Total Fitness for Surfing Part 2
Taking off on the wave requires fast paddling, timing, balance and wave knowledge. Riding the wave requires balance and, on long rides, leg endurance. Doing moves such as cutbacks, off the lips, etc requires coordination, skill and strength and flexibility, especially in the back, abdominals and legs.
Surviving a wipe-out requires the ability to hold your breath, presence of mind to find your way to the surface (blow bubbles and follow the bubbles) and to avoid panic. Strong muscles and good flexibility helps in avoiding injuries during wipeouts or collisions with other surfers.
Endurance is an important fitness parameter in surfing for a number of reasons. The first reason is to have enough endurance to paddle out to the line-up. Once you reach the line-up, if you are short of breath you will not have sufficient energy to have enough paddling speed to take-off on the wave. That can leave you too far inside to be able to paddle outside and make it over the next wave in the set. That is especially true if the next wave in the set is larger than the one you missed.
It can be argued that being tired is the price you have to pay to get back in shape. However, if your local spot has long waits between sets and doesn’t require a long paddle to reach the surf zone, then you will not develop much endurance paddling out 50-100 yards and waiting 10-15 minutes between rides. Most of your time is spent sitting on the board.
If you go to another break that has surf that is more consistent and/or a longer paddle to reach the surf zone, you will not have sufficient endurance to ride there unless you have done other conditioning to prepare. The same will occur during a large swell at your home break, or if a change in the sandbar conditions cause the waves to break farther out from shore.
Being out of breath also leaves you more subject to panic, the biggest killer in the water. In addition, you will not have sufficient ability to hold your breath when “porpoising” under waves or after wiping out. Every surfer goes through the “spin cycle” sometime. The ability to hold your breath, think clearly and find your way to the surface determines if you will survive.
Having confidence in your abilities is the aspect of the mental side of surfing that is essential to survival. That is improved when you are well conditioned and know it.
The best way to develop surfing specific endurance is to do endurance exercise that uses the same muscles in the same way. One way is to do long-distance paddling on days with small or no surf or at a lake or river to develop endurance. If board paddling is inconvenient, swim instead.