Insight into surf training

22 Sep 2020

Insight into surf training

This is my first blog in my surfing series helping you understand both how the mechanics and processes of the body work, and its application into surfing performance. Using my knowledge of strength and conditioning, I will address various athletic and training principles to elevate your game to new heights!

Practiced by Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures for many centuries, surfing is fast becoming a very popular sport on the world stage with an estimated 23-million budding surfers taking to the vitamin sea. The environment, equipment and emotion you feel when surfing provides enormous benefits to both your mental and physical health. In this blog I am going provide insight into the key physiological requirements for effective performance from beginners to advanced surfers. Firstly, what is surfing…?

Surfing is an intermittent water-based sport that is characterised by periods of intense bursts of exercise, interspersed with low-intensity activity and rest periods where a variety movement patterns, fitness components and skill acquisitions come into play.

Components of fitness

Fitness is defined as the “ability to meet the demands of a physical task.” With a physical task unlike no other, fitness components for surfing vary to that of a rugby player. Below is the list of different physical and motor fitness components:

Physical components
  • Strength
  • Body composition
  • Cardiovascular / muscular endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Speed
Motor skill components
  • Power
  • Balance
  • Co-ordination
  • Reation time
  • Agility

All these attributes can be linked but let’s take a step back and delve into the 4 primary fitness components that are required to not only perform in the water, but will elevate all levels of performance in day-to-day life:

Strength – the amount of force your body can produce with a given load

Flexibility/Mobility/Stability – How your body articulates joints and movements

Stamina/Endurance – the length of time you can sustain an activity at a given work rate

Speed – the ability to move quickly across the ground or move limbs rapidly to grab or throw (sports definition)

Strength – in all its varying forms – is the building block of all physical fitness. Each component of fitness and skill acquisition relating to surfing can be elevated by strength training, in both general terms like paddle fitness, to specific performance benefits like improving your aerial game.

Strength in both physical and motor skill components of fitness is vital for effective performance. As surfing is a very complex sport – with regards to movement patterns and the direction in which they are applied – understanding the way in which your body moves will be critical for beginners learning to pop-up to professionals throwing buckets off the top.

Mobility is the key to unlocking your body’s movement potential and longevity within the sport. Co-ordinating that movement is a different skill all together. To perform a body-weight squat (a very frequent body position seen in the water) one must have good ankle range, lower leg strength and glute stability to physically execute the movement. However, this being such a technical movement with a lot of moving parts, neurological understanding of how to perform the primordial body weight squat will be integral to your performance, injury prevention and improving training capacity.

A key component specific to surfing is dynamic balance. From both wave riding to paddling, balance in surfing athletes is credited to high levels of core stability and strong understanding of the changing sea and wave formation. This will allow you to control your board and body to maintain equilibrium under the dynamic conditions to perform optimally in the water.