Our bodies are amazing. We can mould and shape them into many different forms depending on the type of training we do. You can train your body to perform in any way you like so if you want to surf well, you have to train sport specific.
As a surfer (or prospective surfer), there are certain things you can incorporate into your cross training so that you condition all the muscles and systems specific to surfing, so here are a few:
1) It all starts with good posture. Our balance and stability through manoeuvres can only be as fast as our posture allows us. Take a moment to do this quick posture test to see if you have any musculo-skeletal deviations. Stand with your back against a wall. You should have the following 5 points comfortably resting against the flat surface – heels, back of calves, butt, shoulders and head. If any of these 5 points to not touch or you have trouble holding them there comfortably, then you may need to do some work strengthening or stretching certain areas of your body to bring you back into proper alignment.
I love practicing Iyengar yoga and Pilates to help me work towards gaining and maintaining good posture. During your stay at PNS you will have the opportunity to attend either yoga or a pilates classes on a daily basis.
2) When surfing you are working with an unstable medium. Once you have good posture you must then train on an unstable surface. This mimics the movement of the board on the wave and improves your balance. You must feel connected to your board when surfing, which requires your fine tuning muscles and major muscle groups working together. The best way to do this is to train on an Indo Board or Bosu Ball.
3) Single Leg Training: Most actions we perform in life require us to transfer our weight from one leg to another, walking, running and especially surfing. In surfing, you transfer your weight from front to back foot continuously. You control the speed of the board, generate turns and manoeuvres and precisely move your board’s position on the wave face when in the barrel, all by transferring your weight. Therefore, the next thing you need to add into your workout is single leg training. You need to work on balance and stability when moving on one leg. I like to find a raised solid surface, like the park bench or box and jump onto it with one leg, perform 10 squats then jump off the opposite side. You can also perform many different one leg exercises on the Bosu Ball, like squats and lunges.
4) As well as having good posture, balance and leg strength, as surfers we must also have a strong core. When surfing the top halves of our body are often doing something different to our bottom half, so you need the bit in the middle (the core) to be strong enough so that both halves can work in unison to create the desired movements with the correct timing. Our back muscles have a good level of general strength as it is their job to support our spine. Generally, when you do any core exercises, you think you are giving your abs a good work out when, in fact it is your back muscles that are making a good amount of the effort. So you must then perform an exercise that isolates your abdominal muscles. The best one I have found that can do this is the Ball Leg Lift. By lying flat out, you eliminate your back muscles from this exercise.
5) One thing that sets great surfers apart from good surfers is their rotational range. The greater the range, the more power, drive and balance you will have when you are performing turns and manoeuvres – similar to the golf swing. Improving this aspect of your surfing will also lessen your chance if injury – wherever your board goes you want your body to be flexible enough to follow.
So to improve your rotational range, you can perform a lunge with a rotation. You can perform this exercise with or with out an exercise ball. I like to do it with, as it makes you work harder to balance and also reminds you to have your arms out, as if they were over each rail as you surf. So here’s how you do it:
a) Take a big step forward holding ball outstretched. For your safety, do not let knee go past ankle. Your knee should be over your ankle and your chest over hips. Your head should be looking straight forward, not at the ground other wise the movement will not controlled and you end up descending too quickly.
b) Rotate your body, still holding the ball with your arms outstretched, over your leading leg and hold for 10 seconds.
c) Return your body to straight point.
d) Push yourself back up to standing. Don’t just rely on your quad or you will limit your strength and speed. Use all muscles in your leg, butt and your core. Keep the weight anchored on the back foot and you will have more power.
e) Repeat, lunging forward with the opposite leg.
This type of active stretching will also allow you to be more explosive in your rotational movements.
6) Not to sound like too much of a hippy, but I highly recommend adding a Meditation period into your day. You can be in great shape – know all the physical, technical and tactical aspects but it you are emotionally up and down you are not going to feel good and that will carry into your surf sessions. Here is a great little blog on “How to meditate” from Zen Habits to get you started on your path to mental focus.
Written by Gemma Yates, Director of Surf Fitness at Peaks ‘n Swells Surf Camp. Read more about Gem here. You can find more surf specific exercises on the Facebook page.