Surfer stretching: What can you do to prepare for big waves?
Not so long ago, experts believed no matter what sport you participated in, you had to perform static stretches to prepare. Walk along any beach and surfers will be bending at the waist, reaching as far as they can or doing any number of surf stretches that keep them stationary to warm up muscles.
Of course, the science behind stretching has declared static movements to actually be detrimental to performance. Studies show that static stretching can reduce your maximum power when performing.
So, what does surf stretching entail? You can't just rock up to the beach, throw on your wetsuit and head out into the surf.
Glenn Phipps, an exercise physiologist who works with surfers and other athletes, feels that stretching can be beneficial. However, it truly depends on the person that is doing the activity. Phipps says that if you feel tightness in a certain muscle, it is best to use a static stretch in preparation.
There are a number of stretches surfers can do prior to going into the water and there are a variety of websites that explain great movements to help with injuries, pain and tightness.
But not all of those surfer stretches will benefit everyone. Perhaps one of the best things you can do as a surfer is to simply warm up the muscles and get the blood flowing before you get started. While static stretching has gone out the window for most sports and exercises, dynamic stretching has been embraced.
Surfer stretching can be designed around these kind of movements. In essence, dynamic stretching is stretching as you move around. So, to make the most of your surfer stretching try to do surfing movements and incorporate stretching to go along with it. This way you not only warm up, but you get your body prepared to surf.
One of the worst thing experts believe a person can do is to go through a general and generic stretching routine. You probably learned these at one time in school or playing organized sports. These type of stretches just don't work for surfing or any other sport for that matter. Athletes need to complete stretches that are specifically targeted to a muscle or muscle group.
Static stretches have also been cited for injuries when athletes haven't properly warmed up their bodies. Phipps suggests doing a light warm up, such as jogging on the beach to loosen up and get the blood flowing. Once you have completed a jog to limber up, you should get into the water with your surf board and paddle around. This gets the muscles ready to do some of the similar movements you will do once you begin your surf session.
Only stretch muscles statically if you need to loosen up further. That way you aren't working muscles improperly.
Surfer stretching can be simple and it can lead to you feeling injury-free. However, you need to know what is best for your muscles while doing surfer stretches. Be dynamic, not static, and your body will feel like the first time you ever caught waves.
Picture by Christopher Brown.