Every surfer wants to surf better, the better you surf the more fun surfing is. Surfing will always be the best way to improve your surfing because surfing is a specific skill. However surfers are athletes (all surfers) and athletes always do some physical conditioning to help their bodies deal with the forces of the sport, correct imbalances that sports causes, to work on specific weaknesses, injury prevention, and of course, to improve performance. Mobility, body-awareness, strength and power. Athletes like Kelly slater and Mick Fanning combine these traits perfectly, this translates into the ability to flow with grace, power and speed. Allowing their bodies to do whatever their creativity perceives possible. Have you ever envisioned yourself performing a certain way in the water and your body just didn’t have the mobility or strength to recover from the awkward position you managed to get into, the power to hold your fins in the water, or the balance to stay on your board? Athletes like slater and fanning are somewhat genetically gifted, but also have had to train to become as consistently good as they are.
Surfing is unlike any other sport. In fact it is one of the most physically demanding. Although not a contact sport, those that have had a decent wipe out in heavy 8ft + surf know that sometimes it can feel like one. A tail slide in the pocket of a 4ft reef break wall demands dynamic balance, super leg and core strength, and every bit of functional mobility you have. Watch closely next time you view slater in a surf video and take note of the awkward positions he gets into, all the while maintaining perfect poise, travelling super fast and sending spray everywhere.
Slater, Taj, Fanning, Curren, Dorion, Machado, Reynolds, Jon Jon, etc all have certain traits in common. Here are a few:
- Amazing flexibility. Flexibility or mobility is the ability for the body to use all possible human joint range of motion. More specifically functional flexibility, meaning the body has the ability to enter a certain range of motion and to maintain balance, strength, and to control your way into the next position safely and gracefully. Thankfully we can train our bodies to do this on dry land, giving us extra ‘functional range of motion’ (F.R.O.M.) to play with when practicing the skill of surfing.
- Body awareness. Proprioception. Our body’s ability to know exactly where it is and how to react safely to that position. Directly related to mobility but they don’t go hand in hand. Static stretching can improve your range of motion but doesn’t train your body to be strong or aware in the new range of motion. Its your nervous system that determines your functional range of motion (flexibility). And body awareness through correct training is the only way to improve.
- Strength and power. Two separate things I have grouped together because in surfing they always blend together, the faster you surf the stronger you need to be and the more power you need (speed + strength = power).
- Resistance to injury. Putting your body on the line everyday builds resistance to the demands of any sport. However if your only get to surf a few times a week don’t expect to be able to do this without consequences. Our body’s adapt to the demands we place on it regularly. I have developed a system that allows you to place the forces surfing puts on your body without entering the water. Keeping your body fit and ready for the next surf.
We all can improve on these traits through our training on dry land.
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