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August, 2014

And breathe…

By August 26, 2014 Surf more
Front crawl via Simply Swim UK (CC BY SA)

Front crawl via Simply Swim UK (CC BY SA)

Not paddling enough is one of the most common mistakes amongst beginner surfers which results in missed waves. You know that feeling you get when the wave just rolls underneath your surfboard and passes you by? Or when you paddle and feel like you are wading through treacle?

I have known for a while that my paddling sucks and when I go for a wave, I don’t feel like I’m actually getting anywhere. A few people have commented on this and I have also been told that when I go for a wave, I don’t paddle with any conviction – in fact, I look almost like I don’t want to catch the wave.

Before I started surfing, I had never been in the sea. I was always very wary of it and never what you would call a natural water baby. I had swimming lessons at school, but was never taught how to breathe properly, and I hated putting my face in the water.

This nervousness has stayed with me which, coupled with my lack of power and paddling strength, is having an impact on my surfing.

So, I have been hitting my local swimming pool to build my confidence and to improve my paddling technique. To do this, I have been starting from scratch with front crawl which means learning how to breathe correctly. It’s something that’s not coming very easily. I’m fine when I’m hanging on to the side and practising putting my head in the water and breathing, but for some reason, when I start to swim, I panic and start coughing and spluttering.

Today though, I managed a length of the pool, without stopping halfway and swallowing a load of water. It’s a small step and its very early days but for me, a real achievement,

Swim fit kit including a float, noseplug and a power stroke chord

Swim fit kit including a float, noseplug and a power stroke chord

It’s an irrational panic of not being able to breathe, and explains why I hate wiping out in the sea, don’t like paddling out too far, and why I get nervous when I see a wave bigger than 2 ft approaching. But I’m determined to overcome it and get to a point where the stroke becomes second nature. From there, I can really start to pound and sprint lengths of the pool, which will improve my stamina and build power, ultimately helping me to paddle out in bigger swell, and mimick the explosive moves required to catch a wave and paddle with more conviction.

So, if you are like me and think your paddle power could do with some work, or you’re just not hugely confident in the water here are my top tips:

  • Get some swimming lessons – there are loads of classes out there for all levels of ability. A qualified instructor can evaluate your current technique and come up with a plan for how you can progress and help to build your confidence
  • Swim as often as you can – practise makes more perfect and the more often you swim, the more you you will improve your technique, paddle power and stamina. Its also by far the best exercise you can do as a surfer. If you are a bit self conscious or don’t like crowded pools, chose a quiet session, or time it so that you swim towards the end of a session when everyone else is generally getting out
  • Can’t get to the pool? – get yourself a power stroke chord. Available from around £25-£30, they are ideal for people who don’t get much pool exposure. This handy piece of kit allows you to mimick the stroke on dry land and build your upper body strength
  • Poor breathing technique? – try a nose plug. It will isolate your breathing allowing you to focus on just breathing through your mouth. Its also a good idea to practise your breathing at the side of the pool, then gradually introduce elements of the stroke before having a go at swimming a length
  • Combine your swimming with other cardiovascular exercise – this will improve your stamina in your pool
  • YouTube is a fantastic resource with lots of videos on front crawl technique, swim fitness drills and breathing techniques. Can be useful to look at before you get in the pool.
  • Keep calm and carry on! – panic doesn’t help and just exerts more energy. If you feel yourself needing a breather stop, get your breath back and compose yourself. It takes time so be patient and take it one step at a time.

Have you got any hints and tips for improving paddle power? Do you get nervous in the sea and don’t like being underwater? If so, how did you manage this? Get in touch, I would love to hear from you :)

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Stephanie in the Water

By August 17, 2014 Love
Steph Gilmore in the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach 2010.  Image by surfglassy via Flickr, CC BY SA

Steph Gilmore in the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach 2010. Image by surfglassy via Flickr, CC BY SA

Last night I watched the long-awaited documentary about five-time ASP world champion Stephanie Gilmore. I didn’t know a great deal about Steph before watching the film, so I was looking forward to getting an insight into her life on and off tour.

Spoiler alert – don’t read on if you’re planning on watching!

Stephanie in the Water’ charts Steph’s meteoric rise to success starting in 2007 when she won the world title on her rookie year aged just 17…and she didn’t stop there. Steph dominated women’s surfing for the next consecutive three years until a shocking event in 2011 called a halt to her winning streak.

I had no idea about what had happened to Steph, and was truly shocked to learn that she was attacked outside her home. As well as the psychological effect this must have had on her, it also unfortunately had an impact on her surfing and the 2011 world title passed to Carissa Moore.

What I liked about the documentary was the no-holds barred view, especially seeing Steph struggle to hand over the title to Carissa, looking downright peeved at a press conference and refusing to do yet another interview. Yet behind this is a determination to win no matter what, because winning is all Steph has known since the age of 17.

I didn’t enjoy the documentary as much as ‘From Zero to 100’ as I don’t think Steph’s personality came across as much as I expected. However, as it focussed on serious subject matters in parts, it was never going to show someone having heaps of fun.

There’s no doubt about it, Steph Gilmore is one hell of a determined lady and I admire her strength and fighting spirit. Her winning streak is far from over, and although I’m a die hard Lakey Peterson fan, I will be rooting for Steph to rival surf legend Layne Beachley’s 7 ASP world titles!

Stephanie in the Water is available to stream or download now!

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Back where I belong

By August 13, 2014 Escape

Last weekend, I travelled down to Cornwall for the annual Boardmasters surf competition and music festival. It was a great opportunity to see some live surf action, meet some new people, catch up with friends and of course go surfing! I was keen to find out if the steroid injection that I had to alleviate my shoulder problem had done the trick!

Paddle paddle!

Perran Sands (copyright Duncan Toms via Flickr - CC BY NC)

Perran Sands (copyright Duncan Toms via Flickr – CC BY NC)

I met up with Amy from Mellow Waves at Perran Sands – a 2-mile beach break which I had never surfed at before. I love heading to new spots, and despite a 200-foot descent to the beach, it’s a great beach for beginners, is uncrowded and produces some slow forgiving waves. It works at all stages of the tide and luckily, we were greeted with 2-3 ft clean waves – ideal conditions for my level of surfing!

Post surf with Amy from Mellow Waves!

Post surf with Amy from Mellow Waves!

I had a great time, caught some great waves and my shoulder gave me no hassle at all! It was obvious though, that despite me getting to my feet a lot quicker now than I have been, my paddling desperately needs some work! My doggy paddle style just doesn’t cut it and its partly down to wariness of the wave and partly wariness of aggravating my shoulder. I don’t get anywhere when I do paddle, I miss waves and all the upper body strength that I built up last year went out of the window with the shoulder injury. As Amy said, one of the common mistakes that beginners make is not paddling hard enough. This is something that I will be focussing on from now on and I have got some ideas on how to go about it – more on that later.


Kooking around post-surf

Kooking around post-surf

The trip also gave me the chance to hook up with Pete from Kingsurf. The last time I surfed with Pete was a year ago, the day I collected my brand new surfboard from Nigel Semmens. I was hoping that he would see some improvement since last year and give me some pointers for moving forward. We headed to Harlyn, a sheltered break which is ok for beginners but you need to catch it at the right stage of the tide (best at low to mid). The waves were small so we headed for Constantine Bay. A totally different story greeted us there – Constantine picks up a lot of swell so gets big and where Harlyn was producing 1-2 foot waves, Constantine was more like 3-4ft. Getting beyond the breaking waves was impossible and it was like paddling through treacle, but I managed to get a couple of nice waves! And, after getting some tips on how to make turns, I was able to tun the board both left and right…all on one wave!

Being landlocked hasn’t prevented me from me progressing with my surfing!

Pete gave me some really positive feedback and said I had progressed really well within a year, particularly with me being landlocked. He commented on my ability to stand up consistently,  especially on a fibreglass board given my limited time in the water, the fact that I was starting to work well on turns and move naturally with the wave. I was really stoked and just goes to show that being landlocked hasn’t prevented me from progressing with my surfing!

Back to reality…back to the gym!

It was an awesome weekend and has given me lots to think about. Now I’m back in landlockedsville, its time to get back in the gym and start building up my upper body strength, so here’s what I’m planning:

  • Get in the swimming pool – its the next best thing to getting in the sea to work on my paddling technique so lots of front crawl!
  • Use the hand bike – a great upper body workout
  • Get a Power Stroke chord – they are ideal for people who don’t get much time in the water
  • Stick with the spin classes – they are great for building up stamina and cv fitness
  • Get back to a core routine work on core strength and flexibility.

I have also got a surf specific fitness programme called Shit to Fit that I’m keen to try so lots to be getting on with!

Look out for my Boardmasters experience on the Surfing Sumo website, coming soon!


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Shoulder injury verdict

By August 5, 2014 Surf more
The verdict is in on my shoulder!

The verdict is in on my shoulder!

Yesterday I had an appointment with the consultant to try and get some answers about my ongoing shoulder injury. Its been better over the past couple of weeks but I decided to keep the appointment; at least so that I could push for an x-ray to see exactly what is going on.

After an initial chat. a few questions and a few tests to see how far I could reach up and extend my arm, I was sent for an x-ray…and that was where things got interesting….

It turns out that I don’t have a problem with the AC joint at all. The x-ray showed nothing out of the ordinary – the AC joint is sitting where it should…no sign of separation at all and no signs of arthritis. The consultant seemed to think that it could be a cartilage issue however this doesn’t show up on x-ray.

He gave me a steroid injection which he hopes will settle everything down and wants to see me again in 6 weeks. He has also cleared me to go surfing and to get back into gym…slowly but surely!

My shoulder is feeling a bit sore today which is to be expected after the injection but it should wear off within a couple of days.

It has taken 6 months to find out what is going on, and its a huge relief to finally get some answers! I wish I had got an x-ray sooner, instead of just taking myself off to physio, but as it didn’t seem too serious at the time, I thought I was doing the right thing.

Moral of the tale with any injury – get it checked out properly by getting an x-ray in the initial stages!

But now I can get my stoke on, cos its time to go surfing again! I’m off to the Boardmasters surfing and music festival later this week so look out for lots of pics, words and stoke!

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