words: Matt Griggs
Out of all the themes that come together to complete the jigsaw puzzle of surfi ng, power is perhaps the most prized piece. It oozes integrity and commands authority: it is applicable in any condition and relevant to any generation, past, present and future. It looks good and it feels good, but to get it takes some practice.
“Power is mainly technique,” even Tommy Carroll admits. That’s where we need to start. Without a good technique, your power will be prone to inconsistency and error. So we need to get the base right. Before we get specific with the action, we need to be really specific with exactly what power is: Think of power as the coming together of maximum speed, critical positioning and being able to hold a turn through this at maximum intensity with control. That’s a lot of adjectives so try and visualise what it looks and feels like. Power doesn’t look as good if you fi nish the turn sliding. Power is also undervalued the further out on the face you go. So practice the technique first. Put yourself into critical positions with as much speed as possible and try and control your board through different lengths and angles of turns. Play with it – get out of your normal way to surf and experiment. Good technique means lowering your centre of gravity, opening up your shoulders and rotating through the entirety of the turn. Don’t be scared to fall, don’t be scared to look like a kook. You will learn more from falling and if you’re not falling, you’re not getting far enough away from your comfort zone.
Once you start mastering this, add a little power each time. This means not only more pressure, but more body torque, which is essentially where power comes from. The more body torque you get, the more power you can apply. Coil your body for a massive rotation. Think of a tennis shot, the more back-swing and follow through, the more power. Likewise surfi ng: come from a really low position into full extension. This is where you get extra power. Think Mick Fanning, Taylor Knox and Occy. Think of their coil, that’s technical power. But there’s one more element…
Pancho Sullivan is the most powerful man in surfing. There is no argument. He has all the elements in his favour: technique, positioning, equipment… and size. At around 100kg, he moves water like a bulldozer would soil. He is also freakishly strong, even for his size. There are different ways to train for extra power. The best is in the surf because it is specific. The training you will do in the gym will give you more potential for power, that is all, the same way Pancho’s size gives him extra potential for power, but it is his technique that covers 80% of it. You need to achieve it in the water first and foremost. So we need to get specific with what you do in the gym as well. Because surfing is on an unstable surface, it is pointless to do static exercises. You need to enlist and exercise ball and do multi directional lunges (if your body is stable enough to do such exercises). Build your glutes, build your quads, teach them to work in conjunction with your core (Transverse abdominals), then apply it to the surf and what you are trying to achieve.
The other consideration is equipment. Pancho might be built like a brick shithouse, but it is no accident he is the world’s most powerful surfer. He has built his technique, equipment and focus around it. “I want to know I can trust my board when I turn my hardest, so I use bigger fins and rounded pins for anything with a bit of power because it gives me more control. I don’t mind losing a little speed. I don’t need to surf as fast as Mick or Taj, but when I get a section, I know I’ll be turning harder!” That’s integrity, that’s power. It looks good and it feels good. It’s applicable to every generation and it’s waiting for you.