Photos by Jules Phillips of Oceaneye. View the Russian version “5 Способов улучшить серфинг”.
Everyone would like to improve their surfing: from Kelly Slater to six-year-old grommets, from backpackers at surf school to the oldest longboarder.
Maybe that’s why we love surfing so much – because we always want to ride the next wave with more power, speed or style than the last one. Surfing is a lifestyle rather than a sport and most of us dream of riding waves for the rest of our lives.
Being a better surfer is not only about high performance manoeuvres. It’s about being in your best mental and physical shape so that each surfing experience is as enjoyable and fulfilling as it can be.
This article lists five simple things you can introduce into your lifestyle that will help improve your surfing and, hopefully, your life.
In modern society most of us have an acidic pH balance in our bodies. This is a result of the pre-packaged, sugary, preserved and refined food many of us eat. Too much acid causes our organs to store a layer of protective fat tissue around them, which drains energy and reduces our performance.
The solution is to return to a more natural pH-neutral state or become slightly alkaline. Being alkaline has excellent health benefits including weight loss, increased energy and a stronger immune system.
How do I get alkaline?
Easy – it’s all about your diet! Cut out or reduce foods such as bread, alcohol, sugar, fast foods, packaged snacks and excessive meat. Eat more green foods such as avocado, asparagus, olives, broccoli and spinach. Most green veggies, raw foods, nuts such as almonds and, surprisingly, lemons and limes will have an alkalising effect on your body.
If you are serious about becoming alkaline you can add supplements to your diet such as wheat grass, alfalfa or chlorella. These “super foods” will give you a real energy boost whilst helping clean and purify your blood and body. A shot of wheat grass every morning is the perfect way to start your new, alkaline day.
2. Fit balls
Fit balls (also called Swiss balls) are a surfer’s best friend. There are hundreds of exercises you can do on a ball, ranging from sit-ups to kneeling to push-ups and even standing. Because the ball is unstable it helps you build strength in all of the small, secondary muscles and ligaments that are so important for surfers. You also get excellent practice balancing and becoming confident transferring your weight around on a moving surface. Indo boards are also great for surf balance training but the fit ball is more versatile, offering a complete body workout.
Quick exercise routine for surfers
1. Kneeling: slowly roll yourself onto the fit ball and get into an upright position on your knees. If you have never done this before focus on one small object in the room in front of you – it will help you keep your balance. Now hold the position for as long as you can.
2. Dips: sit in front of the ball with your legs straight out in front of you. Place your hands on top of the ball and push yourself upwards using your triceps. Beginners can lean the ball against the wall to make it easier. When you get more advanced try this away from the wall.
3. Push-ups: put your feet on top of the ball and do push-ups. When this becomes easy try doing it with only your toes resting on the ball.
4. Sit-ups: sit on the edge of the ball with your arms folded across your chest. Focus your attention on your abdominal muscles and do as many sit-ups as you can. Repeat as you like.
5. Paddling: Lie on your stomach and rotate your arms in a freestyle paddling motion. You can hold light dumbbells to increase your workout intensity but be careful not to strain or hurt your shoulders.
6. Standing: When you become experienced with the fit ball you can try standing up. One way to do this is to get into your kneeling position and then lift one leg up, then the other. Just like in surfing it is easiest to do this quickly. Make sure you only try standing in a wide open, safe area as this can get dangerous.
3. Set some goals
Most people go through life not really knowing what they want. Surfing is much the same… it’s easy to just have fun in the ocean and hope you will improve your surfing some day. But if you don’t have a goal then there is nothing pushing you to do better.
So set yourself some goals and give them target dates! It could be that you want to get a barrel before the end of the year. Or maybe you want to progress from a long board to a short board on your next surf trip to Bali.
When you have your goal you can break it down into small steps so that it is more achievable.
“I want to get a barrel by the end of the year”
Step 1. I need to go somewhere where there are barrels
Make a plan to get to Bali (or Europe, Mexico, Hawaii etc) before the end of the year
Start saving up and making sure you will have the time and resources for this trip
Step 2. I need the right surfboard to get barreled
Get an appropriate board such as a 6’0” quad before the surf trip (or find a board that is right for you)
Step 3. I need to learn barrel technique
Buy some surf movies such as “My Eyes Won’t Dry” to see how the pros get barreled
Practice as much as possible in all conditions (weekend surf trips, wave pools, whatever)
Visualise the barrel experience – but I promise you it’s better in real life 😉
Step 4. Get confidence
Spend as much time in the water (any water) as I can
Step 5. Get fit and strong
Exercise regularly, eat well and do some swim training if you are not near the ocean
If you do all of the above when you get to your dream surf destination you have given yourself the best chance you’ve ever had to get barreled.
And when you do it will make all the hard work worthwhile.
4. Stay Flexible
Surfing is all about flexibility. Keeping your body loose and agile is one of the most important things you can do to improve your surfing performance… it shows in your surfing style.
Yoga is the perfect surfing exercise because it teaches strength, patience and gets your muscles as stretched and flexible as they can possibly be. If you are not into yoga then simply taking five minutes per day for some simple stretches to loosen your large muscles and hips (especially if you work at a desk) can really help you in the future. Flexi really does equal sexy.
5. Constant Improvement
Life moves like the ocean…always changing and always throwing you new challenges. To make the most of your surfing life (and your life in general) you should always make the most of the moment you have right now.
Even if the waves are one foot you could still have fun. Smile and get out there, even if you just get paddle practice. If you are far from the ocean you could always do a workout that will make you a stronger surfer when you get back to the beach.
Visualising what you want as a surfer can help you achieve your dreams. Use your imagination to feel the sensations of riding your perfect waves. Then when you catch them you’ll already have some experience, no matter how it differs from reality. Your imagination is for inspiration. Watch surf movies and learn from the best surfers. Stay healthy and keep your body full of energy and in great surfing shape.
Set yourself some goals for improving your surfing – and then take action so that you achieve them! Stay flexible and keep your muscles toned and in shape.
Finally don’t think too much. Surfing is all about flowing with nature. When you’re out there in the water just relax. You’ve done all of your preparation and now it’s just you and the ocean exchanging energy in the most beautiful way. When your wave comes don’t think too much. Just paddle paddle paddle and let it flow.
Bradley Hook is the author of Surfing Life Waves, available on Amazon.