For surfing, as with for any physical activity, an appropriate level of mobility is key in order to maximise performance, make improvements, and practice regularly without being encumbered by injury.
What is Mobility?
Mobility is the ability to apply strength across the entire range of motion. All too frequently when training, people will focus on strength or flexibility – often one at some expense to the other. Mobility is flexibility with strength, and is the ideal focus for surfers looking to optimise their performance in the water or retain a level of surf-fitness during periods away from the ocean.
Surf Simply’s Mobility Programme
During their stay at the Surf Simply coaching resort in Costa Rica, guests partake in a mobility programme carefully designed to complement the practical surfing part of their week. This module has been developed and is led by Andreina Poletti, who is an experienced Surf Simply surf coach who also has two decades of yoga teaching behind her.
“As much as I love yoga and think it very complimentary for surfing, I also became interested in other movement modalities and fitness. In my work as a surf coach I had noticed how people benefited from stretching and also from more surf-oriented mobility stretches and drills to improve their surfing.”
To find out more about Surf Simply’s mobility programme and how it came to be, we sat down with Andreina to ask her some questions before asking her to share some of her best stretches for surfers with us.
The classes that we run at Surf Simply are different from a normal yoga class; I teach three different movement techniques that can be helpful in the surf coaching scenario. Our guests are very tired from working hard in the water, so some classes are just about passively stretching the body to recover from overworking the muscles, specifically the shoulders, arms, back and hips. I also incorporate some mobility work, for example, moving a shoulder joint in its full range of motion to maintain a healthy movement pattern. The hips get a lot of attention as well, as they are a muscle group that is so important in surfing and I notice that a lot of people find themselves to be tight there. These movements are tools for the guests to take away with them for the long term and to keep working on, as necessary. I also add in some foam rolling to relieve tired muscles in the short term as well as to help with improved mobility in the long term. We have also recently incorporated a conditioning class into our programme; coaches Jessie, Teale and I came up with a group of exercises that help with staying strong and mobile and that are very surf specific. It is a 30-40 min workout using only body weight, so is really accessible.
I like to include elements from different movement modalities such as yoga and kin stretch as well from mobility specialists and sports therapists. The program has been constantly evolving. I have been inspired by what I see guests wanting and needing during their week with us and I am constantly looking at videos online and taking different classes to get inspired. I am also curious about what professional surfers, dancers and other athletes are doing. We want to give our guests the best experience in everything that we offer them and I think that my classes give them tools to have and take home so that they can continue working on their bodies in order to surf better and for longer.
There isn’t one “most common” issue with mobility that I see amongst our guests. In truth, it’s difficult to generalize because mobility issues are case specific – factors that play a role include whether or not they surf regularly, what kind of work they do, if they work out a lot or not, any injuries they may have, and how sedentary their lives are. Some people need to work more on their strength than on mobility, and others on their mobility rather than their strength. If I had to generalize, then I’d say that I see a lot of tight hips that might affect the fluidity of the pop up, and a lot of shoulder issues that affect paddling efficiency.
My biggest piece of advice for surfers whose lifestyles, location, family or work commitments prevent them from surfing as often as they’d like is that staying healthy in your diet as well as keeping your body moving is super important. There has to be a balance of strength and mobility. Each person needs a different program, but the end goal is to be able to move freely and without pain whilst doing your chosen sport. There is a saying, “if you don’t move it, you lose it,” and I think that is so true. There are so many different types and combinations of movements required for surfing! It’s a dance… you need to be a strong paddler with stamina for long paddles, you need to be quick on your feet, able to compress, fluid in the movement of your hips, and able to rotate your torso. I recommend any movement class (animal flow, martial arts, Kinstretch, Ginastica Natural or any functional training), and swimming – both front and back stroke, to develop and maintain a balance of strength and mobility as well as paddle endurance.
Some Suggested Stretches for Surfers
This is stretching the outer hip muscles and at the same time strengthening the standing leg and working on balance. Arms can be kept by your sides or overhead. Make sure that your core is engaged and that your back is straight – the more you sit back on your bum, the bigger the stretch. Hold for 4 breaths, then switch legs.
High Lunge with Side Bend
This is a hip flexor stretch of the back leg, and strengthening of the front quad. Hold your right arm up and lean towards the side of your front (left) leg, keeping your chest up to open up the side body. Hold for 2-4 breaths and then switch legs.
This is a hip flexor stretch of the back leg. Keep your front knee over your front ankle. Keep your pelvis neutral, belly in and your chest up. Holding on to the back leg intensifies the stretch, but it’s not necessary. A variation would be to keep your back foot on the floor.
This is a front-of-the-shoulder supine stretch. Begin by laying down on your front and place your left arm straight out to the side from the shoulder, and bend your right leg to lean sideways. Move in and out of the stretch 3-4 times, each time staying static for a count of 4. Do not do this stretch if you experience any shoulder pain.