Surf Your Urge Worksheet: An Unyielding 8-Tier Swell

Surf Your Urge Worksheet…DBT skills in distress tolerance

Surf Your Urge Worksheet, DBT Urge Surfing Worksheet

No, it’s not about donning your spiffy wetsuit and hitting the ocean to catch some gnarly waves. But surprise, surprise – you’re still surfing!

Dialectical Behavior Therapy’s (DBT) “Urge Surfing” is a technique used to navigate and master the gnarly waves of our unruly desires and urges. Just like Duke Kahanamoku cruising along the North Shore, Urge Surfing encourages you to ride the rollercoaster of your urges until they naturally subside. Insert your best “Cowabunga,” dudes.

DBT continues to be one of the leading models for Distress Tolerance, arguably the most powerful skills to master in early and ongoing recovery.

Click below for immediate access to the DBT Urge Surfing Worksheet

Here’s how it breaks down:

4 Basics To Surf & Survive Your Urge

1. The Paddle Out 

Spot that rogue wave of desire rising in the distance. It could be anything from cravings for that triple-chocolate cake in the middle of your diet to a sudden urge to buy the 60-inch TV for the “essential” home cinema experience. You see it. You acknowledge it. You fear not. 

2. The Line-Up 

Sit with your urge. Don’t chum the water with avoidance. Instead, get curiously cozy with this particular wave and wait. Wait for it to crest, break, and foam into nothingness while observing it with a nonjudgmental mindset.

3. The Wave Ride 

Remember, you’re the surfer here, not the wave. Your goal isn’t to squash the wave (good luck with that) or, in real-world terms, suppress the urge. Rather, the aim is to ride it out. Hop on your board of mindfulness and allow the wave to take its course, observing how it changes and eventually weakens over time.

4. Back to the Beach

You’ve successfully surfed an urge and live to tell the tale. Your reward? Not caving into an impulsive decision and the knowledge that you can handle the gnarliest of emotional swells. 

So, next time you feel an urge creeping up on you like a hungry great white shark, remind yourself: that you’ve got your board, and you’re ready to surf!


1. Linehan, M. M. (2014). “DBT Skills Training Manual”. Guilford Press

2. Marlatt, G.A., & Gordon, J.R. (1985). “Relapse prevention: Maintenance strategies in the treatment of addictive behaviors”. The Guilford Press.