Mental Health in Extreme Sports, An Athlete Speak Out

Mental Health in Extreme Sports - Dirty Habits


Professional Kiteboarder and Founder of Dirty HabitsGraham Howes, has opened up to the world about a very taboo topic: Depression & Anxiety in the world of Extreme Sports and Athletes. Graham shares his personal story as a World Class Athlete living with ADHD, Epilepsy and Major Depression. 

Below, is a few words about his experience, paired with the conversation he released on social media just a short time ago. Feeling honoured to share such an inspiring and courageous piece of work, we urge you to listen and start the conversation as well.

When I was diagnosed with Major Depression in July 2019 my life changed forever…

It was one of the biggest turning points of my life. After years of confusion, anger, frustration and in a very, very dark place, I could finally make sense of why my mind had turned on me. A mind that had always been so powerful, so creative, so great had just stopped functioning. It’s incredibly scary when something we rely on, something that controls every aspect of your life, your health, relationships, skills, your wellbeing, all of a sudden fails you.

I fought it for so long, trying to figure it out until it fully exhausted my every being and left me crippled on a couch with the blinds shut for 2 weeks…

When I got home from the psychologist my fiancé, Candace took me to, he had diagnosed me with major depression. I scraped together all the energy and physical power my overweight, slow body could (I was over 90kg’s by this point, I’m 79kg’s today) just to open my laptop, and start to research this and try to beat it by educating myself. The Doc tried to put me on medication, but I was too stubborn, ‘I’m not weak, I have been through much worse than this in the past, and I managed, I’m a survivor.” I would spend the next month trying to muscle my way through it, with this new information I could take back control of my mind, or so I thought.. After weeks of reading self help books, trying meditation, changing my diet, quitting booze, talking, writing, even Ice baths.. You name it I tried it. And then before I knew it, I was back on that couch in the dark with curtains shut! I hadn’t surfed or kiteboarded in over a month, I had zero physical energy or motivation. But I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. So in one last attempt, I scraped myself off the couch and forced myself to go kite, back to my happy place, the place that fixed everything, the ocean. Where, when I’m in my flow… and nothing else matters. Or so it did in the past… I had my 1st panic attack while kiting on a long downwinder. It felt like someone had stuck their fist down my throat, I couldn’t breathe or get air into my lungs, my heart was pounding through my wetsuit. I thought I was having a heart attack. I had to somehow hold it together for another 3 Kilometers to get to where my car was parked, every minute felt eternity. It was the scariest moment of my life. Depression had now taken from me, what I loved the most. The Ocean, my happy place.

What does my future hold for me? Well, hopefully I’ll be making less videos about drinking beer, partying and ass’s, and hopefully use Dirty Habits as a platform for Athletes and leaders to talk about real shit. Life changing shit. And Inspire change and growth. Maybe talking openly about this topic might inspire someone just as Michael Phelps inspired me, to be brave. Maybe that person may be a role model to younger kids, maybe, just maybe, my obituary could instead read “Graham, gave me the courage to ask my friend how he really is doing”

People don’t fake depression, they fake being ok.

Remember that and be kind.



Mental Health in Extreme Sports and Professional Athletes.

Professional Kiteboarder Graham Howes, Speaks Out.

As a Professional Athlete, Artist & Brand Owner; Depression, insecurities, anxiety, self doubt, ADD, ADHD, Epilepsy, has played a huge role in where/who i am today. It's given me strength and courage to push through boundaries, but it has also plagued my road to success, competitions, relationships and ultimately; happiness.I see it in people/friends/professional athletes and successful people all around me, and most of them won't dare open up when I try starting a conversion, for their fear of crying, looking weak, feeling 'uncool'.
This year has led me to very dark places from past traumas which I buried. This year has also made it obvious I can no longer pretend life is perfect as I show on social media and Dirty Habits. It's time to get real. Don't worry I'm not gonna start posting vids of me crying. And I am also not looking for attention or kind words of encouragement. All I want is for you to know, that you are not alone in your fight, no matter how small or big it may seem.
Dirty Habits Inspires an extreme lifestyle of 'Living your best life', though extreme sports, community, crazy video's etc. But It's time to acknowledge that 'Living your best life' means treating your mind injuries, just as you would treat a knee injury or any other injury. A lot of people have to accept that psychological and physical injuries are at the same level of intensity. They can do the same level of damage to somebody’s self confidence and their ability to perform.
We won't stop posting 'cool shit', and not much will change, we will continue to #keepitdirty as usual. But along the way, we want to break down the walls and stigma in the extreme sports community.
How you ask? Well we have no idea yet... but sometimes ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS START.
There's a Place - Words By Graham Howes
a place i come to leave my thoughts
a place i come to clear my mind
a place i come to not be judged
a place i come to not be kind
I leave my thoughts here to rest
i leave my thoughts here at their best
i don't care what you think of me
i don't care how you look at me
i'm tired of being judged
i'm tired of the eyes that look down
i'm scared to fail, to disappoint
i'm scared to be me
i'm scared, of me
it's not those who judge me
its just that, i don't know how to be
it's not them, who judge me
it's me, who judges me
Dirty Habits Founder - Graham Howes
We Have created a Facebook Group - 'Mental Health in Extreme Athletes'
Come join our conversations.. Who knows where it leads..
We are currently wrapping up the filming of a 28 minute Documentary titled, "We Need To Talk". About Mental Health in Extreme Sports, featuring World Class Extreme Sports Athletes and World Champions, from Wingsuit flyers and pro downhill mountain bikers to the biggest names in kiteboarding and wakeboarding. Having vulnerable conversations about mental struggles, injuries, identity, addiction, depression and hope. Paired with some great action visuals.
We also have a world renowned Mental Coach/ Author sitting in as a 'expert' on the topic
to Support our mission on sharing this important topic we have created a special range of products (with slightly higher prices) ALL profits from these products go towards funding these projects and creating awareness about Mental Health. 
✩ Instagram: @dirtyhabitstv
✩ Instagram: @grahamhowes

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1 comment

  • Stephanie Garcia : January 20, 2023

    I want to be a part of your mental health surf awareness.

    Much Aloha

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