Posted by William on August 31, 2012
If you go to another break that has surf that is more consistent and/or a longer paddle to reach the surf zone, you will not have sufficient endurance to ride there unless you have done other conditioning to prepare. The same will occur during a large swell at your home break, or if a change in the sandbar conditions cause the waves to break farther out from shore.
Being out of breath also leaves you more subject to panic, the biggest killer in the water. In addition, you will not have sufficient ability to hold your breath when “porpoising” under waves or after wiping out. Every surfer goes through the “spin cycle” sometime. The ability to hold your breath, think clearly and find your way to the surface determines if you will survive.
Having confidence in your abilities is the aspect of the mental side of surfing that is essential to survival. That is improved when you are well conditioned and know it.
The best way to develop surfing specific endurance is to do endurance exercise that uses the same muscles in the same way. One way is to do long-distance paddling on days with small or no surf or at a lake or river to develop endurance. If board paddling is inconvenient, swim instead.
However, paddling a surfboard differs from swimming in some fundamental ways. One difference is that the motion of paddling is altered by the presence of the board beneath you and its shape. Another way is that you are not immersed in the water as completely when paddling a board and are subject to wind resistance, which can either assist your paddling speed or retard it.
You also have more surface area in contact with the water when on a surfboard and can move faster as a result. The head is kept out of the water, which makes it easier to breathe, but keeping your head up can be tiring to the muscles of the upper back and back of the neck.
Ocean swims teach you how to swim in the surf. Never surf anywhere you are unable to swim without the surfboard. Your leash might break and wash ashore and you would be in trouble. If you must use a pool, swim like you would in the ocean, by taking a few strokes between each breath.
Start with 10-15 minutes three days per week and build up time and speed. How long you need to make the session depends on where you will be riding. If you are a beginner, observe experienced surfers on a big day and then realize you will not be able to paddle as fast, so you must be able to swim longer. You probably need no more than 30 minutes of continuous swimming per workout, unless you spend the whole day in the water in large and consistent surf.
Other forms of aerobic exercise can be good for developing endurance for other activities. Cross-training, defined as varying your fitness activities, also helps prevent boredom and overuse injuries in the upper body. Running, walking, hiking and biking all develop endurance in the legs which can be useful if you are fortunate enough to ride breaks with long rides such as Jeffrey’s Bay in Australia.
Once you’ve reached 30 minutes, increase the speed and vary the routine with sprint swimming or paddling one to two days per week, to develop takeoff speed. Doing only long and slow workouts actually decreases the top speed you can reach.
It is important to develop speed for taking-off on waves as well as endurance for paddling out. Do 10 or more 20 to 100-yard sprints for speed alternating with rest periods varying from 15 seconds to one minute. To increase the amount of time you can hold your breath under water, swim underwater for distance regularly. However, only do that when you are not already fatigued.
Interval training, which alternates fast, high intensity activity with periods of lower intensity, is another variation. Do interval training one to two other days per week, when the surf is small or you can’t make it to the beach.
Still do longer and slower workouts once or twice per week for paddling endurance during the season. Do most of the work on whatever area of paddling is most lacking in your surfing. If you lack endurance, but have no problem taking off, do a greater proportion of training time doing endurance work. If you make it out to the line-up OK, but have trouble catching the wave, spend a greater proportion of the time doing sprint training.