What the f#ck does _____ got to do with surfing?

Ever wondered why your surf hero is straddling a two wheeled death horse, flexing for group Insty pics in martial arts get up, trying to be a musician, or mincing about in plus fours?
So have we!

Ricardo Arona (on top) Photo: Timo


WHAT IS IT? Based on the principles of Judo, Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) was style adapted by the Brazilian Gracie family and promotes the theory that small dudes can successfully defend themselves against much bigger dudes, by taking the fight to the ground and then using joint-locks and choke holds to force the opposition into submission. The sport first came to world wide attention in the early ‘90s when Royce Gracie won a succession of Ultimate Fighting Championships using BJJ. Despite being significantly smaller than his opponents, having a rather silly name and his opponents using traditional techniques like kick boxing, karate and wrestling to try to rip his head off, Gracie came out on top, BJJ was taken up by most of the MMA fighters and its popularity spread around the world.

WTF HAS IT GOT TO DO WITH SURFING? At first glance you’d think that two grown men rolling around, indoors, on a soft mat, grappling with each other’s nether regions has fuck all to do with surfing. And yet the surfing community was one of the first tribe to really take to BJJ and, literally, roll with it. This was helped that the Gracie family relocated to California and were keen surfers and so helped to introduce the sport to the coast. High profile surfers also hopped on board and it quickly became one of the key training programs for many surfers. Fans say it is more a way of life, one that boosts physical fitness and helps build character, so a bit like surfing. Sort of.

WHO DOES IT? Kelly Slater and Joel Tudor are probably BJJ’s highest profile exponents. Tudor is a Black Belt under Carlson Gracie and has won numerous titles. Slater was also introduced to BJJ by the Gracie family and there is footage of him grabbing the testicles of former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort and world jiu jitsu champion BJ Penn. In Europe, Yannick Beven, brother of pro surfer Patrick, has tutored the French and Jeremy Flores’ instagram account is full of smug pictures of sweaty smiles. In Oz, Bra Boys and big wave maniacs Mark Mathews, Rich Vass and Koby Abberton all use BJJ to ride massive slabs and shake down local businessmen.

WHAT’S RIGHT? “Good martial artists use the most efficient moves for getting the body to produce more energy. In surfing you have to master the same things – base, balance on your feet, the act of turning, bend and extend your legs. I love watching two guys fighting. It’s like human chess,” Slater told the New York Times.

WHAT’S WRONG? Skin diseases like herpes, ringworm, staph and impetigo. Those aside, some surfers find that having someone incapacitating you in a front mount, scarf hold or knees to the stomach is about as far away from riding a wave as Kelly is from a haircut.


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