I started surfing late, very late that is (age 39/40). But….the first time I caught a wave it brought back the love of dance I once used to have. Riding a wave was like being on stage, gliding across it with the wave as your dance partner. Even that sentence cannot describe the freedom and stoke I felt when I caught my first wave. I wanted to dance again, but on the ocean so the journey began…
I was not fortunate like others to live close to the ocean, so for my surfing to improve was going to take a long time and a huge commitment. Now starting at 39/40 was a huge handicap, but I had one thing I fell back on….Pilates, but also my professional dance training. So I started breaking down the surf movements, like I did when I trained as a dancer and Pilates Instructor.
Paddling: What muscles do I need to strengthen? What Pilates exercises can I do to achieve that strength? Pilates is not cardio, so what can I do to blend other types of exercise into my workout so I can build up the endurance of paddling? I started training with personal trainers who surfed much longer than I did. I acquired the cardio aspect, but was missing one…assimilating water to my work out. As a dancer ,I needed that proprioception so it will become one with my body. **Build that myelination up in the nerves, so I wouldn’t have to think about it and can concentrate on my technique.**
Pop-ups: This was easier for me since I danced for so long, balance and precision was easier…not easy on a moving board, but easier. I popped up on foam rollers at first, but that was a bit dangerous and I wasn’t sure if I was developing any bad habits, so I opted for balance discs and a very small wooden surfboard. I broke down the moves of the pop-up and developed drills again to strengthen the muscles needed. Given advice by a wise shaper, I also rode any size board so I can understand how the different sizes rode and placement of my feet on the sweet spot of it. Then I would take it back to the studio and explore.
Bottom Turns: I loved the first time I did one going down the line and saw the wave right next to me. I could touch it and it was gliding me along. There was the connection to the ocean, my dance partner. I wanted more. I wanted to really dance with the waves. One turn is not enough. So back to the studio and I developed a turning device (not disclosing this info. here, sorry….you need to take my class! ) to practice going up and down the wave or carving.
I am not the surfer I want to be yet. It took me longer than some of my friends, but I learn from them, watch them improve, ask how they did it and process it all. I embrace my journey, even though frustrating at times. The slow, methodical, tedious approach for me is how I learn and the technique will be ingrained in my body forever. This approach has made me develop and keep developing Surfilates.
So my advice to learning how to surf, or any sport for that matter. Keep cross training! It keeps your body and mind sharp and alive and, of course the superficial aspect…looking in shape and feeling good about it!