Implementing a Surf Warmup Routine
When it comes to thinking of new ideas to improve our surfing, stretching is one that rarely gets thought of. We have all seen the surfer that walks up to the water’s edge, sets down their board, and whips out their own full-blown yoga practice. We as surfers, tend to make fun of this idea, as stretching at the beach is usually seen as a bit kooky. But as much as we like to make fun of these people, creating a simple surf warmup routine will not only help improve your surfing but will also allow you to maximize your time in the water. There is nothing worse than being landlocked, due to a minor injury that could have been avoided by doing a quick and simple stretch routine before heading out into the waves.
Why Stretching is Beneficial for Your Surfing
When we think of stretching and surfing, we are quick to think that it is only meant for older people or people who are just coming back from an injury. While stretching is important for these types of people, we must keep in mind that everybody can benefit from a quick warmup before hopping into the water. Surfing is a unique sport that requires many dynamic movements throughout our time spent out in the waves. From paddling out to the lineup to catching waves all the way in, we are constantly using different muscles throughout our entire body. Which is why it is important to create some sort of warm-up that incorporates muscles throughout the entire body.
Why Joint Mobility is Important
Having a body that is flexible, will allow you to pop up faster, and ultimately allow more time in the water to catch more waves. Stretching can be directly correlated to improving your surfing, as having tight muscles will restrict your movements while out in the water. Surfers tend to miss many waves early on, due to not being properly warmed up before heading out. Giving the body a chance to warm-up will allow you to perform at your max potential right away, instead of wasting waves. We have all been there, where we become extremely frustrated due to having a bad pop up or can’t quite paddle into a wave, just because we didn’t allow our bodies the proper time to warm up. When it comes to warming up before hitting the water, there are a couple of key ideas you will want to keep in mind, to help you perform to your best potential.
Dynamic Vs. Static Stretching
When creating your own surf warmup, you want to make sure you are implementing more dynamic movements rather than static stretching. Dynamic stretching is a way of improving your mobility while moving through a range of motion. Oftentimes these movements are closely related to movements you will be making during the activity you are about to perform. Static stretching is more the idea of just your basic stretching. In static, you are holding a stretch without any movement, usually at the muscles endpoint. This type of stretching is more beneficial after a workout rather than before. It has been proven that performing static stretches before activity has a negative effect on athletic performance. Whereas, dynamic stretching actually boosts athletic ability. It allows the body to feel stronger while creating better muscle endurance and speed. It also helps stimulate the body’s reflexes, allowing for better body control through space. Overall, it is important to make sure you are implementing dynamic movements before your next surf session.
Creating Your Own Surf Warmup Routine
Your surf warm-up does not need to take long, but it will go a long way for you. Make sure to keep it easy too. You aren’t going for a full-on workout. Just an easy 5-minute warmup to get you ready to hit the surf. The idea is for your body to already be warmed up, so once you paddle out, it isn’t a complete shock to the system. A good warm-up should be stretched focused while having a low impact to help fight out fatigue and cramping. It is also important to tailor your warmup to your own personal needs. We all have different bodies that act differently, so its important to be aware of what your body needs.
Focus on the Breath
All surfers should become aware of their breath before heading out into the water. The breath can make or break a surf session. When we slow down our breathing, we allow our muscles to perform at their maximum potential. When breathing becomes out of tune with the body, this is where fatigue and cramping set in. You are also bound to be held underwater at times throughout your surfing career. Being able to focus on the breath and slow your heart rate down will only help you. Starting your surf warm up with a quick 30-second breathing exercise, will get your mind and body ready for an epic session.
A simple exercise that helps calm down the heart and maximize oxygen efficiency, is to breathe in through the nose for five seconds. Then hold the breath for five seconds. Then finish with an easy exhale for five seconds. Simply do this five times. This will help you become more aware of your breath and supply adequate oxygen throughout your body.
The ankle joint plays a huge role in your ability to surf. When your ankles are immobile, it is nearly impossible to be a consistent surfer. Having mobility throughout your ankles will allow you to have more flexibility in your stance and provide a stronger foundation on your board. Ankle injuries are very common in surfing, so taking a minute to warm them can save you from the dread of being landlocked. Simple ankle circles are a great way to loosen up this joint.
Start by placing your toes in the sand. From here rotate your ankle ten times in one direction then switch directions. This should be a quick and easy exercise that will keep you riding waves longer.
Lower Half Mobility
The next area you want to focus on during your surf warmup is the legs and hips. We oftentimes forget how much our legs contribute to our surfing performance. From popping up to pumping down the end section, you are constantly relying on your legs. This is especially true when surfing here in Santa Barbara as many of the local spots are long right-handed point breaks, where your legs will be put to the test. The legs are also a common place for pulls and strains to take place. Without an adequate warmup, it becomes extremely easy to pull muscles throughout your lower half. Pulled muscles usually take a while to heal and can lead to other injuries down the road. So it’s in your best interest to implement some sort of leg warm-up before heading out. A simple exercise to get your legs ready are bodyweight squats.
Start with your legs hip-width apart. Then shift your weight back like you are sitting in a chair. From here you want to try and get your legs parrel to the ground or whatever depth is comfortable for you. To finish, simply keep the weight in your heels and begin to stand back up straight. Repeat this 10 times and your legs/hips will be ready to go on your next session.
Spine mobility plays an extreme role in how well you surf and what your limitations are. With a stiff spine, your body movements will become extremely limited, which will overall limit your surfing. Surfing is a sport where there are many rotational dynamic movements that happen in order to surf well. We have all had that experience where it’s an early morning session, our backs are tight, and we leave the water frustrated at the waves we caught or let getaway. This can easily be avoided by creating some sort of spine mobility exercise. When the back becomes more mobile, our entire body becomes more mobile.
A simple exercise to loosen the trunk is T-Spine Swings. Start by spreading your feet a little wider than hip-width apart and stand straight up. Then swing side to side with your arms extended. Do this ten times each side and you’ll be ready to throw your best cutbacks.
The arms are obviously important when it comes to surfing. Having strong arms allows you to paddle into more waves and ultimately catch more waves in a session. Catching more waves usually means having more fun in the water too. Your shoulder joint should be the main area of focus when warming up the arms. Shoulder injuries are common, due to the constant pulling forward on the shoulder joint when paddling. Shoulder injuries generally take extremely long to heal and usually don’t come back to their normal function once healed. Do yourself a favor and take a minute and get some blood flowing to the shoulders before heading out. You will thank yourself in the long run.
Arm circles are a quick and effective way to get your shoulders ready to paddle. Start with big forward arm circles and gradually work to small circles for a total of ten seconds. Then repeat with backward circles.
The last area you want to make sure you focus on is your neck. Surfers don’t realize how much stress is actually put on the neck in each session. As you are constantly paddling, your neck is put in an awkward position as you keep your head lifted on the horizon for waves. This action puts a lot of stress within the neck joint and can lead to other mobility issues within your spine. The neck is also closely tied with the shoulder joint, so having a tight neck joint can lead to shoulder issues as well. When there is good mobility throughout the neck, you will notice your paddling will become more smooth and effortless.
Neck circles are a quick and efficient way to get some blood flowing to this area. Start by gently rotating your head in a circular motion for ten times, then repeat the other direction. Keep in mind it is important to do this gently, as you don’t want to put extra tension throughout your neck joint. Ultimately, having a mobile neck will allow you to be more efficient with each paddle and help put less stress throughout your spine.
Concluding Your Surf Warmup Routine
Overall, creating just a simple five-minute surf warmup will help you surf at your best and also stay in the water longer. When thinking of ways to improve your surfing, we rarely think of incorporating stretching. We usually tend to make fun of the people whipping out a few stretches before hitting the water. But if you can push aside the stigma of stretching before surfing, you will find yourself in the water more often surfing to your best ability. When putting together your own surf warmup, make sure to personalize it to your own needs. Becoming more aware of your body will ultimately help establish what your limitations are. Remember to not go over the top with your warmup. You don’t need to be doing a full workout before heading out. Just a simple warmup will allow you to perform to your best ability and ultimately keep you surfing waves longer.