1. The first mistake professionals and amateurs often make is listening to personal trainers that focus on gym based strengthening exercises rather than a professional surfing coach. Developing strength and power with surf specific exercises in the gym is important; however, surfing is a beach/water sport that requires fast, dynamic movements performed consistently on a wave followed by endurance paddling. Whether in competition or free surfing a surfer must deal with these conditions. This means surf movements, beach training and water based exercises have priority for stronger surfing.
The muscles involved in surfing are best strengthened through surfing; just look at swimmers' and surfers' bodies and you see strong backs, shoulders, torso's and arms. Yes other activities do help, but for the most part the actual movement of surfing and swimming will develop functional strength, and this is what you want. So when there is surf, surf. The second best option is to swim. Use a surfing coach who is experienced in surfing, sport specific training and is a swimming expert.
A great idea is to perform basic strength movements combined with water activities on the beach (or poolside) to aid strengthening for competition or improved performance. Please remember to consult with your physician before undertaking any movement program. A good option is circuit training specific to the demands of professional surfing and should only be performed after medical clearance and with a surfing coach.
-Lye on the sand at waters edge
-Quickly Pop to feet (Mimic a surfing 'pop up')
-Run or wade through small shore break waves duck diving (surf live saving style) and swim out to shore break area or equivalent distance if no waves
-Get your breath and then body surf or swim in.
-Recover and repeat a number of times.
You can also perform this same drill with a board. Remember surfing is about creating speed on the wave with the ability to quickly recover while paddling and preparing to power up again. In order to develop the correct form of strength avoid training non stop without some recovery time.
2. The second mistake surfers make is using machines rather than their body weight. There are many smaller muscles surrounding joint capsules, holding bones in place, stabilizing and assisting all the exterior 'bulk' muscles, maintaining posture etc. and it is imperative to strengthen these muscles with body weight movement patterns that challenge the nervous system specific for surfing.
When you surf you use your entire body and by performing body weight exercises you are more likely to remain in balance and improve flexibility at the same time. Chin ups, press ups, yoga down dog, Pilates, core work, skipping, boxing, wobble boards, ankle stability boards etc, are all used by a professional surfing coach because they all involve your entire body and move the body in all planes of motion. This is crucial for surf performance, especially if you are wanting to compete or are all ready on the ASP world tour. Specific surf exercises that strengthen your entire system will be much more beneficial than generic strength training.
3. The third mistake is not conditioning for the specifics of each surf location or performing the same routine all the time. Just like on the ASP world tour, pro surfers are tested in all conditions as athletes. Some spots are fast and furious while others are long and calculating. Some spots require faster reactions, others require longer paddles or have reef currents to deal with. A surfing coach uses sport specific strengthening as a crucial element that most people do not consider, so co-ordinate your training to coincide with where you will be surfing and when you know the swell will hit. Just surf training because your going on a surf trip to Indonesia is not specific enough.
Remember, you do not want to put on too much muscle, your goal is strength, strength endurance and power, not bulk. Work with a professional surfing coach who knows what they are doing, otherwise you can create imbalances and inflexibility therefore surf slower not faster.
Hayden Rhodes has coached professional and amateur athletes improve their performance through scientific personal training, hormonal testing, nutritional coaching and performance conditioning principles.