Surf training tips from the World’s Best SurfersJun 20, 2022
“The shortest way to get from A to B is a straight line” - Archimedes
What do you do when you are obsessed with surfing and want to improve your surf fitness or paddle strength as quickly as possible? Do you scroll through hours of YouTube videos and social media posts? Do you go gangbusters with HIIT training even though you haven’t done fitness training before? Do you like the look of those spinning, jumping onto boxes, lower leg power exercises, despite paddling being 50% of a surf session? Trying to figure out what to include in your surf conditioning by following YouTube trends and scrolling through social media, can be the least effective, most time-consuming and roundabout way to get you where you want to go. Plus, there are no guarantees that the surf exercises you are finding are safe, relevant or taught by someone who knows what they are doing.
Following Archimedes' principle, you can draw a straight line towards your surfing goals by using the skills and knowledge of someone who has been there before you. Learning from a surfer who has muddled their way through surf training protocols, and found what works and what doesn’t, is the most straightforward way to improve your surfing. You can avoid their mistakes and find the right training tools to achieve your surfing goals much faster.
The professionals don’t always get it right
Working as an Exercise Physiologist on competitive surfing events, from Junior to World Tour level, has provided access to a global pool of incredibly talented surfers and a bird’s eye view of surf training trends. I understand common drivers for surf injuries and what is missing in a surfer’s training program. And guess what? Even the pros don’t get it completely right.
Whilst training trends have come and gone in the surfing industry, there are essential elements that high-level surfers can continue to miss or their trainers undervalue. They have high-level training down-pat and can tick hours of water time off the list. They can jump, spin, do airs, complete hacks, get shacked, paddle into the sunset, deal with wipe-outs and surf the kind of waves that may give us nightmares. But despite their insane fitness and skill levels, some training fundamentals are still missing. Let me share with you two simple training strategies I find myself persistently using with the world’s best surfers.
Strategy #1: Decompression, for the ultimate postural re-set
Compression continues to be the enemy of good surfing. I am referring to joints being squashed, essentially. Surfing itself causes ‘compression’ in particular regions of the body. Prolonged paddling causes the ribcage to become stuck, the lower back to be point loaded and the base of the neck and upper back to become stiff and largely immobile. For competitive surfers, the ordeal of long-haul flights and hours sitting in a car can also lead to joint compression and a sense of stiffness that cannot be relieved with stretching. For us less experienced surfers, compression can be caused by prolonged sitting at work and the postural fatigue that comes with managing a busy lifestyle. When joints compress, they become stuck in a particular way, restricting how we move, how well muscles can activate and how we distribute forces across the body. As such, ‘compression’ can become a significant driver for surf injuries.
Most of my education and prescription at surfing events have been around helping surfers to decompress and give their joints space. To pull them out of their postural ‘stuckness’ and help them re-connect to more efficient movement. This not only helps them manage pain and pull them away from patterns leading to overuse injury, but it also helps them achieve power and fluidity through better timing and improved energy storage and release whilst they surf. Common feedback from surfers includes statements such as “I felt so grounded on my board”, “my turns felt effortless”, “I felt like I could paddle all day” and “I felt I could get way more spray”.
Strategies to decompress your body include passive postural alignment with a chiropractor/ osteopath OR you can learn to actively do this yourself with simple exercises that subtly alter joint positions, encourage muscle activation and work with the breath and core. For example, I talk about pelvis positioning, rib cage mobility, respiratory patterns and active spinal decompression in our core stability micro-course.
Strategy #2: Don’t forget core stability
I recently worked with one of the world’s most famous surfers and shared some simple advice, “if you are experiencing niggles and injuries in multiple joints such as the neck, shoulders, knees and ankles, come back to your core”. The core is where we maintain our centre of mass over our board, as it moves under our body and we throw our arms and legs about during surfing manoeuvres. The core is also responsible for the transfer of force from the big toe on your right foot to the index finger on your opposite hand.
Without an effective core, power can leak away, and instead of effectively distributing forces across the joints of the body, force transfer tends to break down. Links in the movement chain begin to break, joints begin to be loaded unevenly and movement becomes less efficient. This is where you can begin to experience niggling injuries and pain across multiple joint sites.
Core stability reduces the need to over-brace when controlling movement, allowing your limbs to move freely and with more grace. It also allows better movement strategies in an ever-changing environment – which we call movement adaptability. Better options mean a reduced risk of injury. When a surfer’s surfing feels ‘slightly off’ I will assess their core and find out what is happening there.
SIMPLE IS BEST!
Pulling back from postural compression, be that from work or surfing, AND remembering to participate in core stability training doesn’t seem like rocket science. Therein lies a truth – surf conditioning doesn’t need to be rocket science. Simple strategies can make all the difference. The strategies I have mentioned above will help your body do what it is designed to do. They will help you access more of what you already have available to you within your body, but aren’t able to access because of alignment issues or a core that you need to reconnect with. It is the difference between moving efficiently and with less effort versus having to muscle and push your way through movement that feels disconnected and straining.
If you are wondering how you can include decompression and core strategies yourself, don’t worry - I want to make the application of these strategies as easy as possible for you. There are two ways you can get started:
- Contact us for individual consultation - we will assess your posture, movement and respiratory patterns to get an idea of how you are moving, where you are getting stuck and any potential injury drivers. This information is then used to develop your unique training program.
- Join our first-ever Foundational Core Stability micro-course - a specialised 10-lesson training program that considers key core strategies for female surfers. Learn how to decompress, improve your postural alignment and achieve more efficient movement through the cleverly planned core stability training.
Time is of the essence ladies. Incredible waves await you. Don’t waste time and make your life busier than it already is. Draw a nice straight line towards your surfing goals and take the guesswork out of figuring out your own exercise program. Check out our online training options today and use your blog reading reward code BLOGVIP15 when you book your appointment or micro-course with The Female Surfer (yep! you get a prize for finishing this blog!). I cannot wait for you to feel what it is like to move better and achieve your surfing goals. Let’s get you from A to B faster, so that you can surf your BEST waves.
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