Surfing is an incredible sport. Just being in the ocean with all the power and energy of waves crashing around us is uplifting enough, but then the art of riding a wave leaves us with an almost spiritually cosmic feeling. It all often has us hooked from the first ride.
But there is a darker side to this addictive pursuit. Surfing is a great way to stay fit and healthy with the ideal beach body encompassing everything that is surfing: bronzed skin, a six pack, strong shoulders and arms. From the outside, it looks healthy, doesn’t it? But what happens under the surface is what we need to be aware of.
Surfing is a lot of paddling, duck diving, and violent wipeouts. Every now and then we actually catch a wave, filling us with good vibes as we swim back out to the lineup for another. But that prolonged paddling effort, the wipeouts, and repetitive movements patterns wear our bodies down and create imbalances over time.
Waking up, warming up, and firing key muscle groups required for surfing is the first thing I do before I paddle out. Over the years I have tried, tested and whittled down plenty of warm up techniques and cool down stretching techniques. These are my favorite six.
Follow the below warm up guide before you hit the surf
The Capoeira Jinga – This is a dynamic rotating and stretching movement that starts off slowly and increases in intensity and range of movement. I watched a Brazilian friend of mine performing the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira before he surfed. I tried this movement and soon realized it was a perfect warm up movement for surfing.
Start with legs just over hip-width apart, knees bent, just like you’re standing on a surfboard. With arms out wide slowly start to rotate the upper body, allowing the motion to be carried down into your legs. Sway from side to side with rhythm and slowly build up the intensity and range of movement.
Keep arms and hands loose. Engage the core, glutes and hamstrings as you start to rotate through your upper body’s entire range of movement. Slowly lower into a squatting position. You should now be feeling this in your legs, and as you rotate, your upper body should be loosening.
This movement mimics a whole array of surfing maneuvers and tricks (think top turn or carves, to landing air reverses). This movement will fire the big leg muscles that we use to create drive and speed, it will switch on the core muscles for stabilization, and it will create heat and looseness in the rotation of the upper body.
This warm up wakes up the big leg and butt muscles, preparing the body for explosive and dynamic movements in the surf. It also prepares the body, especially the knees, for impact. Standing with your feet hip width apart, start with small jumps. Slowly increase the height of each jump, bringing knees up closer to the chest each time. After about 5 or 6 jumps, aim to be jumping as high as you can with knees close to your chest. As you descend from each jump, land with softness, knees bent, absorbing the impact as you squat down, springing back up into the next exploded jump.
Extended Arm Rotations
This is a really simple movement that could save you from a sudden muscle tear or impingement in your shoulder.
Stand tall, keeping your head in a neutral position with your arms extended. Slowly raise your right arm straight up to the sky. Keeping your arm straight, begin to slowly and controllably create large circles of movement.
First, as if you were paddling out, so a forward motion, and then do the same in the opposite direction. Repeat with the other arm. Try not to go too fast, keep it slow and controlled will allow the complex shoulder joint and its surrounding muscles to get used to the paddling motion.
This is a great stretch that really focusses on tightness in the shoulder area and upper back. Standing tall, take your left arm over your right. With your forearms vertical, wrap the open palm of the left hand around the right hand, forming a bind. Now lift both arms up and out. Focus on long calm breaths and relax into the pose. Hold this stretch for about 2 minutes or for as long as feels comfortable. Repeat with the other arm wrapping right over left.
Hip Flexor Stretch
I can not recommend this stretch enough! We spend so much time waiting for that perfect wave that the constant balancing act of sitting on a surfboard has our hip flexors working over time.
Taking a kneeling position, bring the left leg forward, knee stacked over the ankle joint, foot firmly planted on the floor. Engage the pelvic floor and slowly tilt it up, pulling the naval in as you do so. Lift the right foot and take a hold of it with the right hand. Slowly lift from the ribs and breath, as gravity helps your hips sink deeper into the pose. Repeat on the opposite side.
You should be feeling this in the upper leg and groin area. For an added stretch, I like to rest my back leg vertically against a wall, letting go of my foot and raising my arm up and over to create a nice side stretch at the same time.
My final stretch focuses on the lower back, glutes, and piriformis muscular tension. This is a big but really relaxing pose that helps the spine and surrounding muscles move freely. This twist also aids in detoxifying the body as the digestive system is stretched and massaged. It’s actually a really healthy pose to incorporate into your warm down routine.
Starting in a crossed-legged position, breathe in and lift straight up from the rib cage, lengthening through the spin. At the same time, lift the left leg over the right, placing your left foot flat on the floor.
Slowly with each breath, begin to rotate the upper body. Rotate as you breathe out and lengthen as you breathe in. You can use your left arm to brace your outer left thigh and knee to increase the stretch.
You should be feeling a nice stretch, starting from the glutes, through the piriformis muscle, and up into the lower back and spine. Hold this pose for 2 minutes or as long as feels comfortable. Remember to breathe and relax to get the most out of this stretch.