We’ve all been there… Whether you’re a complete beginner or a surfing veteran, fatigue can set into your body in the middle of an epic surf session. We then have to decide between calling it quits or surfing tired. Personally, eight times out of ten, I’ll surf tired. The concern with surfing while being fatigued is that you become sloppy. I can recall multiple occasions of myself or friends getting hurt, cut, caught in the impact zone, or sent over the falls because we should have listened to our body, and headed into shore (or boat).
There are several ways you can ensure you’ll create an optimal physical performance so you can get the most out of your surf session. The key factors include sleep, nutrition, breathing techniques, surfing in the low sun, out-of-water training, visualization, and experience. Today it’s all about training. Yes, yoga is much more than a physical training exercise. And we’ll be sure the dive into that in later articles. But today we’ll focus on the physical aspect of yoga. I’ll teach you seven postures that, if practised four to five days per week for several weeks prior to a surf trip, are going to be an absolute game-changer for you and your surfing. Ready? Let’s dive, in shall we (pun intended).
#1 Downward-Facing Dog
Many poses only work on flexibility, and others focus mainly on strength building, the old “DD” does both. Many would say that downward dog provides incredible balance for the body as well as calms the mind. As for the physical, DWFD targets both the upper and lower body at the same time. It creates length and strength in the hands, arms, shoulders, back, calves, hamstrings and even the arches of your feet. Boom.
DWFD also helps to eliminate stiffness and back pain. It also boosts circulation because the heart is above the head. An active circulatory system facilitates to flush of toxins from the body and keeps our immune system rocking.
I recommend bending your knees at first, sending the hip bones back and high. Press firmly into wide hands, and pulling the shoulder blades away from each other, and then push the heels down.
Common “no-no’s”: Overextension in the shoulders, improper wrist alignment, the tension in the neck.
#2 Upward Facing Dog
Here we’re creating an evenly distributed extension in the spine. Surfing calls for a supple and flexible spine (duh). UWFD stretches the quadriceps and the hip flexors while, and keeps the leg in line, decreasing the risk of pulling or cramping your hamstring or quad (which is a common injury in surfing). This lovely pose also strengthens the wrists, forearms, and mid-back, lengthens the abdomen and the rib cage; increasing the breath capacity of your diaphragm.
Common “no-no’s”: Collapsing the shoulders forward, and not engaging thru the legs and pelvis.
#3 Boat Pose
The Boat” strengthens the abdominal muscles, improves balance, strengthens and lengthens the spine and hip flexors, and also stretches into the hamstrings.
There are several variations of this pose. You may want to bend your knees at first. Don’t be fooled, this shit might look easy, but it’s not. And if it is too easy, then you could be way more engaged; your lower back could be straighter and/or your legs could be straighter and longer. I guess what I’m saying is that if your whole body isn’t shaking 20 seconds into the pose, step it up.
Common “no-no’s”: Rounding in the spine, not engaging your “mala” (or gooch)
#4 Eagle Pose
Ah! This is one of my two favourite semi-passive postures for helping with should pain and stiffness. EP is awesome for stretching the upper back, the shoulders (and neck; depending on the variation). This pose strengthens and lengthens the latisimus dorsi, deltoid, and trapezius muscles.
It’s meant to be used before, during, and after your paddle fest. This pose offers instant relief, but can be difficult to achieve at first if you have extremely tight shoulders and back. Remember to honour wherever you are in your practice. Once you do get into eagle pose; keep your back straight, chin in, head high, elbows up, and hands away.
Common “no-no’s”: Forgetting to breathe, pushing into the posture to quickly
#5 Push-Up Pose or Four-Limbed Staff Pose
The old “chaturanga” is awesome for strengthening the whole upper body. For those who think yoga is mostly about stretching you will definitely feel the wrath from this one. This is a pose that will help you a lot with your popups, making them stronger and faster. PUP will strengthen and tone the chest, back, triceps and core and gluten.
This pose can also be damaging to the shoulder over time, so be sure to keep your shoulders square and away from each other when coming down. Also, never bend the elbows past ninety degrees when holding your body weight. Another less intense variation is to drop the knees.
Common “no-no’s”: sagging the shoulders past the chest, forgetting to engage the legs and pelvis.
#6 Locust Pose or Seal Pose
Locust pose is something all surfers practise whether they know it or not. Lying on your abdomen and pelvis, you lift the legs and torso from the floor. Similarly, in surfing, you engage many of the same muscles while paddling. LP strengthens and lengthens the entire back, as well the back of the arms and much of the legs. It also strengthens and lengthens your chest, core and shoulders, while simultaneously creating space in the diaphragm.
There are several arm variations to this pose. See which one feels right for you. It’s also a great pose to transition into bow pose, push-up pose, plank and stomach passive postures.
Common “no-no’s”: Not engaging the legs, creating a pinch in the lower back, forgetting to create length in the torso.
#7 Crow Pose
Crow pose is kinda bad-ass and is usually a milestone in most yogi’s practice. But it most likely won’t come easily so practice, practice, practice. CP strengthens the hands, arms, shoulders, back, core, and pelvic; so basically all key paddling muscles.
Couple tips. Keep your fingers tips on the ground but bend your big knuckles. We call that spider fingers. Keep your knees as close to your armpits as possible before and during your arm balance, pull your feet to your butt. And yes, while you’re learning, you may almost fall on your face. The good news; you don’t have much distance to fall.
At first, it might be difficult, but don’t give up. Crow is very useful to your pop up, and the balance and the focus you’ll cultivate will pay off in the waves.
Common “no-no’s”: looking up instead of 1-2ft in front of the hands, lack (fear) of commitment.
We did it! You now have seven great poses that will keep you surfing longer sessions in your tool belt. Remember that knowledge needs to be preceded by action. And if you’re having issues with motivation, visualize the reward of longer surf sessions.