The sport of surfing can be a cruel, cruel world


Surfing can be cruel. Really, what other sport exists where the playing field is constantly moving, changing and shifting based on some seemingly innocuous occurrence such as the subtle shift of wind direction, tide or swell? How many times have we heard, “Shoulda been here an hour ago!”

Besides the anxiety of trying to time the elements (which is why surfers have such flakey reputations - it’s not that we don’t want to spend time with our loved ones or schedule that meeting, we just have to check the tide first), surfing is a “use it or lose it” sport.

Nothing can prepare you for paddling except for paddling. Nothing can fine tune your timing for catching waves except for, well, catching waves. Cold-water surfing adds another level of difficulty with the additional weight of the wetsuit and decreased agility of our bodies.

While other sports exist where man is pitted against nature, such as rock climbing or mountaineering, consider this important fact: The mountain isn’t moving. Tomorrow the mountain will still be standing, immobile, relatively unchanged.

In surfing, we crawl on our bellies out to the playing field, often getting pounded by waves for our efforts. To catch waves, we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into potential danger, the risk/ reward ratio being very present in surfing. And you’d better have your game on or take the day off. Using our own energy and strength by paddling with our arms, we must match the speed and energy exuded by Mother Nature via the moving wave. Combining the physics of momentum, technique and the breaking wave, we have the push needed to dive in, jumping to our feet at the wave’s crest. Now our legs must do the work of matching the wave’s force if we want to make each section before the breaking lip.

Forced time out of the water due to a myriad of things from injury to foul weather or work can wreak havoc with our performance and progression in the water. Of all the things that can keep us land-locked however, injury has to be the most frustrating and worrisome for surfers. Not only are we missing out on potentially great surf (we all know the surf looks better when we can’t participate), even more unsettling is the notion that the injury, especially those involving the shoulder or back area, might be chronic, therefore foreshadowing the beginning of the end of our surfing prowess. While nothing can substitute for actual time logged in the water, there are a few things that can help get us back in the water faster, with maximum healing.

Acupuncture, chiropractic and massage are reliable and proven ways to manage pain and promote healing due to injury, inflammation and muscle strain. All are non-invasive but may take repeated visits to be completely effective.

Yoga and pilates are both great habits to incorporate as an overall complement to surfing, possibly even working to help prevent injury in the first place. Pilates works by strengthening the core muscles of our body. This includes the abs, quads and gluteus.

Yoga can be a bit trickier. While yoga is amazing for increasing flexibility (essential for injury prevention and pain reduction), the intense stretching can also weaken certain muscle groups important to surfing, most notably in the shoulder area. The video “Yoga for Surfing” tackles this problem by developing a series of poses designed specifically to address the unique needs of surfers.

Ah yes, surfing can be cruel, but obviously we’re hooked. After all, what other sport exists where after our session, we are content to sit and watch the playing field for hours on end?