The Simple Way to Better Surfing
By Matt Griggs
Why do you surf? Take a minute to answer this properly. You are now half way to improving because you know what your driving force is.
Now, what do you want out of reading this? You now have purpose, something you should paddle out with every day.
Now, ponder these few notes: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Now you have a catalyst for inspiration.
But before your brain explodes, the above are merely just tools to awaken the inspiration in you. It’s natural that everyone wants to improve at whatever it is that we do, but you have to know where that improvement is coming from. Read on…
It’s a daunting subject and I usually steer clear of head doctors and sports shrinks, because I believe more in action – and not confusing you with in depth analysis of your inner athlete or whatever bullshit we can come up with to justify the pay packets of these sports stars. Firstly, you are not an athlete, you are a surfer! But the brain is just another muscle – and if you get specifi c with it’s use and learn how to train it as such, it has many benefits. Here are a few tools:
If we talked and tinkered with the technicalities of surfing, we could fill a book, right? Now, just imagine I gave you five instructions to remember before you paddle out (for example: rotate your shoulders more, lower your centre of gravity, deepen your bottom turns, read the wave right…). You’re so confused that you’ll probably wax the bottom of your board and paddle out backwards. My point being, you’ll fall off every wave. Surfing is a feel, not a thought. Like driving a manual, you don’t concentrate on the gear stick, the brakes, the clutch and the accelerator all at once, because you have the feel for it now. It happens way too quickly to think it as it happens. So pick a theme that inspires you and narrow your focus: speed, power, timing… just pick one, and what you’ll find is, that if you get that right, everything else usually revolves around that anyway. Trust your instincts! The year Tom Curren won his third world title, every surf he had that year was no longer than 30 minutes, the same as a heat time.
The biggest problem here is people always pick the hardest goals when it comes to improving. If I asked you what was the easiest way you could improve, what would it be? What could you do that’s easy that you KNOW will make you surf better? It may be making sure you always have wax job, or you concentrate on reading the wave right… or surf at least once a day…You then chip away at them and change them when you need to. You work out how you can improve and you turn it straight into action. “I just go into a heat with one goal usually," says Mick Fanning. “It might be as simple as making sure I complete my waves."
You Will Fail
Don’t be scared of what you look like. Don’t be scared of falling off, don’t be scared of taking that wave that you last pulled back on, don’t be scared to fail. Failure is part of the terrain to improvement. Embrace and confront the fear and know that you will fail at some stage, but if you keep hitting that lip, you will soon get the better of it. You learn fear as much as you learn not to fear. The choice is yours. “The best barrels you get are always the ones you think you’re not going to make," says Dean Morrison. This applies to every turn.
Again, there are so many things you can do to get fit and strong, but out of those things, what is going to make you a better surfer? For example, riding a bike will make you fit and strong… for riding a bike, but not necessarily surfing. When you break it down, surfing is an explosive sport. A wave, unless you’re from J-Bay or Chicama, generally only goes for around 10-15 seconds. So you train with the end in mind. Like the head stuff, it’s all about simplifying and being specific – and knowing what you are doing is working. Core stability exercises are the way forward. The body works more powerfully and efficiently when all the muscles are balanced and switched on, so core stability, yoga, Pilates are all great things to do.
Warm-up is exactly what it suggests. If you stretch your muscles for the usual 30 seconds, you will lengthen them, but you will also relax them and put them to sleep, so you stretch after, or at night when you’re watching TV. I know it’s easier to stretch the muscles that are flexible and strengthen the muscles that are already strong, but remember we are trying to get balanced strength here to prevent injury and maximise performance.
Before you surf, do a warm-up routine to prepare your muscles for the explosive act of surfing. It may be as simple as running down the beach, but that simple act will stop your muscles ripping in half. If you do the little things right, bigger things will happen!
Keep your body balanced. There are some muscles that are weak and loose and some that are strong and tight. The body naturally takes the path of least resistance, favouring the stronger muscle groups. This doesn’t mean it is correct. While one muscle gradually gets stronger and stronger, the other might weaken, causing an inbalance – and then, injury. Injuries aren’t freak occurrences, they are due to inbalances in the body and a lack of stability strength to take whatever load you are putting on it. So do your yoga, your core stability with someone that is well informed and inspiring to be around, get a surf buddy to do it with, know what you want to achieve – then go do it. Oh – and one more thing: enjoy. A happy surfer is a better surfer.
When Griggsy’s not writing articles for SE or blogging for us, he’s travelling around the world as Rip Curl’s WCT pit-boss training Mick Fanning to bring the World Title back to Australia.