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surf fitness

Why January has been pretty epic

By January 31, 2017 Thoughts
Cornwall palm trees

I usually hate January. It’s so depressing and the weather’s usually varying shades of grey with lots of rain and wind thrown in the mix. I’ve usually failed on all my resolutions by the second week and spend the rest of the month beating myself up.

This one’s been a bit different. Whilst I’m not all smug and saying I’m smashing it (because let’s face it I’m human and everyone has off days), my determination to look after myself more in 2017 has primarily kept me on track.

Here’s a few things that’s helped to keep me motivated and made January pretty awesome…

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6 surf resolutions for 2016

By January 2, 2016 Surf more, Thoughts

wallpaper-new-2016-Sear-Sand

I’m usually pretty focussed when it comes to making new year’s resolutions but looking back over this year’s list, it seemed a bit woolly and lacked direction as to how I’m going to achieve them.

The biggest goals relate to improving my surfing, so with that in mind, here are 6 resolutions that will help me progress:

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Kook’s guide to surf fitness

By April 19, 2015 Surf more
Image courtesy of Thomas Tolkein via Flickr (CC BY)

Image courtesy of Thomas Tolkein via Flickr (CC BY)

Do a Google search on surf fitness and you will get all kinds of advice on exercise that you can do to improve your surfing – everything from yoga, swimming, strength training, pilates, cardiovascular exercise, plyometrics, balance training…and the list goes on.

I’m exhausted just thinking about that lot and, if you are anything like I was when I embarked on project surf fit, you will probably feel overwhelmed and wonder where to start.

Plus, there’s only so many days in the week and unless you are prepared to eat, sleep, gym repeat, or you’re a pro surfer on the world tour, you can’t and probably don’t want to try and fit that lot in.

I have seen so many threads on discussions groups about what exercises are best for surfing. I think that’s a very open ended question because I think it depends on what level you are currently at with your surfing (and fitness!) and what you want to achieve, which is the best to place to start.

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Day trippin’

By March 18, 2015 Escape
Day trip to Saunton

Day trip to Saunton

Despite living 195 miles away from my favourite surf spot, its totally possible to make it there and back in a day. It’s an early start, a lot of driving and tiring, but so worth it and ideal for taking advantage of ideal conditions at the last minute.

So last week, when the North Devon surf forecast showed 3-4ft and light offshore winds for Saturday, it was the perfect opportunity for a spontaneous day trip!

After a 3 and a half hour journey (which included the essential McDonalds surf trip breakfast!), we arrived in Braunton for a pre-surf mooch in the shops. Ever since I had a go on @fredrickparkes longboard last year, and particularly with Corinne Evans’ recent advice about getting one to help with my pop-up, I wanted to get some advice.

First stop was Surfed Out which has a reputation for providing honest and excellent advice. Owner Glen, a longboarder himself advised me, for my height and weight, to try a performance longboard – not as wide as a typical log but still stable enough to catch anything, turn and trim. Lucky for me, Glen had a demo board – a 9′ Cross pintail beauty with single fin and side bites – which he let me borrow to have a go: ideal!

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Sweet spot

By February 24, 2015 Escape
Post surf in the Kingsurf shed - one of the best surfs I have ever had!

Post surf in the Kingsurf shed – one of the best surfs I have ever had!

One of the most frustrating things to happen to a landlocked surfer is planning a trip, weeks or even months in advance and then coming home empty handed – usually because it’s either flat or completely blown out which occurs quite often during the UK winter months.

Odds against

Last week, in the days leading up to our weekend surf trip to Cornwall, I watched the surf and weather reports like a hawk and was gutted to discover that the largest spring tide to hit the county in 20 years was fast approaching. Coupled with very strong onshore winds, it was looking unlikely that I would be able to surf.

My objective was try and pop-up. I have been working really hard on my upper body strength and I have been doing some surf specific plyometric exercises to help improve my muscle memory. I wasn’t fussy about green waves – I just needed some safe white water to practise.

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Live like Sally

By February 1, 2015 Love

Sally

I love finding out about the pro surfers, especially the females – how they got into surfing, what keeps them motivated and with my increased interest in surf fitness, how they keep themselves in top form.

When I found out about Sally Fitzgibbons’ new book, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! It’s not available yet in the UK so I had it shipped from Australia, signed by the lady herself!

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Project surf fit update

By December 21, 2014 Surf more
Project surf fit...it's on!

Project surf fit…it’s on!

Back in October, I was feeling a bit out of sorts with the fitness or, at the time, lack of it, and decided to get project surf fit up and running again. My shoulder was mended so I really had no excuse…I just needed a kick up the backside and a structured plan.

For the past 6 weeks I have been working with a trainer at my local gym. It’s been fun, challenging, emotional and bloody hard work but 100% per cent worth it!

Sport-specific training

From the initial consultation with Kathryn, I knew I had chosen the right person to train me and I felt as though we were on the same wavelength. She specialises in sport-specific programmes and straight away talked about all the things that would help me to work towards my goal of being able to pop-up, have enough stamina to last in the sea, improve my balance and my overall fitness levels. We have also looked at diet and eating the right kind of foods to support my training.

Getting down to work

I wasn’t prepared for how hard I have found it but working with a trainer is exactly what I need to help really push and challenge me. After the initial session in the gym, it was apparent that a couple of spin classes a week had barely scratched the surface in terms of stamina, my upper body was weak and my balance, which I thought was decent needed work. A simple test of not being able to get on a swiss ball and balance for more than a second made this glaringly obvious!

My programme is a mixture of strength, cardio and my least favourite, (my most challenging and weakest area) plyometrics or ‘jump training.’ This will help with the explosive movements needed to pop up on my board – burpees, jump squats and lunges and mountain climbers.

I aim to go the gym five times a week and alternate a strength session with a cardio/plyo. My programme looks something like this:

My training programme - a mixture of strength, plyo and cardio

My training programme – a mixture of strength, plyo and cardio

Progress

Its real baby steps with the plyo exercises as it’s my biggest area of weakness but Im seeing real improvements in other areas I can run faster on the treadmill, I have upped my leg weights and I can now get on the swiss ball unaided and balance for almost 4 minutes! I am also seeing some physical changes – I have more muscle definition, my arms have shrunk and I have more energy. I feel strong and determined to succeed.

“This year, I’ve learned and realized how hard I need to work. I’m just realizing that in surfing and in life it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Lakey Peterson

But I’m keeping pro surfer Lakey Peterson’s words firmly in my mind and recognise that this is all going to take time, a lot of patience and a whole heap of motivation (with the help of Kathryn!). I want this enough to not give up and whilst I’m not going to put any pressure on myself, my goals of being able to pop up and ride a shorter board are always going to be at the forefront!

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Plateau

By November 5, 2014 Uncategorized
Dawn patrol - some nice lines at Saunton on day one

Dawn patrol – some nice lines at Saunton on day one

Last week I spent 5 days in North Devon. It had been 6 weeks since my last surf so I was looking forward to an intensive few days of surfing.

Studying the tide times in advance, and taking the local ‘Eyeball’ surf report into account, we got up early each day to catch the mid to high pushing tide at our favoured break of Saunton. Here’s how it went:

Surf session one

Waxing the boards for session one

Waxing the boards for session one

We left the caravan at dark ‘o’ clock and watched the sunrise as we waxed our boards. We were amongst the first few in the sea and were greeted with about 3ft waves, fairly strong cross onshore winds which made things a bit messy. I missed the first couple of waves and thought I was in for a howler but I found my rhythm and got some nice long rides. The sets were coming through consistently and there wasn’t much time in between waves.

A slight rip made me nervous, and although the waves were allegedly only 3ft, they seemed a lot bigger. I chickened out of trying for green waves and practised in the white water.

As the tiredness crept in (due to lack of sleep and lack of stamina), I noticed that I got slower and slower at getting to my feet.

Surf session two

Session two - time to try the new wetsuit, more about that soon!

Session two – time to try the new wetsuit, more about that soon!

2ft and fairly clean. I got a little more confidence back so went for the green waves. I caught a couple but because I’m still using my knees to get to my feet, which slows me down, it also causes a moment of almost ‘what do I do now oh my god I’m going to wipeout’ panic and so I freeze on my knees. The result is actually quite funny watching it back on my action cam. There’s a look of ‘oh shit’ on my face before going under.

Generally, a better surf than the previous day as I felt a bit more confident. Stand up ratio is 8/10 today but I look slow at getting to my feet and my paddling still needs a lot of work despite the fact that I now raise my chest off the board. Still tired due to a disturbed night and my lack of surf fitness (which I’m working on and will take time) really shows.

Surf session three

Post surf, session three. Was knackered at this point but still smiling!

Post surf, session three. Was knackered at this point but still smiling!

Early doors again and three surfs in a row is really catching up with me. I’m knackered! 1ft, clean and fun today and this is the best session out of the three and sods law, I decided not to bother with my action cam. My stand up feels a little bit quicker and its a 9/10 ratio but its still on my knees. It’s got to be a real habit now and maybe I’m using the lack of upper body strength as an excuse. It’s easy to get to my feet using knees and I guess I measure a successful session as to the number of waves I’m up on my feet and riding them all the way to the shore line.

What’s going on?

I had a great time during this trip but when I think about how I felt when I was riding those waves, and looking back on the footage since, I didn’t get that amazing feeling of stoke like I used to – the adrenalin rush at the thrill of catching the wave and the amazing pure bliss feeling.

I came to the conclusion that perhaps I have reached a bit of a plateau and that I need to challenge and push myself to the next level. To do this though, I have a few things I need to do:

  • Give myself credit. I put way too much pressure on myself to be a half decent surfer and don’t look back at just how far I have come this last year, despite injury and personal set backs. My stand up ratio has dramatically improved, my balance is better and although I still feel slow at getting to my feet, eye witnesses tell me that it is much quicker than it was before. I also have to bear in mind my surf instructor’s words back in August at how far I had come despite being landlocked. It’s an achievement I don’t give myself enough credit for.
  • Keep up the fitness. My stamina levels are still really low and if I want to make the most out of a session, I need to do all that I can in between surf trips
  • Keep motivated. Living miles away from the coast is hard, and I have questioned if all the fitness is worth it for the amount of times I surf in a year. I need to keep in my mind how knackered I feel after just an hour in the sea, and remember that shortboard that I would love to be able to ride and prove a few people wrong
  • Keep the faith. Stop thinking that I’m too old/past it/landlocked/should have done it years ago. I CAN and I WILL do this!
  • Work on my confidence. I hold myself back in the sea. I am still wary of it and the recent tragedy in Mawgan Porth really affected me. Maybe its time for another lesson to help build up my confidence and look at ways at which I can take my surfing to the next level.

I have got my third session with my trainer tonight. It’s cold and its dark, and I’d rather stay in and watch a surf movie. But watching Kelly Slater surf isn’t going to help me to improve.

Time for another kick up the ass!

 

A motivational kick up the backside

By October 12, 2014 Surf more

Recently, I have been lacking fitness motivation and I don’t know why. Maybe its because I have had so much going on and things have been a bit crazy. Or because I haven’t surfed for a few weeks, or because I am landlocked…and is all that effort worth it when I surf infrequently?

Maybe it’s because it’s getting cold and dark and I just can’t be bothered to haul myself to the gym. But that’s the worst excuse out of all them – I have got a surf trip in a couple of weeks, I should be fired up!

Maybe I just need to accept that I’m having a blip, stop beating myself up and put that energy into doing something about it.

Pro surfer Lakey Peterson getting some pre-heat tips from coach MIke Parsons. She gets de-motivated from time to time...doesnt she?

Pro surfer Lakey Peterson getting some pre-heat tips from coach Mike Parsons. She gets de-motivated from time to time…doesnt she?

I owe myself

Over the past week I spoke to a couple of surfers who are also feeling de-motivated for different reasons, so I’m not alone which made me feel better. Out of those conversations I learned that even those who live by the coast get de-motivated to surf and keep fit, and that my recent shoulder injury was still playing on my mind despite getting the all-clear a few weeks ago, and undoubtedly one of the reasons for my lack of motivation.

Surfabella gave me two good pieces of advice – 1) set some realistic goals and 2) you never regret a workout but you do regret skipping one. It took me back to last year at the height of my surf fitness. I hated missing gym sessions and felt so much stronger and more energised. And with the recent sudden death of my dad, and my mum’s partner passing away last year after a long illness, the reason for getting fit is not just for the surfing. I owe it to myself to look after my body, be healthy and be as fit and active as long as I can.

Asking for help

I work best with input from others, and tend to get overwhelmed when I try and put together a fitness plan myself. I have scoured the internet for hours finding all sorts of surf specific activities and exercises, but when it comes to mapping it into my week, I end up filling 7 days which is just not realistic or sensible. Plus there’s my swimming lessons to consider and my regular spin class.

So I fixed up a consultation with one of the personal trainers at my local gym and was stoked to learn that she could do sport specific programmes. She listened and completely understood the lack of motivation, the need for a kick up the backside, and what I wanted to achieve. We talked about strength, stamina and balance, all the essential ingredients for surf fitness and was excited when she discussed some very surf specific exercises. She will be helping me build my strength slowly post-injury, as well as looking at nutrition, and what foods to eat pre and post surf.

The impossible dream

During the consultation, I told her about another reason why I wanted to get fit and it was something I had pushed to the back of my mind because I thought it was impossible. I want to get surf fit to surf better, but more specifically, I want to be able to ride a shortboard. I loved riding that longboard earlier this year and the idea of catching loads of waves easily is great, but I struggle to carry my minimal down to the beach…so why would I want to trade that for something even bigger? I have also watched so much of the ASP tour this year and fallen in love with that side of surfing – the athletic manoeuvres of the cutbacks and snaps. I’m not saying I have designs on being able to do stuff like that but to come down quite significantly in board size would be amazing!

Two people have told me that because I am landlocked, I will never be able to achieve this as I don’t have enough regular exposure to the sea. And when someone tells me that I can’t do something, I will do everything in my power to prove them wrong.

Making a start

As the trainer says, it’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be a long road…a marathon instead of a sprint. But if I can do this, and prove to those two people that they said ‘can’t’ to the wrong person, I will be majorly stoked!

I have made a start, and did my first session last week followed by a swimming lesson the next day. I’m aching and have never felt so sore following a gym session. But it’s a start, and that start has created the spark of motivation that I needed. I’m fired up and ready to go, and I will share my progress here over the coming weeks!

 

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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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