by Corky Carroll
A week or so ago I put a post on my Facebook pages asking for questions that people might want to ask me about surfing. Normally I have a pretty good stockpile of them on hand to feed my “ASK THE EXPERT” column here in the OC Register, but the pile was starting to get low and I wanted to replenish. As a result, I got tons of great ones and am now stocked up really well. One of them that was asked a number of times concerns how to get oneself into “surfing” shape. This mostly comes from people who surf but have been out of the water for some time. Some are people getting ready to take a surf trip where they will be in the water much more than usual. And others are people who are getting ready to learn to surf and want to be ready. So, today I am going to touch on this and throw out a few ideas that I have on preparing your body to ride ride ride the wild surf.
First off I have to tell you that the most urgent thing you need to address is getting into “paddling” condition. It’s that part that really wears you out. So, lets’ start there. Other than just paddling, which you can do in a lake, river or flat water anywhere, the very best thing is to swim. A lot of swimming will get your arms, body and breathing tuned up, along with your endurance. It also gets your body into the type of “fluid” shape that is good for surfing. You want to be loose and flowing, not stiff and rigid, when you surf. Pumping iron and going for that kind of body is not as good for surfing as just plain swimming, in my opinion. Body builders tend to be stiff, swimmers not.
There is also a technique that I came up with years ago that you can do in a pool other than swimming. You can attach your surf leash to something on the side of the pool, like the handrail to the steps or anything that is not going to move, and then get on your board and paddle. You won’t go anywhere because you are tied to the side, but this is really a hard workout and is super good to get you into paddling shape. One more thing is that your paddling technique should be very much like swimming. Use your whole body to paddle, not just your arms. An example would be that you can dance all night, but if you stand still and wave your arms up and down they will feel like they are gonna fall off within minutes. Think swimming when paddling and you will last a lot longer.
For standing up from a prone position I have found that doing push-ups helps with that, especially if you can do those kind where you clap your hands each time. And just practicing popping up over and over. If you can be on a slight downward incline when you do that it helps a little, that is the way your board will be most of the time when you go to stand up.
Lastly, but very important, is breathing. If you have your breathing down then your entire surfing experience will be better. If you learn to breathe into your diaphragm, and not your chest, you will take in much more air. This lessens the amount of energy your body needs to breath, slows done your heart rate and also allows you to concentrate more clearly under extreme situations. If you are getting sucked over the falls on a big wave, and your board is falling out from below you, if you can channel your thoughts into how to find your board in the explosion and get your feet back onto it, rather than just the obvious “I am gonna dieeeeee” thing, you will find that a lot of things are possible that you might not have thought if you were not thinking clearly. You can go online to find exercises on how to breath. This will also help you stay calm when you are being held down for longer than you would really like to be held down and enable you to hold your breath longer. Good breathing will also just improve the quality of your life for the same reasons it will help your surfing. This is coming from Zen Corky Guru, slayer of waves and eater of many donuts. But, it’s all true and good stuff.