Posted by William on August 31, 2012
At first glance, many surfers and surfing fans may think this article is superfluous, that surfing itself gives complete fitness. However, an examination of the components of surfing performance shows many aspects of fitness are required, but not all of these are efficiently developed by only surfing.
Sure, people look at surfers as being a trim example of “natural fitness.” However, those who are just getting into surfing and those who are returning after not participating for any significant length of time can testify to the difficulty they experience. Stamina, balance, speed, coordination and wave sense can be developed while surfing, but there are ways of developing these fitness parameters more rapidly.
This is especially important for those middle-age returnees who do not have much time to surf and must make the most of it. A consultation or a regular training program with a Certified Personal Trainer, who is familiar with the sport, can give you a head start on your conditioning program.
In addition, increased conditioning is also important for those experienced surfers who have reached a plateau in their surfing performance. This applies whether the surfer competes, is a “lifestyle” surfer or just a regular out in the waves outside of business hours.
It may be there is little challenge in doing the same old tricks on the same old waves. Increasing your conditioning means more endurance for long paddles on big surf days, more speed to take-off earlier in the wave, more coordination and upper body strength to stand up faster, and more power to carve more radical turns, off-the-lips, cutbacks and aerials.
The initial performance issue concerns having sufficient endurance and balance to paddle the board out to the line-up without being too tired to take-off and ride.
Balance is the first thing that needs to be developed in beginning surfers. It may be wise to get used to the balance of lying and sitting on the surfboard in a pool prior to going out in the ocean. The next step is to try balancing out in the whitewater, which is also called the “soup.” That is assuming that the water is not so shallow that your feet touch the bottom.
When you can balance when sitting and lying on the board, you can then try to ride the soup standing up. Once riding the soup becomes easy, it is time to paddle past the breakers and learn to take off. Actually, riding the waves is another issue, which we will not discuss in this article. Former surfers who have returned after a long time may need a short readjustment period, especially if they are using a board greatly different than the ones they used to ride or they have gained a large amount of weight. Paddling also requires muscular endurance in the neck and back extensor muscles.
Taking off on the wave requires fast paddling, timing, balance and wave knowledge. Riding the wave requires balance and, on long rides, leg endurance. Doing moves such as cutbacks, off the lips, etc requires coordination, skill and strength and flexibility, especially in the back, abdominals and legs.
Surviving a wipe-out requires the ability to hold your breath, presence of mind to find your way to the surface (blow bubbles and follow the bubbles) and to avoid panic. Strong muscles and good flexibility helps in avoiding injuries during wipeouts or collisions with other surfers.
Endurance is an important fitness parameter in surfing for a number of reasons. The first reason is to have enough endurance to paddle out to the line-up. Once you reach the line-up, if you are short of breath you will not have sufficient energy to have enough paddling speed to take-off on the wave.
It can be argued that being tired is the price you have to pay to get back in shape. However, if your local spot has long waits between sets and doesn’t require a long paddle to reach the surf zone, then you will not develop much endurance paddling out 50-100 yards and waiting 10-15 minutes between rides. Most of your time is spent sitting on the board.