When we get better at surfing, we get worse at everyday human movement. And as interest in surfing grows worldwide, more and more people are pursuing competitive surfing as a professional career. That, in turn, is pushing the sport to new levels of high performance. The final domino in this sequence is the strength and body maintenance programs that are now a vital part of many surfers’ lives.
Surfers need to be prepared for heavy waves, long paddles and spontaneous conditions. Although collisions and lacerations are the most common injuries obtained while surfing (Nathanson et al., 2002), the only safeguard is knowing what, where and when is the safest way to navigate their way around a lineup. Ligament sprains and muscle strains are the next most common types of injuries, with key areas being the shoulders and lower back. Other overused areas include the neck extensors, trunk rotators, trunk flexors, back extensors, shoulder internal rotators, shoulder flexors, hip flexors and pushing muscles of the chest. The best way to prevent these injuries is by increasing your active, usable mobility, which includes owning strength within a wide range of joint motion. With the progression of aerials, impact injuries are also becoming more common. Knee sprains, knee dislocations, ankle sprains and ankle fractures (Nathanson et al., 2002) are now common surf related injuries.
Dr. Andreo Spina, Functional Range Conditioning says “When we get better at sport, we get worse at being human.” Certain joints get loose and certain joints get stiff. To prevent injury in surfing we need to improve the load bearing capacity of our body’s tissues to a level beyond which they will be exposed to, maintaining the health of all our joints to optimize general movement and surf performance. Key joints requiring attention in surfing include the neck, shoulders, wrists, upper spine, lower back, hips, knees, and ankles.
At birth, we are given a huge amount of mobility, allowing us to place our toes in our mouth and fall to the floor without consequence. As we grow and develop particular movement habits, our bodies adapt and allow only the ranges of motion that our nervous system can control. Dancers and gymnasts train mobility from a young age and will maintain that mobility if practice continues into adulthood. The same person who played a little bit of sport as a kid and then retired to a desk for the majority of their adulthood will progressively lose that mobility. As the saying goes, use it or lose it. In this case, our bodies will eliminate the mobility that we do not consistently use.
Mobility is how you achieve the prerequisite for strength, power, and speed. But mobility is not the same as flexibility. “Flexibility is passive, useless, the range of motion for which you have no control,” says Dr. Spina. Meanwhile, mobility is the range of motion you have strength in and can control. Adding passive flexibility (without the strength to control those new…