Strength training is almost the antitheses of surfing. Not only does surfing require an athletic dynamism seldom called for in strength training, if you want to surf, you will need to be good at dealing with huge amounts of variability. The weather conditions are constantly changing and the swell, tide and wind all have an impact on your playing field. With strength training, the only variables are your energy levels and your mindset (bar injury). It’s not accidental that I love strength training. My personality is very well suited to it in many ways. I love to know what I’ll be doing in 12 weeks time, I like to make measureable progress and I bloody love a good excel spreadsheet! This is partly why I’m learning to surf though, I’m trying to learn to go with the flow (and challenge myself more outside of the gym). Along the way, I’m finding lots of similarities and carry over. There are many things that learning to surf can teach you about lifting. Here’s some of them;
In surfing, you need to move out into the water with purpose and aggression. If you are meek, if you approach the waves passively, you will get pinned and you will end up with your face polished on the grains of sand on the bottom of the ocean. Aggression is an essential part of successful lifting. This doesn’t mean that you have to stomp around and beat your chest and carry on like a Neanderthal…but you do have to step up to the bar with purpose. You have to ready your body for a physiological assault. You have to be ready to resist the weight. You have to be ready to attack the lift.
2. Set up is everything
Good technique starts with your set up. Your foot (and hand) position must be considered and practiced. You need to get this down pat. In surfing and powerlifting alike, this is trained through constant repetition, so make sure that you are not wasting your time ingraining bad habits. If you want to revisit this I can’t think of a better instructional than this video by Chris Duffin (for squat).
3. Balance = Power.
You need to surf and lift with balanced and even pressure through your feet, concentrating on the three points of contact - Your weight and power spread with even pressure from your big toe, to your little toe to your heel.
More information, better, here…
4. Tight hips.
If you’re like me and have the hips of a monk who has been sitting cross-legged in an icy cold cave for a trillion years, you need to sort that shit out before you get stuck into surfing or lifting. Do a little bit of foam rolling, sit on a ball. Activate your glutes, get some dynamic work in. Turkish get ups are my go to but play around and find something that works for you.
5. Time in the water/ Time under the bar
Improvement will come with time. Getting better at surfing and lifting is not about any one huge effort – it’s about focused, consistent effort over time. Body in water time/ time under the bar. Progress is never going to be about how much you do in any one burst of inspiration. It’s about how much you do day after day, when things aren’t going your way and you just want to give up, go home (and eat ice cream maybe).
6. “Don’t compare your chapter 3 with her chapter 7”- Venecia Bachee.
Don’t be intimidated by people who are more experienced than you are. We are all on our own path and will make progress in our own time. Being in the ocean or the gym full of experienced surfers/lifters can certainly make you feel insecure about your own abilities but you’re wasting your time being intimidated when you could be working hard and progressing.
7. Gym cliques are shite.
There is nothing more off putting than someone who behaves like queen of the land. I’m thinking Rizzo from Grease. You’re cool, I get it, I don’t want to be your best friend, or to shag your boyfriend. I’m just here to surf/train. Most experienced surfers/lifters operate under the ethos of collaboration and not competition. We are in this together. Shared passion, shared goals. Don’t make the mistake of getting competitive when someone is just trying to help or learn from you.
“Territoriality is for amateurs. Arrogance is for amateurs. Grandiosity is for amateurs. You can be the best (surfer) out there and still be an amateur. Whatever you're trying to do, be a pro. Show up. Do your work. Help others who don't know as much as you. Be helped by people know more. If you find yourself getting arrogant, check it.”
- Elana Miller, M
8. Don’t take shortcuts.
In surfing if you try to take a short cut to “get out the back” you will find yourself smack bang in the path of the breaking waves (see previous “face ground on the bottom of the ocean” reference). Respond to the conditions. How do you feel? Warm up, activate and get to your working sets in the time it takes for THAT DAY.
Longer term, it’s still applicable. There are no actual shortcuts to getting strong. Small increases over the long haul = really strong + not broken.
9. It’s meant to be fun, but it doesn’t have to be fun every day!
I’ve learnt that time spent in the water, even if you don’t catch any waves is time well spent. Huey the surf god will reward you next time. There is an underlying belief that things will go well and waves will come for you if you put in the time.
You will have bad days, you will have days when it feels like you are going backwards but you can teach yourself to find enjoyment in the challenge however frustrating progress may feel at times. Try to find something to feel positive about each time you lift. It could be small improvements on activation, tightness, approach or even mindset. It could be your ability to stay mentally focused on each lift.
Go with the flow and trust the process
10. The best teacher is someone who wants to get rid of you.
The best teachers are people who help you to learn to think for yourself. There are no secrets to strength, just lots of different approaches. Your coach should help you find what’s the best way for you to make progress with your goals. The coaching relationship should support a learning process and you can be actively involved in your own training with an end goal of making decisions for yourself.
I know that I will feel an enormous sense of satisfaction when I make the decision to go out into the surf on my own with confidence.
What about you? Do you surf and strength train? How do the two compare and fit into your week?
Next week avid surfer and Senior Strength and Conditioning coach for ESS Performance, Ryan Bailey will be taking us through his pick of the 5 best assistance moves for improved surfing.
Thanks Raylee for being our super-awesome surfing model xx