For many of us, as the weather begins to warm up our thoughts turn to the beach. We have such an incredible coastline with many ideal surfing spots. It’s not always a sport that is easy to master, with many hours spent paddling and waiting for the best waves – but it is fun!
If you are relatively new to surfing and are becoming disheartened by spending most of your time just paddling, there are many things to keep in mind when you don’t appear to be having a lot of success.
Firstly, even professional surfers only spend about 5% of their time in the ocean actually riding waves! About half the time is spent paddling and the rest positioning, and regardless of your level of skill, there are some things you can do to make the most of your surfing sessions.
The basics of surfing are paddling and the pop-up and the better you get at them, the more energy and success you will have at riding the waves.
Paddling is lying on your board, propelling forward using arm strokes travelling through the water. To point out the obvious, you can’t catch a wave unless you paddle out to it. Using an efficient, skilled technique will have you paddling effectively, while using minimal energy.
Paddling is one of the essential basic surfing skills for:
● Getting out to the surf break.
● Beating other surfers out there!
● Being able to move into the best position to catch waves.
● Creating momentum to help catch the wave.
● Helping to optimise your position on the wave face to manoeuvre.
● Getting back out to the line up to get the next wave.
The line up is where surfers wait in line for their wave, and you may be paddling for 5-10 minutes at some breaks, if not more, over broken waves or through the impact zone. Therefore, the more efficient your paddling technique, the less energy you will waste just getting out there.
Paddling is also essential to finding the right spot in the pocket, or take-off zone, which is where the broken wave intersects with the green wave. This is where the wave speed is at its fastest, so it helps your chances of a great ride. You need to paddle quickly here, to get in the right spot and have enough momentum to catch the wave. It’s like a sprint, because your board speed needs to match the speed of the wave.
When paddling, keep your body positioned on the board so you glide smoothly. When you paddle out, you can be slightly more forward on the board than when you are positioning for a wave.
● Make sure your head is up and shoulders lifted, so you are resting on your sternum rather than your chest.
● Avoid looking around and keep your head still.
● When you are paddling out, keep your feet together and out of the water to prevent drag.
● Keep your forearms, hands and wrists firm, just like paddles, and use long, deep strokes through the water. Short, quick strokes won’t get you anywhere.
● Try to avoid rocking on the board. Keeping your legs together and imagining staying on a line down the centre of the board will help reduce movement.
● When it’s time to speed it up to catch a wave, then you can kick your feet in the water.
The pop-up is how you get from lying on the board, up onto your feet so you can ride the wave. It’s a quick movement – from lying to standing – and it can be difficult to master. However, understanding the mechanics will go a long way to helping you improve.
The pop-up components:
● Push through your hands to lift up your body weight.
● Shift your weight forward on the board.
● Quickly jumping your feet so they are under your hips.
Speed is critical as the slower you are getting to your feet, the more speed you lose and if you slow down too much, the wave will move forward without you. Getting up quickly also minimises your risk of injury as you can get your balance quickly and react to the wave.
Try to do the pop-up in one smooth movement, without kneeling in between. You may need a few of those while you are practicing but try to focus on a fast pop-up without kneeling for more wave riding.
A long board, one over 8 feet long, or a long foam board makes it easier to catch waves, so they are ideal if you are a beginner. They give you more time to do your pop-up.
To help build your strength for fast pop-ups, pushups are your best friend. They strengthen your core, trunk and shoulders. Flexibility also goes a long way to helping with quick movements, and many yoga poses can help keep your hips and lower back flexible.
The power required for a pop-up is generated by both strength and speed so put some weight training into your exercise program. Squats, lunges, hip pull ups and deadlifts are all good. A sports physiotherapist can help you achieve your strength and fitness goals safely and effectively.
It is a good idea to practice your pop-up on the sand, or even at home so when you hit the water, you can focus on all the other things going on out there.
As paddling is repetitive, practice makes perfect. Pull ups, assisted pull ups and working on your swimming technique will help improve your paddling. Focusing on your cardiovascular fitness will also assist.
With the qualifications and experience to assist you, the team of physios at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy can provide the guidance you need to improve your surfing performance. They are also able to treat any injuries you have to get you moving well with professional services such as physiotherapy for lower back pain, deep tissue massage, and physiotherapy for acl tear among many others. Book an appointment by phone or online and get out there on that board!