Surfing is sport that involves loads of variables that dictates what makes surfing, surfing.
What is a standout piece of the surfing puzzle is what makes a surfer, a surfer from a physical standpoint, and the requirements to keep at it and also performance at a high level.
Surfing is all based in the water and requires loads of paddling and breath holds underwater – so the need for a good “engine” (cardio fitness etc) and being able to swim are essential qualities. Without these, well, you likely to be floundering around in whitewash and expending loads of energy, getting more and more tired and most likely getting frustrated not getting through the waves to have a break out the back. Surf research highlights the importance of high muscular endurance; moderate-high cardio-respiratory endurance and recovery, and anaerobic power of the upper-body due to all of the repeated high-intensity bursts of intermittent paddling and short recovery periods. Additionally, powerful paddling is required when trying to ‘catch’ a wave, thus ensuring enough momentum has been generated to enter the wave with adequate entry speed before quickly popping-up on the board. Once up on the board and riding, the surfer requires balance, strength, power, coordination, mobility of body joints and the ability to react to critical situations during wave riding, such as anticipating and adapting to the continuously changing wave formation.
Strenuous periods of continuous exercise requires a good cardio energy system to maintain the energy output. Without a good cardio ‘engine’ to keep up with all the paddling, duck diving and other dynamic movements involved with surfing … the longevity of a surfing session will be short-lived. The importance of anaerobic power is also a key aspect for success in the sport and those lacking upper-body paddling power will hinder their ability to catch waves. This is where strength and power play a big part in being able to generate enough speed and upper-body strength to power through the oncoming waves…before the actual part of surfing actually beings…which seaways us into the next part.
The surfing gymnast/ninja. Why a gymnast? Well, when you think about all of the strength, power and dynamic movements that tale place and then look at a gymnast and what they get up to, there is certainly some crossovers there. I’m not saying surfers should be a massively bulked like a gymnast, too much bulk isn’t too handy for the sport, however, power, strength, stability and mobility are, especially for all of the dynamic movement in the sport. Why a Ninja? Well, they are kind of cool, fast, springy individuals who adapt to their environment well. Think about all of the landings, compressing, extending, rotating, dropping the back knee down onto the board and adapting to the waves formation to perform turns and airs on during surfing. Loads n loads of movements going on here that take skill and physical capability to execute well… and just like a ninja need to be able to absorb force/landings well.
So there you go, the surfer/aquatic gymnast/ninja !