Surfing = Gyming?

Posted on Saturday, April 9th, 2011 at 5:58 pm

It is hard to put your finger on when exactly things changed, but over time surfing has become more and more popular. The positive media exposure surfing has received has seen the sport grow exponentially. Surfing is no longer seen as a closed cult but rather as a lifestyle which everyone can enjoy. Surfing has also become more accessible due to the advances in surfboard design, which make surfing easier and more enjoyable for novices. This surfing revolution has resulted in a wider spectrum of surfers ranging right from the pro-surfer to the once a week social surfer. And the one thing they have in common is that they are all jockeying for a spot in the line up.

You only need to look at the crowds that turn up at your local surf spot to realise that surfing is becoming ever more popular. Especially with individuals who previously would not normally have ventured out into the water. Two particular population groups that have really blossomed are females and the over 50’s. It is fantastic to see so many women getting out into the water to get safe and healthy exercise in a previously male dominated territory.

Surfing itself is great fitness, as it conditions the entire body. A surf session will not only give you a cardiovascular work out, but a strength conditioning and core training session as well. Furthermore, it is an antidote to the modern way of life. The working adult spends far too much time sitting and stressing. Surfing offers the opposite. It promotes back extension to counteract the detrimental affects of sitting. And it is in an environment where you can switch off and relax without stressing about your worldly woes.

It may take some time to master surfing if you are a complete novice, but practice and additional exercise conditioning can help. Strengthening your upper body will help with paddling strength and technique. While conditioning your lower body will improve leg strength and agility. A Biokineticist or Personal Trainer can help get you fit for surfing by designing an appropriate strength and conditioning programme. An exercise programme for surfing will normally consist of: Strengthening the back extensors, shoulders and legs; Core stability; Flexibility; and Plyometrics for explosive pop-ups.

The nature of sport is that you can get injured. Exercise conditioning can prepare the body for return to sport post-rehabilitation (post injury) but it can also help in preventing injuries as well. Surfers can have acute (traumatic/sudden) injuries or develop long term over use injuries. Acute injuries normally occur when there is a collision (body -vs- board, body -vs- sand, or body -vs- body) or a spectacular wipe-out. It is not wise to ignore traumatic injuries and if pain persists then you should seek medical advice. Overuse injuries can develop as a result of an ignored traumatic injury, poor technique, or muscular weakness. Both types of injury will take time to heal but can benefit from a carefully structured rehabilitation programme.

Exercise conditioning is not only beneficial for the beginner, or injured, surfer but also for elite or competitive surfers as well. Over time the increase in media exposure and sponsorship has changed the nature of high performance surfing. The foundations laid down by the surfing hero’s of the past have paved the way for a new kind of surfer who commands respect in the sporting world. Elite surfers are now considered to be highly conditioned athletes rather than seasoned “beach bums”. The advent of the athletic surfer has resulted in a number of changes. There is now a lot more consideration into the planning and conditioning of a surfer. It is no longer adequate just to surf. Diet, psychology, and exercise conditioning all have to be factored into a carefully structured routine. A surfer’s performance can be vastly improved if a holistic approach to elite surfing is considered rather than just surfing in isolation.

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