The Health Benefits of Surfing

By Jonathan Michaels, DPT

Surfing is beautiful sport that draws spectators who look on as the board, human in tow, glides effortlessly across the ocean. Yet, for the person paddling and maneuvering the vessel, the demands on the body are quite large. Surfing is an entire body workout that should not be taken lightly, despite how fun and relaxing it may look. It is incredibly important that as a current, or future(!), surfer, you take the necessary steps to stay strong, mobile, and fit to make the most of your sessions out on the water.

Strength is a huge component of surfing. The demands of surfing require a strong and stable core and shoulders. When developing an exercise program, which should be done with a trained healthcare professional, it is important to target specific muscle groups in a manner that applies functionally to the sports and hobbies that you love. When developing core strength for surfing, some of the muscle groups you are going to want to target are the hips (Gluteus maximus/ medius and small hip internal and external rotators), abdominals (rectus abdominis as well as internal and external obliques), and spinal stabilizing muscles (Transversus abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles). When strengthening the shoulders, some key players in surfing are the scapular stabilizers (Middle and lower trapezius, rhomboids, and serratus anterior), rotator cuff, pectorals, and lats. Make sure all the exercises you and your qualified provider choose are pain free and specific to your level.

Mobility is another key component to surfing longevity. Surfing is a sport that places repetitive demands on spinal extensor musculature and shoulder extensors and internal rotators (mainly pectorals and lats). Therefore it is key to maintain flexibility in the opposite motions of spinal flexion and shoulder flexion/ external rotation. But don’t forget about the hips and ankles! Surfing requires hip mobility in all planes of motion so make sure you are targeting hip extension, flexion, internal and external rotation with your program. The ankle demands include dorsiflexion and eversion range of motion. In order to maintain optimal athletic ability and balance on top of the board, remember to keep your ankles and hips mobile by maintaining a solid stretching and dynamic mobility program so you stay injury free and performing at your best.

Remember, surfing is meant to be a fun and exciting way to enjoy yourself and connect with nature. By putting in the time to stay strong and mobile you will find yourself having fun out in the lineup while your peers look on as you float with ease across another gorgeous wave.

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