fitness

Fit To Surf?

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact, that I am, by no means, an athlete. However, I am fortunate enough to be able to surf everyday, which keeps me in OK surf shape. I can paddle for hours and catch most of the waves I want, in any conditions. Ask me to run to the store and back it becomes a very different story; I will return a breathless, tired, sweaty mess. So, clearly I would not be the first pick to represent my country in a half marathon that’s for sure, but if they needed someone to paddle through white-water for 4 hours I think I would be a strong candidate.

This is an example of sport specific fitness.

To perform to your maximum potential in any sport, athletes have to put in hours/weeks/years of training to become better, faster, stronger than their competition. This is also true in modern competitive surfing. Nearly all the guys currently on the world tour have personal trainers. Consequently the level of surfing is truly amazing.

Now, I am not writing this telling everyone to get down to the gym and do 300 sit ups a day because, to the recreational surfer, this won’t apply (although it may be a good idea…myself included). I am writing this as a reminder to get fit before a surf trip so that you can surf longer and catch more waves. Which I think will guarantee you a better and more memorable surf trip. In my experience of surf coaching and guiding over the last 15 years it’s usually someone’s surf fitness that lets them down.

Did your last 7 day surf trip go like this?

Day 1

Super amped to surf, but it was harder to paddle than you remembered so you missed a few good waves. But you’re stoked…you surfed somewhere new.

Day 2

Paddling is feeling better, its but you’re still not able to catch as many waves as you want. Feeling a bit tired on the second surf.

Day 3

Usually the best day, your paddling feels good, your catching the waves you want….life is good.

Day 4

Another good day, shoulders are feeling it, but you are still getting great waves…maybe you decide on skipping the last surf and have a massage. Note: This is also the day that all the rashes and sunburn kick in.

Day 5

Tired, starting to miss a lot of waves, getting a little frustrated. Guys will usually have back or neck problems.

Day 6

Deep down you are getting tired now, you’re putting on a brave face in front of your mates, but surfing feels like work.

Day 7

When will the paddling stop? Hopefully a few token waves to finish the trip.

Sound like you?

There’s a simple fix, which you all know already, you just forget to do it….

If you are lucky enough to live by a beach – surf, surf a lot, even if it sucks (no excuses) Make some good food choices. Remember to stretch. Get down to the pool and get some laps in. You will need a minimum of a 2 week lead-in for a week long surf trip.

If you’re landlocked it’s harder, but you just need to hit the pool…a lot! Alternate distance swimming and sprints. This is the closest you can get to re-creating going surfing. Stretch, eat the right food, get amped watching surf videos, go skateboarding. Do everything you can to get prepped for your trip. Again, you need a 2 week lead in minimum.

When people sign up to run a marathon, they train, because they want to get to the finish line. And when we book a surf trip we all daydream about the epic waves were going to ride. And if you get fit before your next trip, you’re far more likely to be the one catching and riding the best waves rather than floundering on the inside with tired arms.

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How To Become A Better Surfer Without Surfing

                                                                          Photo: Surfing Nosara, Surfer: Joe Szymanski

A few times over the the last two years, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching Joe Szymanski.  Although Joe spends the majority of the year landlocked and usually only takes one surf trip per year, he’s always stoked on surfing.  In the following blog, Joe shares some of his advice on how to make the most of limited time in the surf if you don’t have access to the ocean. 

How To Become A Better Surfer Without Surfing

Written by Joe H Szymanski

Yes, it sounds kind of funny, but I think I became a better surfer this year without surfing.  I’m one of those late-comers who got exposed and hooked on the sport (and broader lifestyle); but unfortunately, like many of us, I don’t have access to any nearby surfable waves — we feel lucky just to get out there and surf once or twice a year.  On reflecting back on a recent trip, here are some thoughts from one aging surfer on how I improved while out of the ocean.

Get in shape!

It’s stating the obvious, but surfing is a physically demanding activity.  General fitness and aerobic capacity are important to paddling strength, comfort on the board, holding your breath during a long hold-down, endurance needed to get back out through those extended close-outs, etc.  This part of a program can be totally unrelated to surfing (e.g. cycling, running, team sports, etc.), but it’s a good idea to complement it with exercise & activities that will be good cross-training for paddling. Short of some new paddling-specific training machines, the best overall choice is probably swimming.  A healthy dose of balance training & core strengthening will really help too.  (I prefer to use a homemade Indo Board, but there are lots of options available these days.)  While you may not have access to the surf, almost all of us can get to some recreational waterway (lakes, rivers, estuaries, etc.) where you can get out on a Standup Paddleboard (SUP) – a great “nose-to-toes” workout that helps with balance, board handling, and core & paddling strength.  And don’t forget to stretch and improve your flexibility.  This can go a long way to avoiding those annoying minor strains & muscle pulls that might make you think about skipping a session when you otherwise would have surfed.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot one of the most important things – practice your pop-ups!   A fast, clean pop-up is critical to starting a good ride, so do lots of reps on the floor to get conditioned, and help to commit the proper maneuver to “muscle-memory” so that it’s automatic out there in the line-up.  Try to do this exercise throughout the entire year (not just a week before your surf trip!).  Coaches Tip.

Read and watch

(Books and videos, that is).  In addition to the glossy surf mags, there are volumes of books, on-line blogs & forums, etc. providing a wealth of information on surfing-related topics.  For example, try to learn something about surfboard construction, rail shapes, or fin design.  While reference books & firsthand accounts are most helpful, you can find some entertaining surf fiction out there too.  The next time you’re watching a video or competition, try to ignore the bikinis, and focus on paying attention to technique, wave shape, board selection, etc.  If you get to the ocean, but can’t surf, you can still watch the waves & conditions to learn (how fast are they? where are the peaks? what’s the wind doing? are there any rips?).  In or out of the water, it’s always a good exercise to “mentally surf” the waves around you.

Keep a log / take notes.

A surfing journal can be as informal or organized as you like, but it’s a great way to “debrief” after a session or trip to collect your thoughts. Think through how conditions changed, why you missed waves, why you caught waves, what better surfers in the line-up were doing, etc.  Come up with a few key points to focus on for your next session.  Your notes can become a valuable reference in the future, but it’s also a fun way to relive that near-perfect Dawn Patrol session (or maybe that epic hold-down) and stay stoked.

Get involved off the water.

Whether it’s your local surf club, an international organization like Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, etc. getting involved can help you stay connected with surfing during the off-season or your time away from the ocean.  These groups can also be great resources for broadening your circle of friends and expanding your surfing options.

Prepare for your trip.

Check the surf forecast and start getting mentally prepared.  Review what you want to focus on in the water and set some goals for yourself.  If you are taking any of your own gear (vs. renting), give it a quick inspection and make sure it’s good-to-go (when they only get used a few times a year, things have a way of dry-rotting & falling apart!).  Make sure you take the right gear & clothing to be comfortable in the anticipated conditions (water & air temperatures, sun protection, magic salves for board rash, etc.).

When you do get a chance to surf, take lessons!  Near most established breaks, you can always line up a certified instructor or coach who is suitable for your abilities. In hindsight, I realize how much valuable time I spent “flailing” on my own out in the water before taking my first lesson.  A little expert coaching is a great way to help identify your weaknesses & bad habits, reinforce your strengths, and get you “to the next level.”

For certain, there’s no substitute for getting out there and surfing, so do it every chance you get!  If you haven’t surfed in a year, you’ll need a few “dust off” sessions, but some of these tips will help you quickly pick up where you left off, maximize your time in the water, and charge forward.  None of these ideas are new or revolutionary, but hopefully you may find that a few of them will help you “up your game” as they did for me.  Have fun, be safe, be kind to your fellow surfers, show a healthy respect for the ocean, and go surf (when you can, that is…)!!!

Written by Joe H Szymanski

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