Fitness Coach/Surfer
Maximize flexibility, surf better. Let Ash Boddy show you the way. Photo: Trevor Murphy

Maximize flexibility, surf better. Let Ash Boddy show you the way. Photo: Trevor Murphy

The Inertia

Having restricted joint mechanics through length tension imbalances of your muscles is a great way to force the body to create compensatory movement patterns that will affect your timing and performance.

If you are stuck in thoracic flexion (like my guy below with forward head posture, rounded shoulders, and an upper thoracic spine that just doesn’t want to extend), your ability to extend into your pop up and land both feet on your board at the same time is going to be tough. It also means that you will have altered spinal mechanics limiting spinal facet joint rotation. In real world terms, this means you will not be able to counter-rotate your trunk and hips into a bottom turn without compensating with your hips and knees causing muscle strains and connective tissue sprains. All of the above will lead to overuse injuries.

According to a recent study by Brown University, 55% of surfing injuries occur by coming in contact with your own board and 12% from someone else’s. Just another reminder to never drop in. Approximately 12% of all surf related injuries reported to the Department of Emergency Medicine came from sprains and strains (Am J Emerg Med. 2002 May;20(3):155-60.Surfing injuries; Nathanson A, Haynes P, Galanis D.; Department of Emergency Medicine at Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University,Providence, RI 02903, USA).

Another more recent Australian study cites as many as 28.6% of all injuries occurring from sprains, 10.7% from dislocations, fractures comprise 8.9%, and a number reporting long-term mainly unstable/stiff or painful joints. Again, mainly occurring in the lower body  such as the hip/knee/ankle/lower back (J Sci Med Sport. 2004 Dec;7(4):429-37.; Acute injury and chronic disability resulting from surfboard riding.; Taylor DM, Bennett D, Carter M, Garewal D, Finch CF; Emergency Medicine Research, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Victoria, Australia).

Just increasing the ability of your spine to flex, extend and rotate more efficiently takes a significant toll away from your knees and hips as load will be dissipated more effectively throughout the whole kinetic chain.

If your shoulder mechanics are shaky and your scapula is limited in rotation, this will lead to overuse injuries relating to the glenohumeral joint and shoulder rotator cuff impingements. This is not only caused by poor paddling technique but also poor joint mechanics. And low and behold, many surfers complain of injuries to their shoulder rotator cuff, leading to many weeks and sometimes months out of the water.

So what do most people do? They get treatment on the shoulder. But its not the shoulder that’s the problem, that’s just the bit that’s in pain. Many therapists spend most of their time dealing with the bit that hurts, but not all of them search for the cause so the shoulder never gets better.

Injuries are a sign that you have a restriction somewhere else that needs to be corrected. The site of the pain is often just where you have to compensate.

Step number one is identifying where your restrictions are and dealing with them. Often this requires a detailed assessment, which I do strongly recommend you undertake. In the absence of this, my programs are designed to take you through simple to increasingly more complex shoulder exercises that you can perform prior to surfing to help you identify where you are restricted while focusing on common patterns of dysfunction related to surfing.

It is not recommended to do any long, slow duration hold-stretching immediately prior to your exercise program, or immediately prior to surfing, as this will in fact sedate the nervous system and be detrimental to your performance!

Static stretching with prolonged holds lengthens the muscle spindles without the nervous system actively monitoring the change to its length, which means that when your nervous system engages to pop-up, take off or carve into your bottom turn, it doesn’t recognize what has happened to the muscle. This can lead to wiping out, injury and poor performance!

Save long slow stretching, massage and yoga poses for post exercise, and even better late evening, only. Pre-exercise stretching and mobilizations should therefore involve mostly Contract Relax (PNF style stretching also known as proprioceptive neuromuscular faciliation) or dynamic mobilization exercises only.

I have included a number of basic, but really effective mobilization exercises that you can do straight away in my free download, so check it out. There are even videos showing you how to do these exercises correctly. Or if you want to just get started, then get into my programs guys, and start doing it right. If you have any questions, fire them off to me at


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