7 Essential Exercises you need to do on every surf trip.
This program is designed to be quick and effortless. Something you can do while checking the surf.
My recommendation is to go through all of these when you first get up out of bed and repeat the ones that speak to you most throughout the day in between surfs. If you really want to be on it, do them before bed too, you’re body will thank you.
We all know that feeling on day 3 or 4 where the thought of getting out of bed can get a little more enticing than the thought of copping a few sets on the head, so get these done first thing and you will be good to go day after day.
These movements are not about making you the most flexible person on earth. They are about stimulating the tiny little receptors that sit inside your joints and register movement.
When you apply force into these receptors, day after day you send a message to your brain that these ranges of motion need to be maintained. The nervous system will communicate this with the surrounding muscles and as a result, you won’t feel so stiff after hours of loading your body in the same repetitious way.
Part 1: The Spine
When we spend all day paddling, our spine gets stuck in the same position of extension and can cause things to stiffen up. The lack of movement between vertebrae can become problematic over time and so these exercises have been selected to restore movement between each joint of the spine.
There is an emphasis on segmental movement as we want to ensure that each vertebrae is able to move independently of the others. If we are not able to segment the spine, sections will move in chunks, meaning that some vertebrae won’t move at all and as a result other sections, either above or below, will move too much and can cause breakdown and pain.
I also emphasize making sure you have good control of both flexion and extension before working on rotation because without these movements your rotation will be limited. Of course surfing is a rotational sport but do yourself a favor and spend a little time making sure you can flex and extend your spine through every segment and as a result you will improve your rotation too.
The more you practice these exercises the better your coordination and control will get over time. Don’t be afraid to get creative with these either, as I mention in the video, the more positions you practice these in, the more control you will have in different positions on your board.
Part 2: Your Neck
Just as your spine needs some love after a day stuck in extension, so does your neck. It is just another part of your spine after all, so the same rules apply. Gain and maintain segmental motion of these vertebrae and your surfing days will be longer.
I have added in an active stretch to this portion, which if you follow the steps can actually be applied to any other stretch you can think of and will lead to long term increases in mobility. Follow this up with some active rotations, with the intent on making each circle a little bigger than the last and you will keep your head spinning well. An important side note on this one, say you are looking up and feel pain in the back of your neck, or you are bringing your ear to your shoulder and feel pain on that same side; DO NOT push into it. Go around it instead, make the circle a little smaller and see a skilled professional who can diagnose your pain.
Part 3: Shoulders
You don’t need me to tell you this, but if you’re not conditioned, which a lot of us aren’t when we go on a trip, the shoulders are going to be feeling it after a couple days. These exercises are not intended to improve strength, mobility or endurance, they are here to make sure you maintain your range of motion and keep you feeling loose and energized so that you can keep catching waves without too much resistance form your arms.
As with everything, if you do something long enough with your body, it will get you really good at doing that one thing. When we paddle, we are not expressing our shoulders full range of motion, yet we are loading it over and over again, which sends a strong signal to the brain. That signal says, be strong in this limited range of motion, which over time closes down the full range of motion available to you, hence the stiff feeling you get after a few days.
These exercises are here to send another strong signal to the brain that says, maintain your full range and keep the surrounding muscles loose! If you like stretching, by all means to do it but my experience has shown me that the gains you make from stretching are short term and these exercises are long term. Again, we are talking to the mechanoreceptors lining the joint capsule and most stretches do not allow for this communication.
Part 4: The hips
Rarely do I feel that my hips get that stiff but for a lot of people they do. Again, if stretching feels good, go for it and to make your stretches more effective, apply the same principles I talked about in the neck section. However, as I mentioned earlier, the goal of this program is not to teach you how to open up more range of motion, it’s to teach you how to avoid aches and pains and keep you surfing longer. To do this, we are working in circles again with an emphasis on maintaining contact at your outer ranges.
For the hip circles, we have 4 pretty distinct motions we are going for and when you first try these it’s ok to break up the movement into its constituent parts. Once you have gotten your head around what it is you are trying to do, try to keep the movement slow, controlled and continuous. This rule applies to all of the circles I have talked about in the program. Be aware of where you try to cut corners, where you want to speed the movement up and really try keep the rest of your body still whilst making the biggest circle you can.
Do these regularly and you with surf with more power, more flow and more control.
Part 5: Let’s pull everything apart
This movement is something you may naturally be doing already. Watch your cat or dog when it wakes up in the morning and it will do the same thing. It’s called pandiculation and is a great way to wake yourself up when your brain might be telling you stay in bed. It’s our nervous system’s natural way of waking our sensorimotor system and preparing us for movement and helps to reduce muscular tension and restore conscious, voluntary control of our muscles.
At the end of a big session, I love this movement as it allows me to feel my ribcage expand and my shoulder blades widen, which I feel is exactly what’s needed to get back at it again after a refuel and recharge.
Thinks to keep in mind, you want to feel this more so in your hamstrings than your low back. If it’s more in your low back, grab yourself a prop or use a table or chair to press your hands into. Breathe expansively into the ribs and try to lengthen the spine from head to tail bone.
Bonus section: Keep your feet alive
Our feet contain as many nerve endings as your hands or your face. They are designed to pick up information and sensations, yet our modern lifestyle has reduced the ability of our feet to do so. Take this idea into surfing and it’s not hard to see that we might have a problem here.
As much as you can, stimulate your feet. They are your closest point of contact with your board and so the more sensitive they are to touch and sensation the more likely you are going to be able detect changes while surfing and be able to respond quickly, powerfully and effortlessly.
As the video describes, I believe the easiest way to get your feet ready to surf is by walking on awkward, uneven and even somewhat painful surfaces. If you just aren’t built for that kind of thing, follow the tips on how to improve intrinsic foot strength and control.
I hope that if you have received this program you are off traveling the world somewhere epic and scoring many tubes. This program is an introduction to a few of the many techniques I teach when I am home in LA and I hope it serves you well for years to come. If you have found any of this information useful, please share it with friends, give me feedback and tag me on your socials if you decide to post it.
Stay in touch, move well, be well and I’ll be sure to keep you updated with more programs as I continue to create them in the future.