Clearly, the best way to improve your surfing is by surfing. But for those of us that aren’t fortunate enough to get in the water and surf perfect 3-5 foot waves every day, we need to do some land based training. So here are five good ways to get better at surfing without actually surfing – or at least keep yourself in surfing shape, which is half the battle.
There are simple and effective methods to keep your body strong, flexible, pain free (mostly), and more capable of performing in the ocean. These are the essentials to keeping yourself athletically surf-capable and combat all the gnarly stiffness, tension, sitting too much at a desk, old-man syndrome, weak-kookness that comes with too much time out of the water.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to run some seminars in Australia going over the fundamentals of “surf-fitness.” I use that term in quotations because it now has a similar silliness and marketing bastardization as the term holistic. The fundamentals of surf athleticism are strikingly similar to the foundations of any type of athleticism regarding necessary joint mobility, basic strength foundations, core control, balance, coordination, and power. After the fundamentals have been sorted out, that’s when “surf-fitness” becomes more of a different focus of training, becoming more sport specific in terms of power development and energy system training. More people need to work on the fundamentals, which you’ll find below, so keep on reading.
1. Upper Body Mobility
This extends to far further than just keeping your shoulders pain free. Optimal mobility through your thoracic spine and shoulders are paramount to paddling efficiency, rotational capacity (like doing a turn without looking like a stiff arthritic old man), and keeping your shoulder joints healthy. If you can restore, maintain, or improve optimal thoracic spine flexibility, you’re taking a big step towards keeping all the joints of your upper body moving better. Add some quality tissue work around the shoulder girdle, and you can make a big improvement keeping the upper body moving properly…. and out of pain. Here’s a link to a series of thoracic spine mobility drills that are a great combination with the video tissue releases from above.
2. Hip Mobility
I recently spoke to a guy who tore his MCL (medial collateral knee ligament). His back foot slipped off his board, he went into the splits, and pop… MCL tear. If he had more hip mobility, he may have been able to avoid that knee injury, which led to a surgery. Your hip joint requires a large range of motion to be able to support the necessary movements surfing requires. Chronic seated postures rob people of hip mobility, but there’s a lot of simple things you can do to restore it. Not only will it help you move more fluidly while surfing, but having optimal flexibility through the hips helps to relieve possible torque on the low back and knee joints. That’s a good thing. A bit of tissue release and some targeted stretching can considerably improve the way your hips move.
3.NutritionAll I hope to convey is that the food you put into your body is the foundation of your performance, your health, your ability to recover, your ability to heal, and one of the easiest ways to improve your overall life performance. The only requirement is that you begin to focus your effort on sourcing and consuming the best quality real food you can find and afford. Until that basic nutritional foundation is in order, no other aspects of nutritional specifics should be considered. If you want to start making improvements in your nutrition, give this article a read.
4. Foundational Core Strength
Hip problems? You could likely use more core strength. Back problems? You could likely use more core strength. Do you surf? You could likely use more core strength. You get the idea. The average person has a sloppy core, and I don’t mean just a few extra bread loaves around the mid-section. I’m implying that there isn’t enough muscular control around the pelvis, the spine, and the rib cage. Surfing is rotational, and application of forces through rotation – that is core strength. Surfing also requires huge amounts of endurance through your back muscles, think of paddling postures. I want you to drastically reconsider the way you train your core. Work on breathing, work on fundamental core stability, and eventually progress into core movements and rotational training. Lose the long tempo planks and crunches. Here’s an entire article covering core training for surfers.
The quality of your breathing is a foundation of core control, shoulder health, breath control in the water, and positively influencing the nervous system. All of that is paramount to your surfing. Even more importantly is that breathing is a foundation of your life and health, so consider this as a necessary foundation of your health, and just simply being alive. Work on your breathing. Get zen. Improve or reinstill your body’s ability to breathe diaphragmatically. That’s the key here: utilizing the diaphragm properly. Belly breaths. Three-dimensional rib cage expansion is what we’re looking for. Stop breathing with your neck and adding unnecessary tension to the neck, shoulder musculature, and upper cervical muscles… they don’t like extra tension and can become quite painful over time. Do you want to start breathing properly? Give these a look: Can You Breathe?
Take 15 minutes per day to do something beneficial for your body. I see too many clients who, had they taken some time and invested effort and maintenance in their body, wouldn’t be seeing me for pain issues. Consider the five methods I’ve mentioned and determine you which aspect you’re most deficient in. Now improve it!