Beautiful bronzed bodies, scantily-clad revealing perfectly sculptured torsos, bulging biceps and calf muscles as big as kites. Fair hair, highlighted naturally by the sun, frames character-full and carefree faces, eyes dancing with excitement and zest. Although this may be a slightly stereotypical aesthetical image of surfers, there is one commonality that typically runs throughout the surfing ‘breed’ – physical fitness!
Whilst you are never too old to surf, this truly exhilarating and rewarding sport does require a certain amount of physical fitness if you are going to be a successful surfer and enjoy this white-knuckle pastime to the max.
Surfing requires core strength, balance, and strong arms and shoulders for paddling out to the waves and riding them back to the beach. To achieve this necessary balance and strength, professional surfer, Dean Randazzo, recommends performing surfing fitness exercises at least three times a week. On top of doing specific surf exercises, which help to build the inner core strength, promote balance and develop shoulder and arm muscles, it is advised that surfers do at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week.
Aerobic Exercise for Surfing Fitness:
Running and swimming are effective forms of aerobic exercise, and for surfers, swimming in particular. As practicing swimming techniques and becoming a stronger swimmer is certainly a desirable trait for surfers who can often be faced with merciless waves that won’t be more forgiving to weak swimmers.
The stroke required for surfing is the front crawl, sometimes referred to as freestyle, as this is the motion you will mimic when they paddle towards the waves of their surf boards. To boost your paddle power, aim to go swimming several times a week or consider having some swimming lessons so that a professional swimming instructor can give advice about technique and rhythm.
Yoga for surfing
To be head and heels above your surfing buddies, do not dismiss the unique benefits of yoga. One of the principle reasons why kids and youngsters learn to surf quicker than those of more ‘mature’ years is simply because they are more flexible. As professional surfer and surfing author, Mark Kaplan writes:
“Kids learn easiest to surf because they are so flexible and play all the time. Play is a great way to develop the strength and flexibility necessary to pop up on the surf board and maintain balance.”
Practicing yoga and simple stretching regimes several times a week will augment balance skills that are crucial to staying on a board and manipulating your way across the waves. Moves such as ‘sun salutations’ can help surfers balance and spring as they pop up off the board. The ‘seated spinal twist’ routine will develop the rotation of the torso which will help you have greater control of your surf board. Another valuable surf-orientated yoga technique is known as ‘down dog’, which effectively stretches the back, knees, Achilles’ and hamstrings, all of which when stretched and flexible, will help you to maneuver through the surf with greater ease and dexterity. Now for the really good news, if you are keen to exploit the unique advantages yoga can bring to you whilst riding the waves on a surf board, because the yoga has seen a phenomenal growth in popularity in recent years, you will not find it difficult to find a yoga class. Whether you are on a cruise break in the Caribbean, are travelling around Australia, or are deliberating whether to join a gym in Outer Mongolia, you are likely to be able to join a yoga class whereby a yoga instructor will be able to teach you the exercises and techniques that will help to improve your flexibility and build your inner strength – both of which are essential components of surfing fitness.
The ‘pigeonholed’ perception of surfers’ boosting bulging biceps that even a weight lifter would be proud of has not been etched on to the mainstream consciousness without reason! Surfing is an extremely physical sport and requires a great deal of strength, particularly upper body strength, if you are to be a successful surfer.
Practicing regular dumbbell exercises, three or four times a week, will help to build muscles in the arms and shoulders, ultimately providing you with greater control of the board when you really require it! Men’s Health recommends, the Dumbbell Flat Rotation Push for surf-orientated muscle building and fitness. This simple dumbbell exercise involves lying flat on your back on a bench with a 25-pound dumbbell in each hand (more/less depending on your strength). Hold both weights next to your chest, with your palms facing your feet. Extend your arms and press the weights up, rotating your hands with your palms facing towards you. Hold in this position and then slowly return to the start position. Repeat 15 times.
If such strength building exercises are regularly combined with yoga to promote flexibility and inner core strength and with aerobic exercise, particularly swimming, those images of the perfectly sculptured surfer adeptly gliding across the surf, may be closer to home than you think.