Photo: Little Bantam Trainer/Fiona Peters.

Photo: Little Bantam Trainer/Fiona Peters.


The Inertia

Editor’s Note: Surf Style Training with Elise Carver is available to The Inertia readers for a 50 percent discount for a limited time only. 


No matter how much work we do to avoid back pain by strengthening our core – releasing the muscles in and around the back to keep our bodies in working order – there are always going to be moments where we drop the ball and pick it up the wrong way, so to speak.

Just because you wake up every so often feeling like you’re in need of a new spine doesn’t mean you have to pack up the surfboard and pull out the wheelchair. With these tricks up your boardshorts, you can still go for a surf and avoid further debilitating damage.

Word to the wise: If it’s double overhead, you’re way out of your league, and your back is already aching, then it’s probably best not to push your limits for now!

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Back Saver #1: Open Your Chest

One bad habit when we wait for sets is rolling the shoulders inward to slouch, closing off the chest and making it tight. The tighter your chest, the harder it is to lift from the back muscles in between your shoulder blades (Rhomboids) to get a good view and an effective paddle. So instead, we lift from the lower back, over-activating the less efficient muscles often resulting in back pain. Combat this problem by stretching your chest between sets; using this chest opener in the surf you can reset your paddle posture before the next wave rolls in.

Back Saver #2: Don’t Sit On Your Board

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Next time you sit out the back waiting for the next set wave, notice the way you are sitting. Almost all surfers sit with their lower backs dramatically curved in order to stay balanced on the board. (It’s also a lazy trait.) Instead of sitting on your board, opt to lie down or hang off the board. The water acts as natural support for your body weight, taking the load off your spine and allowing it to stretch out. It is a well-known fact that sitting (anywhere) too often compresses the discs in the lower spine, so give your back a break!

Back Saver #3: Squeeze Your Ass When You Lie Down

Whether you choose to lie down while you wait for that set or even when you are paddling, engage your glutes by tucking your hips under and into the board. This movement aims to flatten your lower back (which often curves and compresses when we are lying on our front) by lengthening the spine when you curve the tailbone under. As a result, we decrease the load on the lower back – avoiding further discomfort and inflammation. Engage your core by drawing your belly into your spine for added strength!

Get ahead of the game with these suggestions that take place on the beach.

Back Saver #4: Warm Up

It’s not rocket science. We all know that when your body is warm you experience better mobility. Being mobile is great for injury prevention, because you are adaptable/flexible in the water when throwing yourself around. Rather than working against the body’s restricted movement (resulting in further muscular injury) you flow freely. Find a warm-up routine you like and get in the habit of applying it before each surf. Be mindful that you are warming up – not cooling down, so avoid long stretching holds and go for moves that will increase your heart rate and keep your muscles elasticized.

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Back Saver #5: Engage Your Core

Surfs are synonymous with an early rise and squeezing into your wetsuit before you can even open your eyes. So it stands to reason, if your brain is asleep, there’s a good chance your core is too! It takes all of 2 minutes to get those abdominal muscles firing. Whether you choose to hold a plank (I recommend the Surf Style Training version) or go with your own personal core activation, make it a priority. I promise it will do wonders for that first wave!

Editor’s Note: Surf Style Training with Elise Carver is available to The Inertia readers for a 50 percent discount for a limited time only. 

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