For all the talk and focus on surfing being about riding waves, the reality is that a surf session is mostly paddling.
Reviewing the GPS data of competitive surfers, it was found that the majority (60%) of the total heat time is spent paddling. It’s a mix of longer bouts of moderate (return to backline) paddling, and short (~1-3 second) bouts of intense (catch a wave) paddling. Depending on your level, that can add up to a distance paddled of more than 3000 metres per hour!
Is your body fit enough for that paddle demand?
If you aren’t getting out for very regular surf sessions, you will likely notice that your arms can feel heavy and you can be huffing and puffing to get to backline or your arms just don’t have what it takes to sprint paddle to catch the wave you were eyeing up.
In a study of competitive male surfers, a link between paddle power and ranking was identified. Those with higher paddle power (W/kg) had a better ranking. It was suggested that greater paddling power may improve surf performance by allowing more and faster paddling per session resulting in more waves being caught.
Compared to our male counterparts, women tend to have lower relative upper body to lower body strength ratio so adding in some upper body strengthening is extra important for us because it isn’t only women we need to match for paddle speed in the water.
Since paddling is the greatest percentage of what you will do in a surf session, because stronger paddling has links to being a better surfer and because women often have relatively lower upper body strength compared to males, then focusing on improving your paddle strength and conditioning is a good “bang for your buck” way to improve your surfing.
So how can you make improvements with your paddling? Getting out for more sessions could help but there is lots you can do on land to make improvements too.
Taking the approach of dry-land training would have you in good company. Competitive surfers are not only out surfing, they are doing strength and conditioning (S&C) sessions to improve their surf performance.
Here are some land-based exercises to get you started with pumping up your paddling. As a general guide to strengthening, aim for 2-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions with enough load that finishing that last rep is a real challenge.
1) Increase your pulling strength
One study found that surfers with higher relative pulling strength were faster paddlers. The stronger pullers had higher peak paddle speed over 5, 10 and 15 metre sprints. Increasing your pulling strength should result in faster paddle speed during your sprints to catch a wave meaning you’re the one on the wave and not the person who out paddled you.
2) Boost your pushing strength
By upping your pushing strength, you will be ready for the challenge of the endless duck diving, the demand of repeatedly reaching your arms overhead when paddling and being more able to generate thrust at the end of each paddle stroke. Bonus is this will also give your pop-up more *POP!* especially if you choose an easier load and push it more quickly (but built up to faster movements).
3) Prolong your back extensor endurance
In order to paddle strong, you need to be able to keep your chest up off the board. This chest up position allows muscles around your trunk to help out with the paddling and it also makes it easier to move your arms through the recovery swing of your paddle stroke. Even if you are only starting out at surfing, having the ability to maintain a chest up position is going to differentiate you in the water from other beginners and getting you more rides sooner. It even sends a message to other surfers in the water that you are strong and that you are there to catch waves.
With many of us in sedentary, sitting jobs, it is easy to lose strength in our back extensor muscles (the muscles that arch our backs) strength making these exercises all the more important.
4) Cardiovascular fitness training
Paddling puts demand on your cardiovascular system too. No surprise there. You’ve felt yourself breathing hard and heart beating fast as you paddled through the water. Be sure to include some cardiovascular cross-training sessions too.
Happy strong paddling!
A FEW NOTES:
If you have questions, get in touch: email@example.com
Bernard et al. Prescribing an annual plan for the competitive surf athlete: Optional methods and barriers to implementation. Strength Cond J, 39: 36-45, 2017.
Anthony CC and Brown LE. Resistance training considerations for female surfers. Strength Cond J, 38:64-69, 2016. Sheppard et al. Association between anthropometry and upper-body strength qualities with sprint paddling performance in competitive wave surfers. J Strength Cond Res, 26:3345-3348, 2012.
My mind is afire this morning as I read about the shark sightings at Bondi, helped at a disabled surf event in Mollymook yesterday and realise me, and my van, are too sick to realistically risk going out for a surf today (a little over-heating problem for both of us).
And so it began.
My story is unique, as is all of ours. Full of triumphs, joys, setbacks, self-doubt, even a couple of times in the last 12 months where I seriously wondered if I was kidding myself and should just give up, the frustration outweighing the enjoyment. But these are life lessons, not just surf lessons.
Life, like the surf, doesn’t really care if you are rich or poor. We joke about winning the lottery, and don’t get me wrong, I’m up for it universe, but in the end, money will not protect you from the real things in life.
Steve Jobs money and success didn’t stop his pancreatic cancer. Robin Williams’s success and popularity didn’t stop the demons that caused him to kill himself. Money, status, the number of Facebook likes you got today, don’t mean a thing in the water. There is just you and your demons, or your joy, depending on the day, and for me, menopause swing; it’s all true ladies, plan for it now.
And no matter how ‘Zen’ I might get, practice that meditation, do that Headspace app, there is still something satisfying about watching some menacing bully who might have some sway on land, due to his physical stature, get dumped on his arse by a wave that doesn’t care too hoots about his machismo.
The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun, I’ve heard this a lot. I slightly disagree. I think the best surfer is the one still trying. Who gets out there regardless of if they think they are good or bad, have a good day or a bad one, whose life might be right in the clapper but they keep on going, hoping like their surfing, it will get better. Look up http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html for the whole thing but it’s the person in the arena, striving and living life, that matters.
And that’s surfing for me. It’s not something I think about often but it is a complete analogy of life. We stumble, we fall, we get up again, we get pummelled by things we can’t control, but when we let go of trying to control, beauty happens.
Hi my name is Linda. Surfing is, in my opinion, one of the hardest sports to learn, do I mean hard or frustrating? hummm? I’m still undecided on that one. A good surf relies heavily on so many variables, most of which are hopelessly out of my control and mother nature often seems to be against me.
Why am I not a great surfer? How long have you got?
So I am at that stage where I feel like I have plateaued. One week I’ll have a great surf and come away so stoked that I nailed that turn but then the next week it can feel like I’m a beginner all over again.
When you have a good surf your expectation goes up for your next surf and when it’s not achieved it can be a little soul destroying and very frustrating. I feel like a wave pool would be a really great tool right now. To get the same wave over and over again and be able to practice and build muscle memory would be AWESOME, after all, they say 'Repetition is the mother of learning'.
It’s also said that learning to surf is more like learning how to fail. It’s true there are so many more fails than wins in this sport, thank god it’s normally a soft landing.
I am trying to change my mindset and be consciously aware of what I need to do, trying to catch more waves, go for bigger waves, watch the waves I miss and see how they break and where.
I used to paddle out with friends for fun and if I caught a good wave bonus but I never thought much about what I was doing and to be honest I wasn’t trying to achieve anything at that point but now it’s become almost an obsession to progress and get better at surfing. Maybe this is why I feel like I am failing more and enjoying it less?
Practice, practice , practice
As a weekend surfer I am seriously lacking on the 10,000 hour rule. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule goes like this: you have to put 10,000 hours in order to become an expert or master of a subject, job, trade. (I’m applying the same theory to sport.) 10k hrs equates to an old fashioned extended apprenticeship, 5 days a week for 5 years. This is where it starts going to shit for me. If i’m lucky and the conditions are on my side I might get 3-4 hours practise at a weekend and a few sneaky morning surfs in the summer months before work.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories as I know my frustration is felt by many.
So 2017 you have been fun and delivered us many giggles and fun waves. 2018 you have alot to live up to but I am sure it will be bigger and better.
Massive thanks to all the Surf Girls for there love, support, encouragement, friendships and frivolities in and out of the surf.
We went 80's fluro workout gear for the end of year surf and I think we nailed it, the weather was perfect and the water sparkled.
Love you all and have an awesome Christmas and the best New Year xxx
Yewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww awesome photos: @elliebobbiephotography
Let's get real girls and have fun in and out the surf.
We alway love to have fun and I challenged Mil and Eli to recreate this photograph on their recent trip to Crescent Head. I think they had alot of fun doing it and I hear it was really, really windy whilst performing this exquisite manoeuvre.
Love you legends xxx
So yesterday was the Surf Girls ‘Surf & Skate’ day with Gee from Chix Surf School and Smoothstar.
The training had already been postponed for a week due to massive conditions so we were hoping for some nice waves and sunshine this weekend. Well, we got the sunshine but the waves were bigger than we were expecting, a lot bigger.
We met at Dee Why Surf Club at midday to check out the conditions, there were some larger sets coming through and just as we decided head out a massive rouge set came through that wiped out the back line. After witnessing this the longboarders in the group made the call to postpone their session with Gee to another day, all in all a wise move.
We checked the conditions from the beach with Gee, gave it the thumbs up and 3 of us hit the water. We watched a few waves role through from the back line to see where people were sitting and how the waves were breaking then built up the courage to tackle a few.
With Gee in the water with you you’re not going to sit there out the back comfortably watching everyone else, you work it for the full session. We were called onto waves and were occasionally given an encouraging push to help us along, there was no backing off.
We all got waves and I think we all gained a little more confidence in larger waves. It is always better to go out as a group. Confidence in numbers and experience. I think all 3 of us will remember the '20' wave set we had to battle through, Gee thought we had gone in!!!
Out of the water and meeting up with the rest of the crew on the beach we headed for Curl Curl and our Smoothstar skate session. With the skate session we can try and right some of the wrongs and bad habits we have in the water and also increase our surf fitness.