Dana Sidorová
I would like to thank my supervisor PhDr. Katarína Millová, Ph.D for her positive
approach, kind help, support and valuable advice.
I would also like to express my gratitude to the surfing associations, which shared
my questionnaire, and to my friends and family who supported me during the collection of
the data and writing the thesis.
Special thanks to my boyfriend Jiří for his patient and careful proofreading.
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................. 7
THEORETICAL PART ......................................................................................................... 8
1 FLOW ...................................................................................................................... 8
1.1 Introduction ................................................................................................. 8
1.2 The Concept of Flow According to Csikszentmihalyi .................................. 8
1.3 Different Approaches to Positive Human Experience ............................... 21
1.4 Further Channel Models of Flow .............................................................. 25
2 SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING .............................................................................. 26
2.1 Introduction ............................................................................................... 26
2.2 Approaches to Well-Being ......................................................................... 27
Ed Diener’s Subjective Well-Being ........................................................... 27
C. D. Ryff’s Psychological Well-Being ..................................................... 28
C. Keyes’s Concept of Positive Mental Health.......................................... 30
Self-Determination Theory by E. Deci and R. Ryan ................................. 31
M. Seligman’s PERMA ............................................................................. 33
2.3 Flow and Well-being .................................................................................. 35
3 SERIOUS LEISURE ............................................................................................. 36
3.1 Introduction ............................................................................................... 36
3.2 Serious Leisure Perspective ....................................................................... 36
3.3 Well-being and Serious Leisure ................................................................. 39
3.4 Flow and Serious Leisure .......................................................................... 40
4 SURFING .............................................................................................................. 41
4.1 Introduction ............................................................................................... 41
4.2 Psychology of Surfing ................................................................................ 42
4.3 Life Satisfaction and Surfing...................................................................... 45
4.4 Flow and Surfing ....................................................................................... 46
4.5 Personal Characteristics of Surfers ........................................................... 48
EMPIRICAL PART ............................................................................................................. 49
5 The Purpose of the Study ....................................................................................... 49
5.1 Research Questions .................................................................................... 50
5.2 Hypothesis .................................................................................................. 50
6 Participants ............................................................................................................. 50
7 Methods ................................................................................................................. 53
7.1 NEO 5-factor Personality Inventory .......................................................... 53
7.2 Life Satisfaction Questionnaire (Fahrenberg, Myrtek, Schumacher,
Brahler) ...................................................................................................... 54
7.3 Flow Questionnaire (FQ) .......................................................................... 55
7.4 Flow State Scale (FSS-2) ........................................................................... 55
8 Data Analyses ........................................................................................................ 59
9 Results .................................................................................................................... 60
9.1 NEO-FFI .................................................................................................... 60
The Surf Group .......................................................................................... 60
The Non-surf Group ................................................................................... 64
Comparison ................................................................................................ 66
9.2 Flow State Scale-2 ..................................................................................... 71
The Surf Group .......................................................................................... 71
The Non-surf Group ................................................................................... 74
Comparison ................................................................................................ 77
9.3 Life Satisfaction Questionnaire ................................................................. 79
The Surf Group .......................................................................................... 79
The Non-surf Group ................................................................................... 81
Comparison ................................................................................................ 81
9.4 Correlations ............................................................................................... 83
9.5 Regression Analysis ................................................................................... 86
The Surf Group .......................................................................................... 86
The Non-surf Group ................................................................................... 89
10 Discussion .............................................................................................................. 92
Hypothesis .................................................................................................. 92
Limitations of the Study ............................................................................. 95
Practical Implications ................................................................................. 96
Future Research.......................................................................................... 96
11 Conclusion ............................................................................................................. 97
12 References .............................................................................................................. 98
13 Appendices ........................................................................................................... 124
Appendix 1 ........................................................................................................... 124
Appendix 2 ........................................................................................................... 125
Appendix 3 ........................................................................................................... 126
In our study, we focused on life satisfaction, flow experience and personal
characteristics in participants of extreme sports, specifically in surfers. Since the sport
of surfing is not very usual in the Central Europe region, this thesis is probably the first study
of its kind focused on the Czech and Slovak surfers in the field of psychology. Thus, our
main aim was simply to explore the unknown area. Another goal was to prove the overall
positive effects of surfing on one´s life and describe the personality characteristics of Czech
and Slovak surfers. We believe that extreme sports and surfing can have a therapeutic effect
on an individual and, therefore, the effect should be explored.
Although being a surfer from an inland country costs a lot of money and time, surfing
has gained increasing popularity in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the last few years.
There are more than 10 Czech and Slovak companies organizing surf camps and the eight
Czechoslovak surf championships is going to be organized this year (Quiksilver Surfchamp,
2015). Another proof of the growing popularity of the sport in the region is also the fact that
we collected the 69 questionnaires only in two months. Thus, a questions arose why people
have exchanged the regular holiday for the tiring sport of surfing?
Before we even started the research, I had had the feeling I had known the answer
for the question. Surfing has been my passion for the last 4 years and since the moment I
rode my first wave, I cannot stop. When surfing, I experience a limitless sense of embodied
happiness and fulfilment; a feeling which I have never experienced anywhere else. Surfing
encompasses everything. It is fun, challenge, fear and enjoyment in one. All that was an
inspiration for focusing the thesis on the theme of flow experience and life satisfaction in
the Czech and Slovak surfers.
Theoretical Part
1.1 Introduction
“In a world supposedly ruled by the pursuit of money, power, prestige, and pleasure,
it is surprising to find certain people who sacrifice all those goals for no apparent reason:
people who risk their lives climbing rocks, who devote their lives to art, who spend their
energies playing chess.” These are the first words in the book Beyond Boredom and Anxiety
which was written by the American Italian positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
(1975, p. 1). They well represent the key ideas which he used when forming the concept
of flow as it is known today. Although thirty years have passed since Csikszentmihalyi’s
book, most people in the Western societies are still predominantly performance-oriented.
We follow the vicious circle of earning money to earn success and earning success to earn
more money. A large majority of us spend most of the day at work, focusing on extrinsic
rewards. The little time we are left with after work gives us the only chance to live our lives
as we really want to. But why should we divide our time between work, which we have
to do and do not enjoy, and the time after work, which we do enjoy but have very little.
Paradoxically, this way of life can have a negative effect on the quality of our
performance. For example, in my job of a recruiter I am pushed to perform. My salary
is based on the number of vacancies I am able to fill. When I manage to have one person
employed by my client, it is considered a success. Even though my personal goal in this
position is to help people to find jobs they would enjoy and they would be good
at, I sometimes completely forget about my priorities and start taking potential candidates
as goods rather than human beings. I want to derive pleasure from the whole working process
and not just wait for the figures on my payroll. This example from my own professional life
well demonstrates what flow is about.
1.2 The Concept of Flow According to Csikszentmihalyi
Csikszentmihalyi understands flow as an optimal experience when one is completely
absorbed in an activity and nothing else seems to matter (Csikszentmihalyi, 2013). He also
describes this state of mind as something we create, we make happen. An individual
is depicted as the initiator of the process and as the creator of his or her own happiness.
Anyone can experience flow. However, there are particular predispositions which some
people have. I discuss this idea later on in this study.
Csikszentmihalyi (2013) also talks about flow as the state when one´s goals are
congruent with the information coming to person’s attention from the outside. He calls
it an order in consciousness. In contrast, when people are forced to use their energy
differently than they want to, for instance, when they have to concentrate on something that
is not appealing to them, they can easily experience a feeling of discomfort. In the theory
of flow this was defined as a psychic entropy. According to the American social psychologist
Leon Festinger (1962), this psychological discomfort is a form of cognitive dissonance;
a situation when two cognitive processes stand against each other which results
in frustration. This perceived disequilibrium motivates a person to reduce the feelings
of discomfort and to find consistency. That is what Csikszentmihalyi (2013) calls
a consonance. When one feels these opposing energies in his or her self, one naturally tries
to find the so-called order. One possible way of this self-organization is to experience flow.
A person’s self gets more complex while experiencing the optimal experience and that
is how we grow as individuals.
One example of the theory mentioned in the previous paragraph can be a student
of psychology. Imagine a student of psychology who is interested in psychotherapy, but
he has an obligation to take a business course within the course of organizational psychology.
He is sitting in a classroom and he is trying to listen to the teacher, because he knows he will
need all this information for the exam. Nonetheless, his feeling that he will never use
anything from the class in real life results in his loss of concentration. Based on the flow
theory, to fight frustration or entropy, the student has to reorganize this situation in his mind.
Since he is the creator of his happiness, he needs to change the way he thinks in order to get
rid of the feeling of discomfort. For instance, the student can start to think about his future
employment. He wants to become a psychotherapist. Later on in his life, he may want to open
his own practice and be in charge of a small company of his own. Thus, it is possible that
he can profit from listening to the lecture, bearing his field of interest in mind. After this type
of a reflection, the student starts to listen and adapt all the boring theory to the vision he has
just made. He is getting away from the psychic entropy, entering the comfort zone and
possibly experiencing the state of flow. Bad feelings disappear and there is space for growth
and development of his personality. This example of my creation well demonstrates the
concept of optimal experience.
The conceptualization of flow by Csikszentmihalyi is also known for its nine
dimensions. These dimensions can be understood as conditions which are necessary for flow
to occur. When they are all met at once, they lead to optimal experience. The nine
dimensional model consists of the following items: challenge-skill balance, clear goals,
unambiguous feedback, concentration on task, loss of self-consciousness, action-awareness
merging, sense of control, time transformation and autotelic experience. The dimensions are
described in the following paragraphs.
1. Challenge-skill balance
To meet the conditions of the challenge-skill balance dimension, one needs
an optimal arousal, which is a psychological state in which we feel a balance between
subjectively perceived skills and subjectively perceived challenges. When it is otherwise,
the feelings of anxiety or boredom follow (Berlyne, 1960; Hunt, 1965). The level of our
readiness to respond is optimal and varies from a person to a person. Everyone responds
to a different level of stimuli. To fit this dimension to the purpose of analysing surfing
we would talk about the size and sharpness of waves and the structure of the bottom. For
a beginner a one-meter high wave could mean discomfort. The perceived challenge is too
great for him and he may feel anxious. However, someone more experienced would quickly
get bored and search for some more demanding conditions.
Figure 1. The Flow Model (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997)
As an example from the area of extreme sports the phenomenon of big wave riding
can be introduced. As some studies show, for some surfers coastal waves are no longer
a challenge and they seek bigger waves out in the ocean. The size of the waves are often
so big that surfers need to use the help of a jet ski to reach them. Partington, Partington and
Olivier (2009) from the University of Abertay Dundee discovered that an addiction to flow
is very common among big wave surfers. To give the reader a clearer image of what is meant
by the term big wave, the biggest wave which has been ever surfed was ridden by Garret
McNamara and it was 100 feet (30.5 meters) high (Guinness World Record News, 2013).
The biggest wave officially confirmed by the Guinness World Record Committee was surfed
by the same surfer one year earlier and it measured 78 feet (23.8 meters). Professional surfers
in championship tours ride the waves of the height between 6 and 10 feet (1.9-3 m),
maximally up to 30 feet. Schüler (2011) claimed that the reason why people in flow take
high risks is usually that they disregard the danger of the given situation. The reason for this
is loss of self-consciousness, which is another dimension of flow.
Although some studies suggest that highly challenging activities combined with the
right level of a skill can produce more easily than other activities (Asakawa, 2004;
Csikszentmihalyi 1975; Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1988; Fullagar, Knight, & Sovern,
2013; Haworth & Evans, 1995; Haworth & Hill, 1992), some researchers have claimed
otherwise. The main counter theory, which refutes the concept of optimal balance,
is Atkinson’s (1957) risk-taking model. Atkinson claimed that the personal characteristics
of hope of success and fear of failure are important performance motivators. The theory
explains that only the individuals who are motivated by the hope of success feel balance
in high-skill high-challenge activities whereas individuals with high fear of failure feel
anxiety. This assumption was confirmed in a study done by undergraduate students
of Schüler (2007). Furthermore, they did not find any significant effect of challenge-skill
balance on a flow experience. In their research, the challenge-skill balance had significant
relationship with achievement motive, which they described as crucial for predicting the
flow experience. Similar results were validated in research of need for achievement and
challenge-skill balance at workplace (Eisenberg et al., 2005). Despite the study of flow
in German students confirmed the dependence of experience of flow on challenge-skill
balance, the relation between the two was moderated by the need for achievement and the
perceived importance of the activity (Engeser & Rheinberg, 2008).
2. Clear Goals
The second characteristic of flow called clear goals lies in a set of goals we are
pursuing during an activity. When in flow, it is clear what is necessary to achieve and what
is needed to be done in order to meet one’s goals. When the goal is clearly defined and
compatible with our aims, it is easier to acquire the flow experience (Csikszentmihalyi,
1997). At the beginning of our journey towards a particular goal, we have to be able to plan
it and understand all the details connected to it. Once we are confident with the structure
of the task we can concentrate more on its course and we can lose ourselves in flow without
difficulties (Jackson & Eklund, 2004). While following the individual steps of our plan,
unimportant figures from our surroundings do not distract our attention as easily as when the
action is chaotic without any clear anticipated final results. Hunter and Csikszentmihalyi
(2000) suggested that with long-term or demanding goals it is better to break them into small
checkpoints to maintain motivation.
The identification of clearly defined goals and its difficulty depends also on the
nature of the given activity. For example, when we do sports it is quite clear what a success
and a failure mean and these are the same for everyone. In a game of football, the general
success is to score and then potentially win the match. We can call it an explicit goal. On the
other hand, in creative activities like composing or writing the goal is not that clear
to everyone and an artist has to have a good idea where he wants to get. They need to develop
an implicit goal, which consequently provides them with guidance necessary to evaluate the
process of their creation and help them to differentiate whether they are doing it right
or wrong. Without a possibility of this type of assessment, it would be impossible
to experience flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008). Even though the identification of clearly
defined goals depend on the nature of the activity, it does not mean you cannot have your
implicit goals in sports. It only suggests that in, for example, surfing it is easier to fulfil the
condition of clear goals than in the arts.
3. Immediate Feedback
The dimension of feedback refers to an evaluation of progress in the activity. It plays
a key role in evaluating whether we are getting closer to our goals. Thus, this dimension
is tightly connected to the previous one. The feeling of success is creating order in the
consciousness and enable us to become absorbed in flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008). After we
accomplish a clearly set goal, we know we have proved ourselves without a need to reflect
on it. We do not need to think about all the steps, if we have done them all and if we have
done them right, we have them well planned in our head (Jackson & Eklund, 2004). We are
aware of this information just because it is a part of our performance. In the flow, we can
always say if we have done well (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997).
The feedback on our performance can come from two sources internal and
external. External sources are, for instance, an assessment from others or winning an award
while feelings, emotions, physical states and their consequences are internal ones. As Hunter
and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) stated, our body is a significant source of information when
doing sports. However, the types of sources which bring us to the awareness of success,
enjoyment and satisfaction are not important. We just need to receive the information
unambiguously. Ambiguity could bring chaos and change flow experience into an
experience of anxiety (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008).
To this point, we have been talking mainly about positive feedback which is logically
connected to the flow experience, and how it should bring us enjoyment. However, when
our aim is to get better at a sport or other activities, we are working on our skills and can
appreciate both polarities of immediate feedback. A negative feedback helps us to define the
weak points of our performance. It can function as an intervention during a training and
afterwards we are able to work systematically on the improvement. We fail because our
challenge-skill balance is disrupted. However, with the skills development we establish
equilibrium which creates a greater opportunity for reaching the optimal performance and
the flow experience. Many studies confirm that there is a strong positive correlation between
immediate feedback and learning (Bangert-Drowns et al., 1991; Epstein et al., 2010; Kluger
& DeNisi, 1996). Furthermore, immediate feedback correlates with better performance
in sports (Baca & Kornfeind, 2006; Chambers & Vickers, 2006; Zatoń & Szczepan, 2014)
and with an anticipation of good results (Fajfar, Campitelli, & Labollita, 2012).
4. Concentration on the Task at Hand
Attention and concentration play an important role when experiencing flow and they
are the most described characteristics of sportsmen (Jackson & Eklund, 2004). The
beginning of the first quote of Flow Questionnaire described this dimension perfectly:
“My mind isn’t wandering. I am not thinking of something else. I am totally involved in what
I am doing.” (Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi 1988, as cited in Moneta, 2012, p. 25).
The focus of our attention is on a particular activity. During the regular state of our mind
we often stray from the task we are doing. For example, at work, while we are filling
in an excel sheet with figures, we often get bored and tend to click on the videos on
Facebook, thinking about the evening yoga class or analysing our discussion with our boss
we had in the morning. We are distracted and in this state of disruption of our consciousness
there is not even a sign of getting to the state of flow. Nevertheless, when we have a positive
approach to the task and enjoy the work, our attention is focused. We are not just resistant
to the external influence but sometimes we even forget about our basic needs like food
or liquids. We are just one step from the optimal state of mind (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008).
As has been mentioned above, to keep the intense concentration on the task depends
greatly on the nature of the task at hand and whether it is boring, enjoyable or makes us feel
anxious. With the notion of boredom and anxiety we are getting back to the challenge-skill
balance dimension (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2002). If we feel bored, we tend to think
about everything else such as about our everyday problems or other things. If we experience
anxiety, we start to concentrate on ourselves, stress, its vegetative symptoms and possible
threats connected to the activity. In surfing, these for example include injuries caused
by a surfboard, being without breath for a long time, drowning, hitting the sea bottom
or simply fear of falling down and losing control.
How Miller (1956) mentioned in his research of memory, the capacity of our
attention, memory and perception is limited. He stated that we are able to process from seven
plus minus two chunks of information. This was later on modified to four plus minus two
chunks (Baddeley, 1994; Cowan, 2010). In any case, while we direct our whole awareness
to a task, our attention is filled with a challenging activity and there is no more space for
“I” or “me” (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2002), which leads to the next dimension of
flow the loss of self-consciousness.
5. The Loss of Self-Consciousness
Since our mind is completely occupied by the activity we are involved in, we cannot
think about the past events or plan our future activities of the day. However, that does not
mean that during the state of flow we are in a state of pathological depersonalization. On the
contrary, the self and our control of it is crucial to the experience of flow. While engaged
in a challenging activity we are able to describe every movement of our body or the
circumstances of the activity. Our self is able to evaluate the activity as a whole but it does
not invest any psychic energy into wondering about who we are. We stop worrying about
how we look and about our everyday problems. We do not need to evaluate our performance
(Csikszentmihalyi, 2013; Jackson & Eklund, 2004).
At this point, we would like to mention the essay of Richard G. Mitchell, Jr. (1988)
which discussed the sociological view of the state of flow in the context of sports. He pointed
out that when doing a sport, it is very common that one stops concentrating on the intrinsic
rewards due to the social pressure one feels (Jackson & Eklund, 2004). To win
or to be assessed as the star by our peers becomes the most important thought in our minds.
Our rewards become external. We do not want to enjoy the process anymore but we just look
forward to the end of the game. We long for success and recognition, which gets us back
to the ego and the consciousness of the self. At that moment, our self disappears.
Many studies show the relationship between the state of flow and the tendency
to be present in the moment. This psychological concept was inspired by Buddhism and
it was called mindfulness. “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way:
on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p.23).
It explains that while one´s mind is wandering to the past or to the future, we can miss the
most important minutes of our life our happiness. The strong correlation between high
scores in mindfulness and the occurrence of the flow experience has been confirmed
by research in the area of sports and physical activity (Ahern, Moran, & Lonsdale, 2011;
Bernier et al., 2009; Kee & Wang, 2008). Csikszentmihalyi (2008) explains that the loss
of self-consciousness leads to a stronger self.
Furthermore, this dimension is related to the feeling rock climbers describe in the
study by Csikszentmihalyi (2008), “a feeling of union with the environment” (p. 36). Studies
have shown that this connection of an activity to nature can also contribute to the optimal
experience. Talbot and Kaplan (1986) conducted research on the wilderness experience.
In this research, participants attended a two-year survival course followed by a survival trip
to the wilderness. The feeling they had during the trip was in many ways similar to the state
of flow: challenging activities producing growth, a loss of the awareness of the time,
enjoyment and a sense of oneness with the environment. Therefore, we can come
to a conclusion that when we have the possibility to experience both the feeling of the
connection to the wilderness and the loss of self-consciousness, caused by doing
an adventurous activity, we can very easily have a transpersonal experience (Davis, 1998)
and thus also the state of flow. The transpersonal experience was defined as an experience
that in some sense go beyond the boundaries of ordinary ego-consciousness (Laughlin,
1994), which corresponded with the Csikszentmihalyi (2008) interpretation of the loss
of self-consciousness dimension of flow.
6. The Merging of Action and Awareness
Even though merging with the environment of an activity is not a separate dimension
of flow, Csikszentmihalyi (2013) included the merging of our awareness with the action
itself in his nine-dimensional model. This condition is very closely connected to the previous
one, which claimed that an individual in flow is concentrating entirely on the given activity.
The main role of our attention is to control our actions (Norman & Shallice, 1986). However,
when we master a task at a level where our attention is no longer needed, we can perform it
automatically. On the other hand, in sports, this is usually valid just for some basic
movements (Jackson & Eklund, 2004). To perform at a certain level there is no place for any
slip of concentration (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008).
According to Norman and Shallice (1986), the lapse of our attention usually occurs
when something unexpected happens. Thus, the flow activity always demands our full effort
and discipline so that we are able to perform deal even in unexpected conditions
(Csikszentmihalyi, 2008).
7. The Paradox of Control
The condition of control is described as “lacking the sense of worry about losing
control that is typical in many situations of normal life” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008, p. 59).
In everyday life, we tend to be afraid of many things from walking home alone late at night
to an occurrence of a natural disaster. All our fears have one common variable which is a low
level of perceived control. For instance, when someone attacks us with a knife on our way
home from a party our perceived control is attacked in a similar way. We get the feeling
that something serious can happen to us. In contrast, losing control is not something
exceptional when doing leisure activities. The threat of a failure is not perceived as serious
as in an everyday life. The expression “perceived” is quite essential here. Csikszentmihalyi
(2008) explains that perceived control is not based on an actual threat. Our sense of control
does not have to necessarily indicate the level of a real danger of the given situation.
However, one makes evaluations of the threat subjectively, based on the level of skills and
personal characteristics.
The subjective perception of the potential danger can be nicely demonstrated
in extreme sports. For illustration, we can once again use the example of big wave surfers.
For most people the idea of a sixty-foot wave would not just be dangerous but even
unimaginable. They would probably see it as a symptom of pathological thinking
(Partington, Partington and Olivier, 2009). In contrast, for someone trained in big wave
riding it would be just the right level of arousal to give the best performance.
Csikszentmihalyi (2013) offered clarification of this case. He claimed that, in extreme sports,
people do not search for danger for its sake. On the contrary, they seek for a possibility
to minimize it and to be in control of something as uncontrollable as the ocean.
As a participant C from the big wave riders study describes, “For a moment in time, time
stands still and you are able to control the most uncontrollable because everything becomes
slow motion and that’s when you know you are surfing the best.” (Partington, Partington,
& Olivier, 2009, p. 176). In contrast, for someone trained in big wave riding it would be just
the right level of arousal to give the best performance. Csikszentmihalyi (2013) offered
clarification of this case. He claimed that, in extreme sports, people do not search for danger
for its sake. On the contrary, they seek for a possibility to minimize it and to be in control
of something as uncontrollable as the ocean. As the participant C from the big wave riders
study describes, “For a moment in time, time stands still and you are able to control the
most uncontrollable because everything becomes slow motion and that’s when you know you
are surfing the best.” (Partington, Partington, & Olivier, 2009, p. 176).
Even though the sense of control leads to flow, to develop and to improve our skills
it is needed to experience the moments without control, when the given challenge is higher
than the level of our abilities. According to Jackson and Eklund (2004), a long duration of the
state of absolute control eliminates the state of flow and we start to feel bored.
In general, the need for control is natural to all human beings and animals in any
activity. It has an adaptive character and it is based on our biological desire to remain
in existence. The perceived control of one’s environment was given various names, for
example, Albert Bandura´s self-efficacy, Julian Rotter´s locus of control or Ellen Langer´s
illusion of control (Leotti, Iyengar, & Ochsner, 2010). Based on these theories, some
substantial evidence was found showing that the perception of control over a situation,
ourselves and the world as a whole has a positive effect on our performance at work (Judge
et al., 2007; Locke et al., 1984; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998) and better performance in sports
(Barling & Abel, 1983; Lee, 1982; Moritz, et al., 2000). These better performances can
further lead to the optimal experience (Jackson, 1996). Some presented findings further
advocated the significant positive correlation between the internal locus of control, meaning
the feelings of strong control of the outcomes of our actions, and the flow experience (Taylor,
Schepers, & Crous, 2006). Keller and Blomann (2008) even found out, that for those
individuals who believe that what happens around them is caused by others or who believe
in an external control over their actions, it is almost impossible to enter the state of flow.
In conclusion, the need for control is not only a necessary condition for survival, but it is also
an implicit requirement for removing anxiety and thus achieving the optimal experience.
8. The Transformation of Time
We cannot surely tell whether the different perception of time is a separate dimension
of flow or if it is just a result of a deep concentration on a given task. Even though there exist
some doubts on the part of academics and this characteristic is not commonly described
in the field of the flow theory, some studies still confirm its significance (Allison & Duncan,
1988). The transformation of time represents the feeling when one is fully involved
in a particular activity and when they look at their watch, suddenly it is five hours later than
they expected. The time appears to pass much faster than it does in reality. This can also
happen the other way round, we experience a ten-minute moment while doing an activity
but it seems to go for several hours. However, the second form is not so common
(Csikszentmihalyi, 2008). Furthermore, the last option of the time conversion is the sensation
that the time has stopped (Jackson & Eklund, 2004).
As Jackson (1996) found out in her research on the flow experience of athletes, the
dimension of time transformation in sports is at least problematic. While competing, the time
is the key evaluating factor of the performance. Thus, the right perception of time is the
important part of the winning process. On the other hand, in extreme sports, the changed
perception of time is closely connected to the overall sense of freedom. One feels
a motivation to engage in a sport in order to free oneself from the limitations and pressures
of the real time (Brymer & Schweitzer, 2013). Therefore, since people involved in extreme
sports described the transformation of time as a reason to participate in the activity, it is very
likely they experience it.
In surfing, good timing plays often an important role, especially in the competitions
of the World Surf League. The contestants usually have a thirty-minute time limit to ride the
highest possible number of waves. The two best rides then count up and the contestant with
the higher score wins. Although surfers certainly concentrate on the time limit in the last few
minutes of the heat, it is not so necessary for them to watch the time during the whole
competition; as is the case in running or swimming. The feeling of time slowing down
or speeding up was also mentioned by all the asked surfers in the study of the time perception
while surfing in the barrel (C.M. Peterson, 2012) as well as in a study of big wave riders
(Partington, Partington, & Olivier, 2009).
9. Autotelic experience
According to Csikszentmihalyi (2008), the autotelic (auto self; telos goal)
experience is the one which appears in all the eight presented dimensions and includes them
all. It refers to a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some
future benefits, but simply because the doing itself is rewarding (Nakamura
& Csikszentmihalyi, 2002). Finding ourselves in these kinds of situations is not very
common in our everyday lives. Many times we do things which we have to do since we know
that later on we will benefit from them. Some people do their jobs they do not like for their
whole lives. On the other hand, there are people who are able to find enjoyment in situations
where one can hardly imagine a possibility of experiencing flow. What can also happen
is that we are involved in an activity and we find it boring and frustrating in the beginning;
for example, a child who attends piano lessons and does not enjoy it. Then suddenly
something happens and the child starts to see the new opportunity of growth by learning
to play the piano and he desires to overcome the offered challenge. However, not every child
experiences that or has even the dispositions to do so.
Csikszentmihalyi (2013) demonstrated the possibility of a choice of a different point
of view in his comparison of two blue-collar workers. Julio does not enjoy his work
on an assembly line which is fairly understandable and he gets easily stressed by everyday
problems. His colleague Rico is a direct opposite. In order to enjoy the job, he started playing
a little challenge game with himself. He tries to produce faster every day and thus he still
enjoys the job after five years. Moreover, the factory is not the most unexpected place
to experience flow. Logan (1988) even published an article about people experiencing flow
in military prisons or concentration camps. The concept which can help to explain the above
mentioned paradox is defined as autotelic personality.
An autotelic personality can be described as a combination of certain innate and
gained personal characteristics, which help to give rise to higher occurrence of autotelic
experience and thus the state of flow. In terms of genetic predispositions, to have the optimal
experience, the most important personal characteristic is our ability to focus our
concentration, the ability closely related to our neurophysiological constitution. The second
characteristic that is partly linked to heredity, is the inability to disengage from our self-
consciousness. People with this personality trait see their selves as the centre of all events,
either in a positive way (self-centred people) or in a negative way (people with a low self-
esteem). Furthermore, the autotelic personality arises from one’s social or environmental
background and it is based on one´s experience. Following these findings, five attributions
of autotelic family were differentiated: clarity of parents´ behaviour, child´s feelings in the
centre of the interest, possibility to choose, commitment and challenge (Csikszentmihalyi,
Extensive research was conducted and helped to describe the following particular
manifestations of the autotelic personality: higher self-esteem (Wells, 1988), low self-
anxiety, use of active copying strategies, positive expectations towards the future, higher life
satisfaction (Asakawa, 2004; Han 1988; Peterson, Park, & Seligman 2005) higher level
of commitment to the college/community (Asakawa, 2010), higher level of time
management skills and goal directedness (Ishimura & Kodama, 2009), need for achievement
(Eisenberger et al., 2005; Engeser & Rheinberg, 2008), hope of success (Atkinson, 1957;
Schüler, 2007), internal locus of control (Keller & Blomann, 2008; Taylor, Schepers,
& Crous, 2006) and action-oriented rather than state-oriented individuals (Kuhl, 1944,
as cited in Baumann, 2012).
The autotelic personality was also studied in the frame of the 5-factor model
of personality of Costa and McCrae (1985, as cited in Hřebíčková and Urbánek, 2001). Two
studies were focused on the correlation between the state of flow and the five personality
characteristics (neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness).
In the study of Ullén and his colleagues (2012), significant negative correlations were found
between the flow proneness and neuroticism. Conscientiousness was also strongly
associated with flow but positively. The second research confirmed the previous findings. A
strong relationship between flow and neuroticism was found. The following characteristics
of neuroticism showed the highest level of negative correlation: vulnerability, self-
consciousness, anxiety, depression and impulsiveness. In the dimension of
conscientiousness, a strong positive correlation between flow and the following
characteristics was discovered: self-discipline, achievement-striving, competence,
dutifulness and order. A moderate positive relationship was discovered between flow and
extraversion and flow and agreeableness (Ross & Keiser, 2014). In spite of the fact that
we can predict a link between some personal characteristics and the state of flow or the
autotelic personality based on these studies, further research still needs to be done,
particularly in connection to various personality models.
1.3 Different Approaches to Positive Human Experience
Despite the fact that Csikszentmihalyi´s conception of flow is most elaborated and
supported by evidence (Asakawa, 2004; Eisenberger et al., 2005; Engeser & Rheinberg,
2008; Fave and Massimini, 1988; Fullagar, Knight, & Sovern, 2013; Ishimura & Kodama,
2006; Jackson, 1996; Kawabata & Mallett, 2011; Larson, 1988; Logan, 1985; Partington,
Partington, & Olivier, 2009), an outline of two relevant theories connected to the positive
human experience is offered in this part of the study. They need to be mentioned also because
they are often confused with the experience of flow (Privette, 1983).
The first concept is called peak experience and it was introduced by Abraham
Maslow (1943; 1962; 1964) based on his humanistic theory of motivation. He described this
moment as a highly valued transcendent experience bringing oneself to the temporary self-
actualization, the highest point of his hierarchy of needs. The important outcome of this
experience is growth and feelings of joy and fulfillment. As you can see in the Table 1,
Maslow´s approach is very similar to the Csikszentmihalyi´s model of flow, enriched
by a spiritual point of view. Csikszentmihalyi (2000) stated that the research and the concept
of Maslow had been a strong inspiration to him, however “it left many questions
unanswered” (p. 5).
In contrast to the peak experience, peak performance does not have to generate
a feeling of joy. Privette (1983) defined peak performance as a “high level of functioning…“
(Privette & Landsman, 1983, p. 1362), “behavior that goes beyond the level at which
a person normally functions…“ (p. 195). We could describe it in a simplified way
as a personal achievement, an individual performance which is far better than the one
we usually give. This superior behaviour is a characteristic which, together with the already
mentioned enjoyment, creates the difference between the peak experience and peak
performance. This concept is also unique for the fact that the research was mostly done
on sports (Harmison, 2011; Hollings, Hopkins, & Hume, 2014; Schulz & Curnow, 1988;
Schumacher, Mueller, & Keul, 2001), however, peak performance can occur in any type
of activities as for example in arts (Kim et al., 2010; Marotto, Roos, & Victor, 2007)
or working (Thornton, Privette, & Bundrick, 1999)
As Privette (1983) pointed out in his comparative analysis, the state of flow
somewhat combines both of the “peak” models. He explained that we experience flow when
the peak experience and the peak performance are both at an optimal level. For better
understanding, see research participants overlap and show a potential to create one common
conception. A detailed comparison of all the three concepts is offered in Table 1.
Table 1.
The Comparison of Dimension: Flow, Peak Experience, Peak Performance (Own
Peak experience
(Maslow, 1964)
(Privette & Landsman,
Challenge-skill balance
„loss of … fear, anxiety” (p.
“Felt full of force, Felt I could
do anything, Action just came
out of me” (p. 199)
Clear goals
Unambiguous feedback
Concentration on task
“tremendous concentration of
a kind which does not
normally occur” (p. 66)
Loss of self-consciousness
“non-evaluating, non-
comparing, or non-judging
cognition” (p. 66); “more
object-centered than ego-
centered” (p. 67); “ego-
transcending, self-forgetful,
egoless, unselfish” (p. 68);
Action-awareness merging
“whole universe is perceived
as an integrated and unified”
(p. 65)
Sense of control
“loss of …control” (p. 71)
Time transformation
“disorientation in time and
space, or even the lack of
consciousness of time and
space“; “feel a day passing as
if it were minutes or also a
minute so intensely lived that
might feel like a day or a year
or an eternity even“ (p. 69)
Autotelic experience
(intrinsic motivation)
“self-validating, self-justifying
moment which carries its own
intrinsic value with it”; “give
meaning to life itself” (p. 68)
(intrinsic motivation)
“Task that elicits peak
performance represents an
intrinsic value to the person
and culminates in a direct,
active engagement with the
valued subject.” (p. 200)
Intention (extrinsic
“Desire to better others,
Determined to be better than
usual, Determined to win
approval, Interested in
activity before, Wanted to
accomplish something” (p.
Nevertheless, this exclusive differentiation is more effective just in theory. In reality,
the feelings experienced during flow, peak experience or peak performance described by the
Figure 2.
Figure 2. The Relationship among Flow, Peak Experience and Peak Performance
(Privette, 1983)
1.4 Further Channel Models of Flow
In addition to the nine-channel flow model, there were some more channel models
introduced. For example, the model presented by Massimini and Carli (1986) which was
based on the anxiety/boredom vs. low/high level of skills concept by Csikszentmihalyi
(1975) and had four channels:
flow context: high challenge, high skill; above one´s personal level
anxiety context: high challenge, low skill
boredom context: low challenge, high skill
apathy context: low challenge, low skill
The model was later used by other researchers (LeFevre, 1988; Nakamura, 1988;
Wells, 1988) for the Experience Sampling Method
. The results of the research showed
differences between the individual four dimensions. Furthermore, Ellis, Voelkl and Morris
(1994, as cited in C. D. Jones, Hollenhorst, & Perna, 2003) stated that the four-channel model
explained just 4.4 % and 6 % of variance and the flow experience was mostly accounted
by individual differences. It seems that the results were not affected by the flow model itself
but by the use of ESM during an everyday experience. C. D. Jones, Hollenhorst and Perna
(2003) used the same method to study the adventure experience and the flow model was the
most important variable in explaining the flow scores. On the other hand, a relation of the
separate four dimensions only to anxiety and to the context of flow was significant.
Another four-channel flow model adapted by Trevino and Webster (1992, as cited
in Rezáč, 2007) excluded dimension of challenge and operated with the following
characteristics: control, attention, curiosity, and intrinsic interest. This model was mainly
used in the research of behaviour related to computers and the Internet usage and is, at the
time of writing, out of academic interest. In addition, the dimension skill-challenge operates
for the same situations equally well as the four-channel model of flow (Novak & Hoffman,
In 1988, Massimini and Carli together with Fave developed their four-channel model
of eight channels using all the indicators of the challenge/skills function. The dimensions
The ESM asks a participant to write down their feelings and filling up a questionnaire about flow
anytime they get a signal from a small device they are wearing (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1987).
of the model were: arousal, flow, control, boredom, relaxation, apathy, worry and anxiety.
Their concept was later further developed, for example, by Ghani, Supnick and Rooney
(1991). However, this model also fell out of the interest of most researchers.
2.1 Introduction
Following up on the theme of positive psychology, a phenomenon very closely
connected to the presented concept of flow is that of well-being. Well-being is not just
an important concept in positive psychology, it also happened to play a key role in the
politics of the European Commission. For instance, its promotion among citizens is one
of the main priorities of their program (Europe, WHO., 2008). In academic research, well-
being is a very complex concept described by many disciplines. A focus of psychology
is mainly on the three types of well-being: subjective well-being, psychological well-being
and social well-being.
A pioneer in this area Ed Diener and his colleagues (2002) described the subjective
well-being as “a person´s cognitive and affective evaluations of his life.” (p. 63).
In a simplified way, it includes everything what is subjectively important for a person and
what makes one feeling good. Subjective well-being is always assessed by the individuals
themselves, hence the term subjective well-being. Thus, it is not a statistical comparison
of the income or the state of health, but it refers to one´s personal perception of how satisfied
or dissatisfied he feels.
One of the first studies devoted to psychological well-being was written by Warner
Wilson (1967). His main aim was to define the main causes of the “avowed happiness”.
He tried to create a definition of a “happy person”. Even though his study is no longer
of academic importance today and the current research concentrates on the concept as whole,
it served as a key stepping-stone to a deeper understanding of one´s psychological well-being
and life satisfaction. The psychological well-being was further developed by Ryff. His
concept is described in the following parts of the study.
We can approach well-being from three main perspectives. The central ideas of the
first perspectives are our needs and goals. It was based on the statement that when our needs
are met our, the subjective well-being is high (Freud, 1998; Maslow, 1943). The second
perspective is represented by the process theories where in which the activity itself
is a source of well-being. Thus, the second perspective resembles the concept mentioned
in the previous chapter flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). In contrast to the first two
perspectives, the last perspective claimed that we are unable to change significantly our level
of subjective well-being. No matter what we experience, it stays more or less the same as, for
example, our intelligence quotient. Therefore, our subjective well-being is a stable attribute
which depends on our personal characteristics and genetic predispositions. Most of the
modern theories are including all the three perspectives.
2.2 Approaches to Well-Being
To summarize the five most well-known theories of well-being, the categorization
of Slezáčková (2012) was used.
Ed Diener’s Subjective Well-Being
Ed Diener is a well-known Californian positive psychologist who dedicated his
career to the research of happiness and psychological wealth. He focused mainly on the
concept of subjective well-being (Slezáčková, 2012). Diener and his colleagues’ (1985)
subjective well-being was described as a combination of two facets: affective and cognitive.
The affective facet, also called emotional, is constituted by positive affect and negative
affect. The cognitive or judgmental facet referred to the process of overall assessment
of one´s life. Since there had not been any method for measuring the cognitive facet, Diener
with his colleagues reacted to that need and created the Satisfaction with Life Scale. The
scale consisted of five items which resulted from the factor analysis and a removal
of emotional items.validity and reliability of the scale was confirmed by several studies
across different cultures and age groups (Aishvarya at al., 2014; Atienza, Balaguer, &
Garcı́a-Merita, 2003; Moskens et al., 2014; Sancho et al., 2014; Shevlin, Brunsden, & Miles,
1998). However, an invariance in the factors between genders was found (Atienza, Balaguer,
& Garcı́a-Merita, 2003; Moskens et al., 2014; Shevlin, Brunsden, & Miles, 1998).
Later on, the presented model was transformed by adding one more component the
domain of satisfaction. The domain of satisfaction was defined as one´s subjective evaluation
of how they are doing in the main areas (domains) of their lives, such as work, family,
leisure, health, finances, self and one´s social life (Diener et al., 1999). For measuring the
added part of the subjective well-being, the Psychological well-being scale was designed.
This scale was tested in a study on the well-being of 573 university students (Diener
et al. 2009). The aim of the study was to measure one´s self-perceived functioning in the
areas of self-esteem, meaning, relationship and optimism. The scale consisted only of eight
items. However, its reliability and the correlations with other similar scales were high.
Nowadays, the scale can be found under the name of Flourishing scale, as it better
characterizes its content (Diener et al., 2010).
C. D. Ryff’s Psychological Well-Being
The psychological well-being was also central in the research of Carol D. Ryff
(1989a). While doing study of successful ageing, she developed a six dimensional model
of well-being. This model was a synthesis of various life span development theories (e.g.
Allport´s, Erikson´s and Jung´s) and theories of mental health and personal growth. As the
key elements, she defined self-acceptance, positive relation with others, autonomy,
environmental mastery, purpose in life and personal growth.
Based on all the theories mentioned above, Ryff (1989b) created a method to measure
psychological well-being empirically. It was called Scales of Psychological Well-being and
its full version consisted of 120 items. In addition, every dimension was represented
by 10 positive and 10 negative items. To see a description of a person with a high level of
a particular dimension, see Table 2.
Table 2.
The Dimensions of Ryff´s (1989b) Model of Psychological Well-being
a positive attitude to oneself, positive and negative qualities, and
also to one´s past life
Positive Relation with
one’s relationships with others are warm and satisfying, capability
of a strong empathy and intimacy, caring for others
ability to stay strong under social pressure, self-determination and
independence of evaluation
Environmental Mastery
ability to manage one´s environment, choosing activities and
surroundings, which fit to one´s needs and values
Purpose in Life
feeling that life is meaningful, knowing where one is heading,
beliefs that give life an aim
Personal Growth
openness to new experience, ability to realize one´s own potential,
seeing the self as growing and ability to perceive an improvement
in its development
Ryff (1989b) confirmed the validity of the construct in a study of 321 young, middle-
aged and older adults. The significantly strong intercorrelation among the dimensions, while
staying empirically distinct from each other, was also proven. Even though the scale was
verified by some more research (Dierendonck, 2004; Ryff & Keyes, 1995), most studies
challenged or even questioned Ryff ´s multidimensional model (Abbot et al., 2006; Abbot
et al., 2010; Burns & Machin, 2009; Kozma & Kafka, 2002; Springer & Hauser, 2006).
In study by Kozma and Kafka (2002), the presupposition that the six dimensions represented
the same construct was contested. Furthermore, the individual items of the scale did not even
significantly correlate with two other subjective well-being scales (Memorial University
of Newfoundland Scale of Happiness, Satisfaction with Life Scale). In contrast, the other
two subjective well-being scales showed a strong relationship. Most of the variance was
explained only by four factors: self-acceptance, environmental mastery, personal growth and
purpose in life. The same four dimensions were presented in the study of Abbot and her
colleagues (2006). Springer and Hauser identified these four as the ones having the most
significant intercorrelation. However, the use of the four-dimensional model did not seem
to work (Springer & Hauser, 2006).
On the other hand, most researchers discussing Ryff’s scale of psychological well-
being were not believed to be independent. Many of them designed their own models
of psychological well-being. Ryff (1989b) also explained the weak relationship between
autonomy, positive relation with others and purpose in life and different scales of positive
or negative life functioning. The reason for this weak relationship was that the three
mentioned dimensions created a new concept of well-being. They were in a way
a contribution of theoretical background analyzed by Ryff to the conception of subjective
well-being. Thus, it appears that Kozma and Kafka´s (2002) argument was not well
reasoned. Ryff also argued that their research sample was not large enough (277
participants). Concerning Springer and Hauser (2006), she disagreed with their
interpretation. She further clarified that their study actually confirmed her theory and their
explanation was not presented in the frame of construct-oriented approach (Ryff, 2006).
Thus, agreeing or disagreeing with the validity of Ryff´s model proves to be difficult.
Even though the model has been successfully used in many studies (Bevvino & Sharkin,
2003; Carmody et al., 2009; Chang, D’Zurilla, & Sanna, 2009; Downie et al., 2007;
Grossbaum & Bates, 2002; Iwamoto & Liu, 2010) one should always take into consideration
the above mentioned objections when using it. Furthermore, the scale is valid just
at a medium level of well-being (Abbot et al., 2010; Burns & Machin, 2009) which should
also be considered.
C. Keyes’s Concept of Positive Mental Health
Corey L.M. Keyess (1998, 2002) theory combined Diener´s subjective well-being,
called emotional well-being, Ryff´s psychological well-being and added a new component -
social well-being. All these factors together represent his conception of positive mental
health. Keyes (2002) defined mental health as “a syndrome of symptoms of an individual´s
subjective well-being.” (p. 208), which is a definition derived from the description
of a mental illness. His concept of emotional well-being consists of three symptoms: the
presence of positive affect, the absence of negative affect and perceived life satisfaction.
Keyes also developed five symptoms of social well-being. His dimensions of social well-
being are social coherence, social actualization, social integration, social acceptance and
social contribution. For a description of behaviour of an individual with high scores in the
particular dimensions, see Table 3.
To measure the new component of well-being, Keyes (1998) developed a Social well-
being scale consisting of 50 items, 10 per every dimension. The scale showed strong validity
of the concept since the intercorrelation between the individual dimensions as well as the
correlation with different life of satisfaction scales was significant. To simplify the process
of data collection, he integrated scales by Cantril, Mroczek and Kolarz, Ryff and his own
Table 3.
The Dimensions of Keyes´s (1998) Model of Social Well-being
Social coherence
feels he or she can understand the world and society, is able to see
the meaning of life and the world
Social actualization
believes in a positive future of society and is able to recognize its
Social integration
feels being part of a society and community, and that he or she has
something in common with other people
Social acceptance
believes in human nature, that people are able to be kind and
Social contribution
feels that one is a vital member of society, that one has a value to
offer to the world
to measure all three components of positive mental health. The final scale was called Mental
Health Continuum (MHC) and it consisted of 40 items. However, the one more used today
was constructed later and was named 14-item Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (MHC-
SF) (Lamers, 2012). Although a partial result and a scalar invariance were described
in different cultures (Joshanloo et al., 2013), reliability and validity of the scale was
supported by many studies (Keyes et al., 2008; Lamers et al., 2011; Lamers et al., 2012).
Thus, the contribution of Keyes´s model of Mental health is very valuable for the theory
of well-being.
Self-Determination Theory by E. Deci and R. Ryan
The reworked concept of well-being was proposed by two professors of psychology,
originally from University of Rochester, New York, Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan
(2002). According to their Self-Determination theory, the key main root of happiness lays
in the intrinsic motivation of people to engage in an activity. The idea of organismic self
is very similar to Csikszentmihalyi´s conception of flow. It defines the individuality
as a process able to sustain its own development and thus to produce growth. This self-
regulation is written in our genetic code. Our self has the innate tendency to integrate itself
and get to a higher level of being.
The second component of this model is based on Albert Bandura´s (1977) Social
Learning Theory that emphasized the social context and environment of an individual
as being an important factor of their development. Deci and Ryan (2002) adapted this
presumption to the theory of happiness and they stated that the social context considerably
influences our well-being. In connection to environment, they identified three basic
psychological needs, which have to be satisfied. Moreover, they claimed that our
environment provide us with the sources to fulfill these needs. The satisfaction of these needs
leads to a healthy functioning. According to the self-determination theory, the basic
psychological needs are: competence, relatedness and autonomy. The relations between the
social context and particular needs are described in the framework of four mini-theories.
The Cognitive Evaluation Theory discusses the environmental influence on one´s
intrinsic motivation. Deci and Ryan (2002) explained that there are two main cognitive
processes which influence our motivation: perceived locus of causality and perceived
competence. If we feel that we can deliberately decide how much energy we put into
an activity and if we see the results as a consequence of our effort, the personal motivation
start an activity is stronger. Our need for autonomy is met and our well-being is raising.
In the first mini-theory, the researchers also discussed the importance of feedback for getting
life satisfaction. A similar concept was already presented in the first chapter about the state
of flow. Deci and Ryan claimed that a verbal feedback stimulates our intrinsic motivation,
fulfils our need for competence and thus we feel happier and more contended with our life.
In contrast, material rewards stimulate extrinsic motivation and have negative effect on the
The mini-theory named Organismic Integration Theory explains the way we integrate
experience. The more we internalize the impulse from the environment the more it becomes
a part of ourselves. Our behaviour is then self-determined and driven by our own interests.
The notional continuum from nonself-determined to self-determined behaviour is presented
in Figure 3.
An important role of the social context in the internalization process is played
by significant others. Their influence on our behaviour stimulates our motivation. This
happens for two main reasons. We tend to value an activity more if someone close
to us is engaged in it or if we expect some future benefits as, for example, more attention
or love from our relatives after we have performed the required task. Thus, the need for
relatedness is crucial here. In connection to the needs of relatedness and autonomy, perceived
competence encourages us to integrate our behaviour, because we feel comfortable and
it does not push us out of our comfort zone. We also tend to integrate our behaviour more
when we feel we can decide freely to engage in an activity. Thus, our perceived autonomy
is higher (Deci & Ryan, 2002).
The Causality Orientation Theory was developed to illustrate the interplay of the
social context and the stable characteristics of an individual. The theory describes individual
Figure 3. The Self-determination Continuum
differences in the tendency to act at a certain level of self-determined behaviour. To measure
these predispositions, Deci and Ryan (1985) designed the General Causality Orientation
Scale. The scale contains three causality orientations: autonomy orientation (internal
regulation of the behaviour on the basis of own interests) control orientation (direction and
control, how to behave) and impersonal orientation (behaviour is forced by external sources).
By combining he results of the three orientations, one can come to a conclusion of which
tendency is most typical for a particular individual.
M. Seligman’s PERMA
Martin Seligman is an American psychologist who is considered by many academics
as the founder of positive psychology. His first theory on the topic of life satisfaction was
presented in his book Authentic Happiness. Based on the assumption that happiness has two
levels, feelings and activities, he divided it into three components: positive emotions,
engagement and meaning. Positive emotions were defined as a component of the present
state of happiness leading to a pleasant life. The second component called engagement
referred to the state of flow. Finally, the third component of meaning was explained
as a sense of a meaningful life, belonging to something bigger than oneself (Seligman, 2004).
This concept was reconsidered a few years after its publication, because life
satisfaction and happiness scales appeared to measure just momentary feelings and the three-
component model proved to have certain limitations. In the redefined theory, Seligman
(2011) focused on the well-being which is considered to be just a construct not a real thing
as happiness. He defined five elements which contribute to well-being. We pursuit them for
their own sake and they are independently measurable units. The first three of them were the
same to those in the theory of authentic happiness. Furthermore, two more elements were
added: accomplishment and positive relationship to others. PERMA is an abbreviation for
the five elements in Seligman’s model of well-being. For a summary of the methods for
measuring the elements, see Table 4.
The model PERMA is currently used in the area of psychological research, especially
when searching for the sources of flourishing (Anic & Tončić, 2013; Croom, 2014; C. M.
Jones et al., 2014) or when examining the efficacy of intervention programs designed to
promote flourishing (Booth, 2013; Sepulveda, 2013). Furthermore, the model is used in the
field of sociology, to measure the number of flourishing people across the countries, gender,
Table 4.
The Elements of the PERMA Theory of Well-being (Forgeard et al., 2011)
Positive emotions/
Pleasant life
present positive subjective state;
includes: pleasure, ecstasy, comfort,
warmth, like
Happiness Measures (HM;
Fordyce, 1988); Positive
Affectivity and Negative
Affectivity Scale Momentary
(PANAS; Watson, Clark &
Tellegen, 1988); General
Happiness Scale
(Lyubomirsky & Lepper,
1999); SWLS (Diener et al.,
1985); SPANE (Diener et al.,
retrospective positive subjective state;
includes the dimensions of flow (see
the chapter 1)
ESM (Csikszentmihalyi &
Larson, 1987), FSS (Jackson,
& Eklund, 2004)
to others
“Happiness only real when shared.”
(Chris J. McCandless); all the shared
experience; the clear separation of this
element is not that sure, possibly
positive relationships to others produce
positive emotions and meaning =˃ an
overlapping element
Enriched Social Support
Inventory (ESSI; Mitchell et
al., 2003 as cited in Forgeard
et al., 2011); Social Provisions
Scale (SPS; Cutrona &
Russell, 1987)
Meaningful life
subjective component: disposition to
experience positive emotions
objective component: meaning depends
on the contextual variables
Meaning in Life Questionnaire
(Steger et al., 2006)
Achieving life
winning just for the sake of the
achievement without a need for positive
emotions, meaning or engagement
(adaptation rooted in our performance-
oriented society)
Purpose in Life subscale of
Psychological Well-Being
Scale (Ryff, 1989)
different age groups etc. (Huppert, 2013). The results are broadly used by many institutions,
including the European Union, which uses it in the process of policy making.
2.3 Flow and Well-being
Seligman´s PERMA model and the self-determination theory by Ryan and Deci
described the flow experience as a component of well-being. Based on their extensive
research, a positive relation between the two appears to be very probable. The positive effect
of flow on life satisfaction and well-being was also proved by many studies (Asakawa, 2010;
Carpentier, Mageau, & Vallerand, 2012; Chou & Ting, 2003; Clarke & Haworth, 1994;
Csikszentmihalyi, 1997b; Fritz & Avsec, 2007; Han, 1988; Wanner et al., 2006).
Csikszentmihalyi (1997b) explained that people do not feel happy during the flow activity.
The feeling of happiness would distract their attention and the flow experience would
disappear. The feeling of enjoyment comes once the activity is finished. He also supposed
that flow increases one´s overall life satisfaction. Han (1988) found a positive significant
correlation between life satisfaction and the frequency of flow experiences in Korean
immigrant women. Male respondents also showed the positive relation, however, the relation
was not significant. The flow experience was shown to have a positive effect on self-esteem,
positive copying strategies and sense of meaningful life. The personal trait of anxiety and
the copying strategy of problem-avoidance were negatively connected. These could be the
reasons for a high life satisfaction in people who often experience flow (Asakawa, 2010).
On the other hand, having frequent flow experiences can easily lead to an addiction.
The addiction to flow was studied in computer game players (Chou & Ting, 2003). The
negative connection between pathological gambling and well-being was proved by Wanner
and his colleagues (2006). Nevertheless, the addicted players experienced lower levels
of flow. Thus, the discussion about the relation of the flow experience and well-being was
The main criticism against the contention that there exist a direct link between life
satisfaction and flow experience was presented by Oishi and his colleagues (1999). They
argued that there is not enough evidence to support the contention of flow having an effect
on the level of life satisfaction. They further suggested that more research needs to be done
in this field. Especially in exploring the effects of various activities and the partial effects of
particular dimensions.
3.1 Introduction
Satisfaction with one’s leisure time is a part of several life satisfaction scales as our
free time occupies an important part in our lives (e.g. Fahrenberg et al., 2001) and it was
approached by a wide spectrum of disciplines. One extensive theory was elaborated by the
Canadian professor of psychology Robert A. Stebbins and it is called Serious Leisure
3.2 Serious Leisure Perspective
Elkington and Stebbins (2014) defined leisure time simply as all the time we have
in life apart from the time we spend on an unfulfilling job or on non-work obligations
including unpaid labour, unpleasant tasks and self-care. He divided this free time into three
parts: serious leisure, casual leisure and project-based leisure. The first group of activities
which fall under the category of serious leisure is specified as “a systematic pursuit
of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer activity sufficiently substantial, interesting and
fulfilling for the participant to find a (leisure) career there acquiring and expressing
a combination of its special skills, knowledge and experience” (pp. 401-403). To classify
any activity as serious leisure it also has to meet six requirements, six distinctive qualities:
1. Need to persevere at the activity: facing the challenges which it brings and thus
making us continue to experience the same level of fulfilment (connected
to challenge-skills balance dimension of flow)
2. Opportunity to develop a career: a career can have five stages, whose boundaries
are permeable beginning (the first contact with the activity, the time when
we really start doing it), development (learning the basic skills to perform
the activity), establishment (performing the activity on the average level),
maintenance (flourishing in the activity, top level of our skills, experience and
knowledge) and decline (stage after we lose some of our mental or physical skills,
usually while growing older; it is not associated with every activity)
3. Significant personal effort to gain knowledge: endeavour to develop a career
by making use of all the energy we have invested in the activity our gained
knowledge, skills and training
4. Durable benefits: self-actualization, self-enrichment, self-expression,
accomplishment, social interaction and sense of belonging
5. Unique ethos: the spirit of a community which is connected to the activity and
sharing same values, attitudes and lifestyle
6. Identity: this quality is overlapping with the mentioned five characteristics and
it refers to our self-picture as the performers of a particular activity (e.g. an
identity of a student engaged in climbing as a climber)
The main difference between serious and casual leisure lies in the feeling we have
during or after an activity. In serious leisure, people talk about fulfilment whereas the causal
leisure activity is more of a hedonic nature and brings one simply a pure sense of enjoyment.
To engage in such an activity, we need neither any special skills nor any special training.
A casual leisure activity can often develop into the one of serious leisure. The third last
category project-based leisure refers to short-term, one-off or occasional project activities.
Some skills or knowledge can be needed for these types of activities, however, they usually
do not evolve into serious leisure activities (Elkington and Stebbins, 2014). For a further
comparison, see Table 5.
Serious leisure is also a subcategory of another group of activities. This subcategory
also includes six requirements and is called serious pursuits. Serious leisure as serious
pursuit is divided into amateur, hobbyist and volunteer activities. Apart from these activities,
a separate category was described which is called devotee work (Stebbins, 2009).
An amateur activity can be done in the area of art, entertainment, science and sport
and its key distinction from the hobbyist activity lies in the existence of its professional
counterpart. For example, in sports, if a runner trains every day to compete in public
marathons or city runs, he or she will be described as an amateur runner. If the runner runs
every day to beat his records and runs 40 kilometres under four hours just with a group
of friends, he would be put into the category of hobbyists. The volunteerism is a specific
Table 5.
Three Types of Leisure Activities according to Elkington and Stebbins (2014)
Serious leisure
Casual leisure
Project-based leisure
long-term / short-term
high level of specific
skills, knowledge and
none to minimal level
of specific skills,
knowledge and
from none to moderate level
of specific skills, knowledge
and experience +
considerable planning and
fulfillment and/or
fulfillment and/or enjoyment
Personal rewards
(personal enrichment,
financial return),
social rewards
(social attraction,
group accomplishment,
contribution to the group
edutainment, re-
creation, development
and maintenance of the
social relationship,
personal and social rewards
same as in the serious leisure,
but with a short-term effect
type of serious leisure motivated by altruism and self-interest. It is an uncoerced activity
done to produce benefits; the participants in these activities usually do not get a pay or get
only some pocket money. The last category of serious pursuits, devotee work,
is an occupational activity producing strong devotion and a positive attachment. As Stebbins
(2009) presented in the case of devotee work, work happens to be a part of our leisure time.
To determine to what extent an activity can be defined as serious or casual leisure,
the Serious Leisure Inventory and Measure was developed. Gould and his colleagues (2008)
described the six qualities of serious pursuits by use of 18 factors on the scale of Serious
Leisure Inventory and Measure: perseverance, effort, career progress, career contingencies,
personal enrichment, self-actualization, self-express abilities, self-express individual, self-
image, self-grat-satisfaction, self-grat-enjoy, re-creation, financial return, group attraction,
group accomplishment, group maintenance, unique ethos and identity. Every factor was
loaded with four items in a 72-item questionnaire or three items in a 54-item short form
version of the questionnaire. The 18-factor scale proved to have strong validity and
reliability, which is further confirmed by several studies (Barbieri & Sotomayor, 2013;
Gould et al., 2011; C.S. Lee, 2011; S. Lee & Scott 2013). However, some objections have
been raised noting that not all the factors and qualities have the same importance
in accounting for the concept of seriousness (S. Lee & Scott 2013; Tsaur & Liang, 2008).
Four of the six qualities of serious pursuits accounted for merely 70 % of variance (Gould et
al., 2011).
Even though it could seem that serious leisure is the best way to spend our free time,
it is better not to come to such radical conclusion. Despite its numerous rewards, Stebbins
(2008) explained that our main aim should be to strike a balance between all the listed
activities to build an optimal leisure lifestyle.
Optimal leisure lifestyle is described as an individual combination of activities
to “realize human potential and enhance quality of life” (Stebbins, 2004, p. 205). People
with this organization of free time are able to regulate their activities in dependence of their
current life situation, their age, mental and physical condition, work, family, financial
resources or environmental influences. When an individual is able to maintain this balance,
it has a significant positive effect on their well-being.
3.3 Well-being and Serious Leisure
The relationship between serious leisure participation and well-being has received
considerable academic attention which has proved that the relationship was significantly
positive (Haworth & Hill, 1992; Heo et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2015; Liu & Yu, 2015;
Newman, Tay, & Diener, 2014; Reynolds, Vivat, & Prior, 2008 etc.). Even though some
of the research did not focus solely on the serious leisure activities, they were described
in a similar way as, for example, committed leisure (Lu & Argyle, 1994). The correlation
between the serious leisure participation and positive levels of well-being appears to be the
expected result. However, Stebbins (1997) offered some counterarguments where
he claimed otherwise.
Stebbins (1997) argued that the participants of serious leisure are somewhat marginal
in society. As a consequence, it is harder for them to maintain a high level of well-being.
As he stated, the marginality lies in the four characteristics of the serious leisure activities.
The first characteristic is about the investment of considerable time and energy into
an activity, which also has to be given to one´s family, work and other social relations (Stalp,
2006). Furthermore, a possible family conflict also depends on the level of understanding
of other family members (Goff, Fick, & Oppliger, 1997; Goodsell & Harris, 2011). The
second characteristic is deep seriousness, with which one approaches the activity and which
makes the participants even more detached from reality.
The third characteristic is a lack of control; one is engaged in an activity to such
a degree that one spends money and time which one does not normally have available. This
last characteristic applies solely for amateurism. Amateur participants who are at a high level
of an activity and are close to being professionals often suffer from having a marginal status
and a feeling of exclusion from the group of professionals. Stebbins (1997) explained the
positive influence on well-being depends on the balance of rewards and costs of an activity.
3.4 Flow and Serious Leisure
Another concept closely connected to serious leisure participation is the flow
experience. Since the first characteristic of the serious leisure activities called perseveration
in the activity is related to the skills-challenge balance dimension of flow, it is possible
to suppose a possible relation between them. Havitz and Mannell (2005) confirmed this
assumption in the study of leisure activities of unemployed people. The correlation between
enduring involvement in the activity and flow experience was significantly positive. The
enduring involvement is described in a similar way as Stebbins´s (2009) perseveration
in an activity. A positive relation between serious pursuits and the frequency of flow
experience was proved by some more research (Hills, Argyle, & Reeves, 2000; Manell,
1933, as cited in Stebbins, 2010; Stalp, 2007, as cited in Stebbins, 2010).
In contrast, Heo and his colleagues (2010) did not find a significant connection
between the two concepts. Similarly, Stebbins (2010) explained that this relationship was
not the same for every activity. He claimed that for example sports and ars taken as serious
leisure frequently produce a flow experience. In contrast, activities included in the group
of liberal art hobbies are claimed to be an unreliable source of flow.
4.1 Introduction
In the Serious Leisure Perspective, surfing was placed in the category hobbyism,
specifically in the group called nature´s challenges. The nature challenge activities refer
to outdoor sports where the close contact with the natural elements and environment provides
a powerful challenge to its participants (Elkington and Stebbins, 2014). In surfing, this
challenging element lies in the always unpredictable ocean, wave force, currents, rocks and
the large numbers of other surfers fighting for the same wave. Not very surprisingly, surfing
is defined as a risk sport (Everline, 2007).
The origin of modern surfing dates back to the beginning of 20th century in Hawaii.
The popularity of the sport was renewed after a long era of Western Christian dominance.
In 1778, surfing was forbidden as a part of lax morals of the native inhabitants. The
restoration of the sport was initiated by the businessmen who came to see the opportunity
to benefit from natives´ surfing skills. It did not take very long and surfing became popular
also among the rest of the population. From Hawaii it spread to California (Smith, 2010) and
later to Europe (Portugal, 2013).
Today, the sport is famous all around the world and is not just a leisure activity.
In 1976, surfing was established a professional sport and the World Surf League organizes
all the World Championship Tours (WSL, n. d.). Furthermore, surfing did not stop its
expansion just to the coastal countries. With advancing possibilities to travel and with the
broadening possibilities to access various information across the world thanks to the
existence of the Internet Internet, surfing is getting attention also of the inhabitants of the
inland area. The popularity of the sport has risen in the last ten years also in the Czech
Republic and Slovakia. As a proof of this rising popularity is definitely the Quiksilver Czech
and Slovak Surfing Championship. The Slovak and Czech surfers are going to take part
in the already eighth Quiksilver Czech and Slovak Surfing Championship this year
(Quiksilver Surfchamp, 2015).
4.2 Psychology of Surfing
Surfing is fairly new for the inland countries which is one of the main reasons why
there has not been much research conducted in this area. Neither has there been any study
written on the topic of Czech and Slovak surfers. In contrast, the coastal surfers have been
given much more attention in numerous studies. The most extensive research discussing the
psychology of coastal surfers was presented by Bennett (2004) in his book Surfer´s mind.
He is also considered to be the founder of surf psychology. In this chapter, review of the
research in this field is briefly presented.
The first topic to discuss is the surfers´ motivation to remain engaged in the sport.
Farmer (1992) found out that the strongest motive to surf is a pursuit of vertigo. It was
described as the feeling of being high, a loss of self or as a self-transcendent experience. The
aesthetic motive was defined as a connection to nature and the cathartic motive was defined
as a release of tension. A stress relief was also identified as the core motivator of surfers
in the thematic analysis of surfing by Fuchs and Schomer (2007).
Bennett and Kremer (2005) studied the subject of surfing in the area of sport
psychology. They observed the level of stress in elite surfers during the World Surf League.
The most stressful factor for the majority of them (79 %) was that of mental challenges such
as overcoming a slump in performance, acceptingevent results, maintaining confidence
orself-belief. The mean score on the stress scale from 1 (little stress) to 10 (extreme stress)
for mental challenges was 4.70. Another situation which was rated by surfers over number
4 on the scale, was professional experience. Quaalifying for the World Tour Championship
and maintaining their positionin the World Surf League ranking were the most stressful
factors connected to their professional careers.
Big wave riding is another type of competitive surfing. Partington and her colleagues
(2009) interviewed 15 top big wave riders from Hawaii, Australia and South Africa. They
found out that surfers’ main motivation to ride big waves is the gained feeling of great
fulfilment resulting from doing the activity and the enjoyment connected to the flow
experience. Furthermore, some signs of addiction to big wave surfing were described. Since
tolerance was one of these signs, surfers had gradually tendency to enter bigger and more
dangerous waves. Wiersma (2014) argued that Partingtons and Olivier presented big wave
surfing solely from a negative point of view. Thus, he focused his study on the positive
effects of big wave surfing. He interviewed 7 surfers who rode the most famous big wave
spot in the world, Maverick’s (located in Northern California). He did not observe any
significant signs of addiction among the participants. On the contrary, surfers preferred
safety over pleasure and adrenalin resulting from the activity. Another key topic in the
interviews with Maverick’s surfers was a strong connection to the ocean. Bennett and
Kremer (2001) described it as having an intimate relation with the ocean and developing
the surfing ability of an overall waterman“. This characteristic is specific for big wave riding
in comparison with other extreme sports.
Another matter, gender issues, is an important topic for several fields such
as sociology, gender studies or anthropology. Since most surfers are predominantly men, the
main focus was put on masculinity in surfing (Evers, 2009; Evers, 2013; Waitt, 2008; Waitt
& Warren, 2008). Waitt (2008) suggested that young male surfers’ greatest desires are
surfing with other male surf friends and surfing the largest waves possible. They like to share
the experience with their friends because they receive encouragement right after the
performance. In addition, they also enjoy the competitive environment of the crew. They
also derive pleasure from receiving recognition from other friends and from the rest of the
people on the beach. This further explained their desire to surf large barrelling waves.
In contrast, the image of woman surfers was more connected to the heterosexual desires than
to the sport and good performance. Evers (2009, 2013) argued that the traditional approach
to masculinity in sports, as it was presented, was superficial. This approach was based on
surfers’ feelings about a surfing session, which could easily disappear or interfere with the
other experience Thus, he based his analysis on his own “lived” surfing experience.
He explained that the friendship of men in the line-up is a part of a sensual experience of
men. Furthermore, the connection between masculinity and surfing was better represented
by the sensual experience and fusion with nature than by the desire of men for recognition
or dominance in the group.
Another phenomenon, which has been also widely studied in relation with
psychology of surfing, is called localism. The term refers to local (native or resident)
surfers’ chronic aggressive reactions toward outsider or itinerant surfers” (Bandeira, 2014,
p. 16). The roots of these reactions can have three main causes: territorial identity (Anderson,
2014; De Alessi, 2009), feeling of ownership of the spot (Kaffine, 2009; Waitt, 2008) and
the increasing popularity of the sport (Bandeira, 2014; De Alessi, 2009; Hull, 1976; Mixon,
2014; Nazer, 2004). Among the three reasons for localism, the increasing popularity of the
sport is currently the most discussed one. At many surf spots, line-ups are crowded and the
local surfers, who have been surfing on their beach for years, have to share the waves with
tourists from all over the world. To ensure safety of such a high number of surfers waiting
for the same wave, several rules had to be introduced. These rules do not have any official
codification but they are socially accepted norms; every surfer usually accepts and follows
them. However, the norms are often believed to be somewhat different for locals and
nonlocals. The level of difference depends on the type of localism.
Nazer (2004) distinguished three types of localism. A mild localism was described
as a situation where it was clear who the locals are and nonlocals should act with respect
to them. Some tension was present, but no physical or verbal aggression occurred. The
second level, called moderate localism, involved active effort of locals to make other surfers
leave the beach. Locals used graffiti, “stink eye”, demands to leave or they simply stayed
in the way of the visiting surfers while surfing. The last level, heavy localism, referred to the
attempts of locals to completely exclude the visiting surfers. It included the worst forms
of aggression such as physical violence or property damage. Although crowded line-ups are
neither enjoyable for local surfers nor good for the environment, surfing tourism supports
the economy of many countries (Lazarow, Miller, & Blackwell, 2008). For clear differences
among the three types of localism, see Table 6.
Surfing has also been studied in the relation to applied psychology and therapy. The
sport has been widely used with combat veterans in order to help them towards making
a recovery. The combination of a nature-based physical activity, a hydrotherapy, a strength
training and a group therapy showed to be the ideal treatment of the posttraumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) and surfing could offer all of these (Caddick, Smith, & Phoenix, 2015;
Fleischmann et al., 2011; Rogers, Mallinson, & Peppers, 2014). Some surfing programs for
disabled children were also developed. The aim of the projects was to boost children´s self-
confidence and help them to overcome anxiety created by their social exclusion. (Clapham
Table 6.
Three Types of Localism in Surfing (Nazer, 2004)
Verbal aggression
Physical aggression
et al., 2014; Hastings, n. d.). Another example is the organization Umthombo Street Children
from Durban, South Africa. The organization offers children the alternative of surfing to the
street life. Many of the former street children have become surfing instructors. Thus, their
life paths were changed forever (Dick-Read, 2013). In conclusion, surfing has an undeniable
positive influence on mental health and well-being of an individual.
4.3 Life Satisfaction and Surfing
Many studies have confirmed the positive effect of physical activity and sports on the
level of one´s well-being and life satisfaction (Brown et al., 2000; Croom, 2014; Hassmen,
Koivula, & Uutela, 2000; Herzog et al., 1998; Liu & Yu, 2015; Wanner et al., 2006).
Although the contention that surfing as a sport enhances one´s life satisfaction is perfectly
legitimate, the academic evidence of the relationship between life satisfaction and surfing
is not very extensive.
Lorbergs (2012) focused on this topic in his doctoral thesis examining the
relationship between physical activity and the so-called subjective well-being homeostasis
of 366 surfers, 43 swimmers and 298 yoga practitioners. He meant by the term subjective
well-being homeostasis the stability of the level of well-being over time. The results
confirmed that the participants who practiced a physical activity more time per week had
higher level of life satisfaction. However, the difference of subjective well-being
in particular sports was not described. For the relationship between subjective well-being
and the weekly frequency of physical activity, see Figure 4.
Figure 4. Relationship between frequency of physical activity and subjective well-being
(Lobergs, 2012)
Another findings of the study described the previously mentioned homeostasis
of well-being. Lobergs (2012) stated that the correlation between subjective well-being and
the weekly frequency of physical activity is relatively stable in time. The difference between
the groups proved to be the same even without practicing the activitiesfor two months.
Despite the fact that the subjective well-being of yoga practitioners, swimmers and
surfers was not significantly higher than that of the general population, higher levels
of subjective well-being can be expected with high frequency of sport practising.
Furthermore, higher scores of mean rates in the subjective well-being of surfers occurred
(SWB in surfers = 77.24, overall SWB mean = 76.45).
4.4 Flow and Surfing
As Csikszentmihalyi (2008) states in his study, sport is one of the activities which
can most likely bring us the state of flow. The sample of his qualitative study on the optimal
experience included a group of climbers who were suitable representatives of people who
experience flow. Rock climbing is a high-risk sport and Elkington and Stebbins (2014)
categorized it into the group of serious leisure activities called nature challenges. Surfing
was also classified as a nature challenge sport and, as the researchers suggested, these two
sports tend to share similar specific characteristics. One of these characteristic is the flow
experience. Fave, Bassi, and Massimini (2003) confirmed that the flow experience is very
usual in extreme sports.
Although it is legitimate to assume that surfing produces a flow experience based
on the data of other extreme sports, not much research has been conducted proving the
relationship between the state of flow and surfing yet. Among the few, the first research
of such a type was done by Bennett and Kremer (2000) and the main focus was on a peak
performance among elite surfers. In the interviews with 27 men, flow experience was also
discussed. Flow was strongly connected to the peak performance and the dimension
of autotelic experience was the highest rated dimensions of flow by surfers. One revealing
fact was that surfers mentioned the autotelic experiences mainly in connection to free surfing
than competitive surfing. The lowest rated dimension was the challenge-skills balance
dimension. The skills of the professional surfers were higher than the challenges. Thus,
a balance could not be present.
Bennett and Kremer (2002) described the positive effect of the flow experience and
the peak performance on winning. In contrast, Partington and Olivier (2009) showed their
negative effects. They described the possibility of a dependence on the optimal experience
of big wave surfers. They defined 5 characteristics of this addiction to big wave surfing:
drug-like qualities, tolerance, social impairment, physical impairment and withdrawal.
Although the study illustrated negative rather than positive aspects of the flow experience,
the interviews with the riders confirmed an occurrence of all 9 dimensions of flow in surfing.
Another study took a completely different perspective on the flow-surfing relation.
C.M. Peterson (2012) focused her doctoral thesis on the experience of time while surfing
in a barrel. Thus, she examined the relation between surfing and the dimension of flow called
time transformation. Out of 36 volunteers included in her study, 33 described the time
transformation while surfing in a barrel. Most of the surfers (24 persons) explained that
a dilation of time was connected to the deep concentration on the difficult task of riding the
barrel and they described a strong awareness of oneself. 16 surfers used the word “enhance”
for describing the time dilatation and 28 surfers claimed the time had slowed down while
in a barrel. These findings confirmed the strong relationship between the flow experience
and surfing. On the other hand, further study and quantitative testing of this relationship
is needed.
4.5 Personal Characteristics of Surfers
The personal characteristics of surfers, especially of surf tourists were mainly
investigated in the fields of marketing and business (Dolnicar & Fluker, 2003; Moutinho,
Dionísio, & Leal, 2007; Schreier, Oberhauser, & Prügl, 2007). Very few studies have been
conducted on the topic of personality characteristics of surfers.
In a study by Diehm and Armatas (2004), sensation-seeking was identified as
a significant trait of surfers. This personal characteristic was also confirmed to be typical for
participants of various extreme sports (Robinson, 1985; Slanger, & Rudestam, 1997;
Willing, 2008).
The relationship between the 5-factor personality model and surfing was explored
in the same study (Diehm & Armatas, 2004). The surfers had significantly higher rates in the
trait of openness to experience than, for example, golfers. The characteristics of the 5-factor
model were also discussed in connection to leisure satisfaction, leisure motivation and
leisure participation. The personal trait of extraversion was strongly connected to leisure
motivation, participation and satisfaction. In contrast, low leisure participation resulted
in high rates in the dimension of neuroticism. No further research on the 5-factor model
of personality of surfers has been found.
Empirical Part
5 The Purpose of the Study
The main aim of this thesis was to explore the sport of surfing in the area of the Czech
Republic and Slovakia. Specifically, we focused on the personal characteristics of the Czech
and Slovak surfers, their motivation to do the sport, their level of flow experience and their
life satisfaction. Surfing is a water sport which is usually done in the ocean. Thus, inland
surfers possibly have some specific features in comparison with coastal riders. So far, there
has not been much research done on the subject of inland surfers. Similarly, the surfers from
the Czech Republic and Slovakia have never been given any academic attention.
Before the main research, we interviewed seven Czech surfers to gather more
information about inland surfers. The surfers were asked about their beginnings with the
sport, their best and worst experiences while surfing, the rewards for and costs of doing the
sport and about their future plans and career aims. The interviews were used for formulating
the hypotheses and identifying the seriousness of pursuit. The analysis of the interviews were
not presented in the thesis, as the scope of this theses is limited.
The main resrach was an online survey which consisted of demographic questions,
questions about surfing, NEO 5-factor Personality Inventory (Hřebíčková & Urbánek,
2001), the Life Satisfaction Questionnaire (Fahrenberg et al., 2001) and the Flow State
Scale-2 (FSS; Řezáč, 2007). The survey included two samples, Czech and Slovak surfers
and the general Czech and Slovak population; people who did not have any experiences with
the sport at the time of collecting the data.
Based on the interview results and previous research (Bennett & Kremer, 2002;
Partington & Olivier, 2009), we supposed that surfers would experience a higher level
of flow and they would experience it more often than the general population. The other
supposition we made was that surfers who surf more weeks than the others would experience
a higher level of flow. Furthermore, our aim was to find out whether the flow experience
in the inland surfers differs from the coastal surfers. We also assumed that surfers are more
satisfied with their lives than the general population. Our assumption was largely based
on studies confirming the connection of a high level of life satisfaction and well-being with
leisure engagement and a high level of leisure satisfaction (Haworth & Hill, 1992; Heo et al.,
2014; Herzog et al., 1998; Iwasaki, 2007; Kim et al., 2015; Liu & Yu, 2015; Lu & Argyle,
1994; Lu & Hu, 2005; Newman, Tay, & Diener, 2014).
In addition, the study focused on the personality characteristics of the surfers
predominantly for three reasons. Firstly, since well-being and flow are influenced by stable
characteristics of the individuals (Costa & McCrae, 1980; Diener, Oishi, & Lucas, 2003),
personal traits were described as intervening variables. Secondly, I supposed that surfers
would have different scores in the dimensions of the NEO 5-factor Personality Inventory.
This assumption was made based on the research of personality characteristics of people
doing surfing and different extreme sports (Robinson, 1985; Slanger, & Rudestam, 1997;
Willing, 2008). Finally, the last reason for studying the personality characteristics of the
surfers was to make a contribution to the limited research on inland surfers.
5.1 Research Questions
1. What are the personality characteristics of the Czech and Slovak surfers?
2. What is the level of life satisfaction of Czech and Slovak surfers in the following
dimensions: health, job and profession, finances, leisure, spouse/ partner, children,
self, friends and relatives, home, and general life satisfaction?
5.2 Hypothesis
1. Surfers experience flow while surfing more often than the general population while
doing other leisure activities.
2. Surfers are more satisfied with their lives than the general population who do not
3. Surfers are more extraverted than the general population who do not surf
4. Surfers are more emotionally stable than the general population who do not surf.
5. People who experience higher quality of flow are more satisfied with their lives than
people who experience lower quality of flow.
6 Participants
The first group named Surf group consisted of 69 respondents, 34 females and
35 males, all of whom were between 20 and 47 years of age. 22 participants were from
Slovakia and 47 came from the Czech Republic. The participants were recruited by the snow
ball technique in three steps. Firstly, friends who surfed were sent an email with an online
questionnaire in Google documents. In the second step, 21 organizations, such as surfing
associations, surfing travel agencies, surfing Facebook groups and surfing online magazines
were contacted and asked to share the online version of the questionnaire with their
members, friends or to advertise it on their social media webpages. For the accompanying
email see Appendix 1. Eleven organizations responded to the email and nine of them shared
the questionnaire (Czech Surfing Association, Slovak Surfing Association, Surf Dovolená,
Surf, Surf and Travel,, Surfhouse, Surfhouse Sri Lanka,
SurfTrip). Lastly, the document was shared on social media pages (Facebook, LinkedIn).
The term “surfer” was operationalized as a person who did the sport at least once for a period
of one week. Initially the questionnaire was addressed to anyone who considered himself or
herself as a surfer. However, later the respondents were given 7 questions about their surfing
career to prove their surfing experiences. For wording see Appendix 2. One person was
excluded after this evaluation. The data was collected between January and March 2015.
The second group called Non-surf group consisted of 70 respondents, 39 females
and 31 males, all of whom were between 18 and 50 years of age. 32 were from Slovakia and
38 from the Czech Republic. The participants were recruited by the snow ball technique and
also by self-selection. The online questionnaire in Google documents was shared via pages
and groups on Facebook (4 university class groups, 4 groups of an unspecified company,
Facebook page of the surf community emOcean) and via LinkedIn pages. The questionnaire
was posted with a request for filling in and sharing via receivers’ Facebook pages. The last
non-surf participants were contacted with the help of a director of the unspecified company.
During the last month of recruitment, we specified the sex, age and nationality of the
participants. Our purpose was to match the Non-surf group with the Surf group
in demographic characteristics. An absolute match was not achieved. Filling in the
questionnaire took approximately 35 minutes which supposedly discouraged many potential
participants. For a comparison of the groups in the basic demographic characteristics, see
Table 7. The data was collected between January and March 2015.
Table 7.
The Comparison of the Surf group and Non-surf group
51.5 %
44.3 %
48.5 %
55.7 %
18 19 years
0 %
1.4 %
20 30 years
66.1 %
67.1 %
31 45 years
32.4 %
28.6 %
46 50 years
1.5 %
2.9 %
32.4 %
45.7 %
67.6 %
54.3 %
Marital status
39.7 %
31.4 %
13.2 %
17.1 %
in relationship
44.1 %
51.4 %
2.9 %
0 %
(number of inhabitants)
up to 1000
13.2 %
14.3 %
1000 30 000
13.2 %
18.6 %
30 000 100 000
5.9 %
22.9 %
over 100 000
67.6 %
44.3 %
0 %
1.4 %
30.9 %
32.9 %
69.1 %
7 Methods
The first aim of the study was to explore the flow experience, life satisfaction and the
personal characteristics of the Czech and Slovak surfers. The second goal was to describe
the difference between surfers and the general population who do not surf. The following
measures were used:
1. NEO 5-factor Personality Inventory - Czech version (Hřebíčková & Urbánek, 2001)
2. Life Satisfaction Questionnaire - Czech version (Fahrenberg et al., 2001)
3. Flow Questionnaire FQ - Czech version (adapted by Vídenská, 2013 from
Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi 1982, as cited in Han, 1988).
4. Flow State Scale-2 FSS 2 - Czech version (Řezáč, 2007)
Furthermore, the questionnaire for the Surf group included seven open-ended
questions about surfing and an additional question about their relationship status. The aim
was to find out, whether they are in a relationship with a surfer or a non-surfer. The Flow
Questionnaire was used solely for the Non-surf group to identify the activities for
an assessment in FSS-2. The online questionnaire was shared as a google document on
Facebook, LinkedIn or sent via email.
All four used methods fall into the category of self-reported measures. These methods
have certain disadvantages. The participants might not understand the questions correctly
or might not have the needed level of introspective ability. The other negative effects are the
response bias and socially acceptable answers. This can be seen in the items assessing
satisfaction with sexuality in LSQ (Austin et al., 1998; Fan et al., 2006). On the other hand,
the great advantages of these measures are low financial demands and high standardization
rates across the nations. Moreover, these methods also made it possible to collect data from
surfers who live abroad. Nonetheless, the dimension of sexuality was not used.
7.1 NEO 5-factor Personality Inventory
The 60-item NEO f-factor personality inventory (NEO-FFI) by Costa and McCrae
(2004) is a shorten version of their original 180-item NEO personality inventory (NEO-PI).
The five measured independent dimensions of personality are: Neuroticism (N),
Extraversion (E), Openness (O), Agreeableness (A) and Conscientiousness (C). Every
dimension is represented by 12 items and item responses are rated on the 5-point Likert
scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”.
NEO-FFI is used in many areas of psychology and practice. It is applied in clinical
psychology, organizational psychology and counselling psychology. Finally, it also plays
an important role in research where it is used to explore individual differences. NEO-FFI
can be administrated individually or in a group and the questionnaire can be filled
in electronically on a computer or by a “pencil and paper” method. The main advantage of
he inventory is that the administration takes only from 10 to 15 minutes (Hřebíčková
& Urbánek, 2001).
The Czech version was adapted by Hřebíčková and Urbánek (2001) and its validity
and reliability was tested on the sample of 1000 individuals. This version was used in several
studies (Allik et al., 2010, Blatny, Jelinek, & Osecka, 2007; Kráčmarová, 2012; McCrae,
2008; Mlčák & Záškodná, 2006; Šucha, 2010).
7.2 Life Satisfaction Questionnaire (Fahrenberg, Myrtek, Schumacher,
The Life Satisfaction Questionnaire (LSQ), originally called Fragebogen zur
Lebenszufriedenheit” (FLZ) by Fahrenberg and his colleagues (2001) was developed
to measure life satisfaction. The questionnaire measures satisfaction in 10 areas of life
including health, occupation, financial circumstances, leisure time, spouse/partnership,
children, satisfaction with oneself, sexuality, social relation and housing (Myrtek, 1998;
Zahlten-Hinguranage et al., 2004). Every area is represented by 7 items and responses are
rated on the 7-point Likert scale, ranging from “very dissatisfied” to “very satisfied”. Overall
score of life satisfaction was computed out of
The scale was designed to objectively assess the overall life satisfaction and satisfaction
in particulars domains of life. It was mainly designated for counselling practice, however, it
is also used in research (Beutel et al., 2002; Petrowski et al., 2009; Serrano, Hernández, &
Murcia, 2013; Štěrbová et al., 2010; Zahlten-Hinguranage et al., 2004). The LSQ is
administrated by the “pencil and paper” method and it can be used individually or in a group.
The administration of the scale lasts from 5 to 10 minutes. The Czech version of the
questionnaire was translated and adapted from the original by Rodná and Rodný (2001).
7.3 Flow Questionnaire (FQ)
The Flow Questionnaire was developed by Csikszentmihalyi (Csikszentmihalyi
& Nakamura, 2002) to explore whether the participants have ever experienced flow, how
often they experience it and during which activities. In the questionnaire, three quotes are
presented (see Table 8). Csikszentmihalyi based these statements on the interviews with top
athletes and artists. He used the exact wording of the answers of some of them.
The validity of FQ was proved by many studies (Asakawa, 2010; Collins, Sarkisian
& Winner, 2009; Fave & Bassi, 2003; Han, 1988; Moneta, 2012; Rettie, 2001) and
Csikszentmihalyi and Nakamura (2002) recommended to use it to identify a flow activity of
participants before applying the Flow State Scale. In our study, FQ was used to delineate the
leisure activity, which is closest to the state of flow in the Non-surf group. The chosen
activity was assessed in the FSS-2 afterwards as recommended. Furthermore, the Czech
version of the questionnaire adapted by Vídenská (2013) was used.
7.4 Flow State Scale (FSS-2)
The Flow State Scale is a self-report measure and it assesses nine dimensions of flow
described by Csikszentmihalyi: challenge-skill balance, clear goals, unambiguous feedback,
concentration on the task at hand, loss of self-consciousness, action-awareness merging,
sense of control, time transformation and autotelic experience. Every dimension
is represented by 4 items and responses are rated on the 5-point Likert scale, ranging from
“strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. The scale was developed by Jackson and Marsh
(1996). Although the validity of the scale was predominantly tested on sportsmen (Jackson,
Table 8.
Flow Questionnaire (Csikszentmihalyi 1982, as cited in Han, 1988, pp. 139-140)
“My mind isn’t wandering. I am not thinking of something else. I am totally involved in what I
am doing. My body feels good. I don’t seem to hear anything. The world seems to be cut off
from me. I am less aware of myself and my problems.”
“My concentration is like breathing. I never think of it. I am oblivious to my surroundings after I
really get going. I think that the phone could ring, and the doorbell could ring, or the house burn
down or something like that. When I start, I really do shut out the whole world. Once I stop, I
can let it back in again.”
“I am so involved in what I am doing, I don’t see myself as separate from what I am doing.”
& Eklund, 2002; Jackson, Martin, & Eklund, 2008; Tenenbaum, Fogarty, & Jackson, 1999)
it has been also widely used to assess different leisure activities (Wrigley & Emmerson,
2013) and work (Bakker, 2005).
The FSS-2 was designed to asses flow straight after the experience or performance.
However, another possible way of using the scale is by collecting data related to a particular
past activity (Jacskon & Eklund, 2004). For the Surf group, the particular activity was surfing
and the activity for the Non-surf group was identified by the Flow Questionnaire.
The scale was translated into many languages, maintaining the validity and reliability
of the original version (Calvo et al., 2008; Fournier et al., 2007; Kawabata, Mallett,
& Jackson, 2008). The Czech version was translated and adapted by Řezáč (2007). Although
the scale was not standardized for the Czech population, it showed strong overall reliability
in several studies (Řezáč, 2007; Riegel, 2013; Sichová, 2014; Vašíčková, 2010). For
a comparison of the reliability of the Czech version of FSS in various studies, see Table 9.
The Cronbach alpha for flow in our study is 0.75, which shows that the overall
reliability of the flow scale is acceptable (George & Mallery, 2003, as cited in Gliem
& Gliem, 2003). However, two out of 9 dimensions of flow scored under 0.60 (poor
reliability) in Cronbach alpha and three dimensions scored under 0.50. George and Mallery
(2003, as cited in Gliem & Gliem, 2003) defined that the scores of Cronbach alpha under
0.50 show unacceptable reliability and we should not interpret the collected data. In our case
the three dimensions we cannot interpret were: clear goals, action-awareness merging and
challenge-skills balance.
The low reliability rates of the dimension clear goals might be caused by an
inaccurate translation. Four items of the original version of the FSS-2 (Jacskon & Eklund,
Table 9.
The Reliability of the Czech Version of FSS-2 Comparison of Various Studies
Cronbach α
Clear goals
Sense of control
Concentration on
the task at hand
Loss of self-
2004) were reduced to three items and one new item was added in the Czech version by
Řezáč (2007). The categorization of the added item to the dimension of clear goals is, with
all due respect to the author, questionable. The meaning of the item overlaps with another
dimension, autotelic experience, since its wording is: Doing the activity itself is more
important for me than its results (the Czech wording: Provozovaná činnost je pro mě
důležitější než její výsledek.”, Řezáč, 2007). Furthermore, the rate of the Cronbach alpha for
the dimension is 0.68 after deleting the described item.
Another dimension with low reliability is the dimension of action-awareness
merging. This dimension consists of 4 items, two items were adapted from the original
version of the questionnaire and two items were added. The meaning of the two added items
again overlaps with another dimension, concentration on the task at hand. The wording of the
items is following: I am completely involved in what I am doing/I am completely focused
on what I am doing (the Czech wording: “Jsem zcela zaujatý činností, kterou vykonávám.”,
Řezáč, 2007); While doing the activity, I completely forget about my problems. (the Czech
wording: “Při provozované činnosti zcela zapomenu na své problémy.”, Řezáč, 2007). The
wording of the first mentioned item is almost the same as the item number 32 in the original
version of FSS, which belongs to the dimension of concentration on the task at hand (see
Appendix 3). After deleting these two items the rate of Cronbach alpha for dimension
of action-awareness merging increased. However, it is still too low (0.49) for
an interpretation of the collected data.
The dimension of challenge-skills balance has the lowest score of Cronbach alpha,
0.10. Although all 4 items representing this dimension were transformed or changed
completely in the Czech version of FSS-2 by Řezáč (2007), the meaning of the items still
corresponds with the description of the dimension of challenge-skills balance
by Csikszentmihalyi (2008). The rate of Cronbach alpha is higher (0.55) after we delete the
item number 18 and the item number 36. With the extremely low rate in our study, we still
cannot interpret the collected data related to the dimension of challenge-skills balance.
The dimension of unambiguous feedback and dimension of loss of self-
consciousness have higher rates of Cronbach alpha, but they are still quite low for
interpretation (0.52). In the case of unambiguous feedback, it could also have been caused
by the added item. If the item number 22 is deleted, the Cronbach alpha value increases
to 0.63. The reliability of loss of self-consciousness was already discussed by Řezáč (2007).
He explained that the reason of the low rate of Cronbach alpha for this dimension could have
been caused by the use of three negative items in this dimension. Kalník (2014) argued that
the reliability increased after eliminating item number 8: I am so involved in what I am doing
that I am not aware of myself (the Czech version: „Do provozované činnosti jsem ponořen
tak, že nevnímám sám sebe.“, Řezáč, 2007). He thinks that it is caused by the shift of focus
of the question. The item number 8 is focused on an individual, who is filling in the
questionnaire. The remaining three items of the dimension are focused on how the
assessment by other people is important for the person in question. In our study, the rate
of Cronbach alpha (0.74) also increased by deleting the item number 8. The elimination
of the item from the questionnaire FSS-2 should be considered.
Since the overall rate of reliability for FSS-2 was acceptable (0.75), we interpreted
the scale as a whole. From the nine dimensions, we interpreted only those which had the
value of Cronbach alpha over 0.50. Based on these results, a revision of the Czech version
of FSS-2 is recommended.
8 Data Analyses
To analyse the collected data, the program IBM SPPS Statistics 22 was used. Basic
descriptive statistics was used to describe the demographic characteristics of the participants.
Since our aim was to match the participants of the two groups based on the variable of age
and sex, descriptive statistics was also used for a comparison of the groups. Cronbach alpha
was used to examine the reliability of the Flow State Scale. The level of the reliability of the
methods defines if we can interpret the collected data.
To examine normal distribution of observed variables, we used Shapiro-Wilk test. The
Shapiro-Wilk test also determines whether we should analyse data using parametric or non-
parametric tests. Normal distribution was confirmed neither in the dimensions of the Flow
State Scale nor in the dimensions of the Life Satisfaction Questionnaire. Thus, non-
parametric tests were used for these scales. In the case of the NEO 5-factor Personality
Inventory, a normal distribution was partially confirmed. In the Non-surf group, normal
distribution was not confirmed in the dimension of extraversion. In the Surf group, normal
distribution was not confirmed in the dimension of conscientiousness. Since the NEO-FFI
traits had normal distribution in the general Czech population (Hřebíčková & Urbánek,
2001), we have excluded extreme values of two variables and we performed the reliability
test again. The results for reliability were the same. Thus, the non-parametric tests were
applied to the dimensions of extraversion and conscientiousness. According to Shapiro-Wilk
test, we can assume a normal distribution in the remaining three dimensions of NEO-FFI.
Thus, the parametric tests were used for the dimensions of neuroticism, openness and
The Mann-Whitney test was used for the data which was not normally distributed,
to compare the means between the two groups. This test is based on the ranks of the values
for different conditions where the Mann-Whitney test statistic "U" reflects the difference
between the two rank totals. The T-test for independent samples was used to compare the
means between the groups in the data which was normally distributed. The Leven´s test was
applied for examining an equality of variance in two groups. To compare the means between
more than two groups (education, residence, marital status), Kruskal-Wallis test was used
for not normally distributed data. For normally distributed data, One-way ANOVA was used
to find out whether a significant difference existed in means within the groups and among
the groups. Bonfferoni test was used to describe the specific pairs of groups with a significant
difference in their means.
Bivariate’s correlation and Spearman´s correlation coefficient were used to explore
the relation between the flow experience and life satisfaction of a group. Spearman´s
correlation coefficient was used to examine the correlation between the flow experience and
age, surfing experience in years, the level of surfing skills and the number of weeks spent
on surfing per year.
Stepwise linear regression was used to explore to which level the variability of the
flow experience and life satisfaction is accounted by various predictors.
9 Results
The Surf Group
Our research question number 1 was: “What are the personality characteristics of
the Czech and Slovak surfers?” To identify the personal characteristics of surfers, we used
the NEO 5-factor Personality Inventory. Firstly, we did the descriptive statistics for all the 5
dimensions: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. For
scores of the Surf group in the dimensions of NEO FFI, see table 10. Next step was
to compare the results of surfers with a normative Czech sample. This sample was tested
by Hřebíčková and Urbánek (2001). The normative sample consisted of 685 females and
416 males and the participants were from 15 to 75 years old. The scores of the Surf group
were higher than the scores of the Czech normative sample in the dimensions of extraversion,
openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness and lower in the dimension of neuroticism.
For comparison, see Table 11.
To test the differences between different types of sex, nationalities and other
independent variables in NEO-FFI for the Surf group, we ran the t-test for independent
samples for dimensions of neuroticism, openness and agreeableness (a normal distribution
confirmed) and the Mann-Whitney test for extraversion and conscientiousness (the normal
distribution not confirmed). A significant difference between males and females in scores
Table 10.
The Descriptive Statistics of NEO-FFI in the Surf Group
Personality trait
Table 11.
The Comparison of Means of 5 Personality Traits of NEO-FFI between the Surf Group and
Normative Czech Sample
Personality trait
Whole sample
of NEO 5-factor Personality Inventory was not found. For the comparison, see Tables 12,
13 and 14. Significant differences between Czechs and Slovaks, different types of education
or different marital statuses were not found.
Table 12.
Differences Between Males and Females from the Surf Group in Personal Characteristics of
NEO-FFI: Means Ranks
Personality trait
Mean Rank
Table 13.
Differences Between Males and Females from the Surf Group in Personal Characteristics of
NEO-FFI: Mann-Whitney test
Table 14.
Differences Between Males and Females from the Surf Group in Personal Characteristics of
NEO-FFI: Independent T-test
Personality trait
Equality of variance
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
The Non-surf Group
For scores of the Non-surf group in dimensions of NEO 5 Factor Inventory:
neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness, see Table 15.
The scores of the Non-surf group were lower than rates of the Czech normative
sample in all five dimensions. For comparison, see the table 16 (Hřebíčková & Urbánek,
Table 15.
The Descriptive Statistics of NEO-FFI in the Non-surf Group
Personality trait
Table 16.
The Comparison of Means of 5 Personality Traits of NEO-FFI between the Non-surf Group and
Normative Czech Sample
Personality trait
Whole sample
To test the differences between different types of sex, nationalities and other
independent variables in NEO-FFI for the Non-surf group, we ran the independent t-test
across the dimensions of neuroticism, openness and agreeableness (a normal distribution
confirmed) and the Mann-Whitney test for extraversion and conscientiousness (the normal
distribution not confirmed). A significant difference between males and females was not
found. For the comparison, see Tables 17, 18 and 19. Significant differences between Czechs
and Slovaks, different types of education or different marital statuses were not found.
Table 17.
Differences Between Males and Females from the Non-surf Group in Personal Characteristics of
NEO-FFI: Means Ranks
Personality trait
Mean Rank
In our hypotheses number 3 and 4, we supposed the difference in some personal
characteristics of surfers and the general population who do not surf. The hypothesis number
3 was: “Surfers are more extraverted than the general population who do not surf”; the
hypothesis number 4 was: “Surfers are more emotionally stable than the general
population who do not surf”.
Table 18.
Differences Between Males and Females from the Non-surf Group in Personal Characteristics of
NEO-FFI: Mann-Whitney test
Table 19.
Differences Between Males and Females from the Non-surf Group in Personal Characteristics of
NEO-FFI: Independent T-test
Personality trait
Equality of variance
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
To test the above mentioned hypotheses we ran the independent t-test across the
dimensions of neuroticism, openness and agreeableness (a normal distribution confirmed)
and the Mann-Whitney test for extraversion and conscientiousness (the normal distribution
not confirmed).
A significant difference between groups was confirmed for 4 dimensions in the
results of NEO-FFI, these were the following: neuroticism, extraversion, openness and
conscientiousness. For the results of dimensions with the normal distribution (neuroticism,
openness), see Tables 20 and 21. For the results of dimensions with non-normal distribution
(extraversion, conscientiousness), see Tables 22 and 23.
The Non-surf group scored significantly higher than the Surf group in the dimension
of neuroticism. The mean for the Non-surf group was 21.56 whereas for the Surf group it
was 18.2 (p ˂ 0.01). The Surf group scored significantly higher than the Non-surf group in
the dimensions of extraversion, openness and conscientiousness. The mean rank in the
dimension of extraversion was 98.46 for the Surf group and 41.37 for the Non-surf group (p
˂ 0.01). In the dimension of openness, the mean was 32.46 for the Surf group and 24.04 for
the Non-surf group (p ˂ 0.01). The Surf group´s mean score in dimensions
of conscientiousness was 31.26 and the Non-surf group´s mean in this dimension was 28 (p
˂ 0.01). The Mann-Whitney U value for extraversion was 411.00 and for conscientiousness
it was 1347.50. Based on the results, both hypotheses were confirmed.
Table 20.
Differences between the Surf Group and the Non-surf Group in Personal
Characteristics: Means and Standard Deviations
Personality trait
Non-Surf/ Surf
Std. Error
Table 21.
Differences between the Surf Group and the Non-surf Group in Personal Characteristics: T-test
for Independent Samples
Personality trait
Equality of variance
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Equal variances assumed
Equal variances not assumed
Table 22.
Differences between the Surf Group and the Non-surf Group in Personal Characteristics: Mean
Personality trait
Surf/Non-surf Group
Mean Rank
Table 23.
Differences between the Surf Group and the Non-surf Group in Personal Characteristics: Mann-
Whitney Test
9.2 Flow State Scale-2
The Surf Group
The descriptive statistics of the Flow State Scale-2 and its 9 dimensions: autotelic
experience, clear goals, sense of control, unambiguous feedback, action-awareness merging,
concentration on the task at hand, time transformation, loss of self-consciousness and
challenge-skills balance, of the Surf group was described. The surfers had the highest
average scores in the dimension of autotelic experience (m = 18.71) and the lowest score
in the dimension of challenge-skills balance (m = 11.57). For descriptive statistics of FSS-2
in the Surf group, see Table 24.
To test the differences between different types of sex, nationalities and between other
independent variables in the flow experience and the dimensions of flow for the Surf group,
we ran the Mann-Whitney test and the Kruskal-Wallis test. A significant difference between
males and females was found in dimensions of sense of control (U = 334, p ˂ 0.01) and
action-awareness merging (U = 414, p ˂ 0.05). The males had higher scores in both of them.
For comparison, see Tables 25 and 26. Significant differences were neither found between
Czech and Slovaks, nor between different marital statuses. The participants with university
Table 24.
The Descriptive Statistics of FSS-2 in the Surf Group
Clear goals
Sense of control
Concentration on
the task at hand
Loss of self-
education scored significantly higher in the dimension of time transformation
(U = 305, p ˂ 0.05).
Table 25.
Differences Between Males and Females from Surf Group in FSS-2: Means Ranks
Mean Rank
Autotelic experience
Clear goals
Sense of control
Unambiguous feedback
Action-awareness merging
Concentration on task on hand
Time transformation
Loss of self-consciousness
Challenge-skills balance
The Non-surf Group
For the scores of the Non-surf group and the descriptive statistics of the Flow State
Scale-2 and its 9 dimensions: autotelic experience, clear goals, sense of control,
unambiguous feedback, action-awareness merging, concentration on the task at hand, time
transformation, loss of self-consciousness and challenge-skills balance, see Table 27.
Table 26.
Differences Between Males and Females from Surf Group in FSS-2: Mann-Whitney Test