Windsurfing Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Windsurfing stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with windsurfing injuries for good.
by Brad Walker | First Published February 22, 2009 | Updated August 12, 2017
Windsurfing has a history of dispute. In 1948, Newman and Naomi Darby invented a “free sail” attached to a surf board. They started making and selling their “sail boards” in 1964. The idea did not take off and the business was folded within a few years.
In 1968, Jim Drake, a sailor and Hoyle Schweitzer, a surfer combined their sports to start a new hybrid sport called Windsurfing. They applied for patents for their new design and started Windsurfing International. These patents led to many court cases.
The rigging for the sail was attached to the board with a universal joint which allowed free movement of the sail. Steering could be accomplished without the use of a rudder. The same basic design is in use till date.
By the 1970’s, windsurfing had taken hold in Europe. Recreational surfing saw periods of growth and decline in the next two decades. Off late, both, light-wind windsurfing and cruising for beginners and recreational surfers as well as high-wind and wave-sailing for the adventurous have gained popularity. The board style varies for the two types of windsurfing.
Windsurfing can be enjoyed by people of all shapes and sizes, but a basic level of conditioning is important. Windsurfers should be able to swim in rough surf and be able to support themselves on the board while holding the rigging in place.
Lower body and core strength are important for the balance needed for windsurfing. Upper body strength is also important for controlling the sail in steering. Cardiovascular conditioning and muscular endurance are essential for successful windsurfing.
Windsurfing requires the use of the following major muscles:
- The muscles of the upper legs and hips; the gluteals, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps.
- The muscles of the lower leg; the gastrocnemius, the soleus and the anterior tibialis.
- The core muscles; the rectus abdominus, obliques, and the spinal erectors.
- The muscles of the shoulder girdle; the latissimus dorsi, the teres major, and the deltoids.
A solid strength and conditioning program, as well as a good stretching routine, will help the windsurfer stay on top and keep clear sailing ahead.
Most Common Windsurfing Injuries
As with any water sport, drowning is always a concern. Along with this possibility, the faster moving high-wind windsurfing can result in other water related injuries such as aspiration of water and eardrum ruptures. Traumatic injuries make up the majority of windsurfing injuries, although chronic injuries may still occur.
Windsurfing, when proper safety equipment is used, is relatively safe, but injuries do occur. Some common injuries associated with windsurfing are ankle sprains, shoulder dislocation, Lisfranc fracture dislocation, and lower back pain.
- Ankle Sprains: Since the foot is fixed in straps on the board, falls from the board can result in ankle sprains due to violent twisting of the foot. When the ankle is rotated beyond its normal range of motion the ligaments become stretched and torn. This leads to inflammation and swelling in the joint, pain and tenderness over the ligament, and pain with weight bearing. Sprains may occur on either side of the ankle and in a high or low position depending on the rotational direction and movement of the foot. Ice, immobilization, and elevation may relieve some of the pain. An x-ray may be required to rule out a fracture, especially when a large amount of swelling is present. Recovery time ranges from 4 to 6 weeks in most cases.
- Shoulder dislocation: Holding the rigging while falling may put the shoulder in a weak position and may result in a dislocation. The humerus drops out of its normal position in the shoulder joint, stretching and tearing the ligaments and tendons. If the shoulder remains out of position it can cause long term damage. Subsequent dislocations occur easier due to the stretched ligaments. Most dislocations can be reduced non-surgically, although they do still require medical attention. Ice, immobilization of the arm, and removal from the activity are important initial steps in the treatment of a shoulder dislocation. Recovery time varies depending on the ligament involvement, from 4 weeks to as many as 8 weeks or more for return to normal activity.
- Lisfranc Fracture Dislocation: The Lisfranc joint, the tarsometarsal joint, was named for a field surgeon in Napoleon’s army who first identified this joint as an amputation option. The injury with the same name has little to do with amputation, but it does involve this same joint. This fracture, or dislocation, occurs when the foot gets caught in the strap on the board and the bones in the mid-foot become dislocated, with possible associated fracture of the metatarsals. Due to the weight bearing set-up of the foot this injury can be very debilitating, reducing the ability of the foot to distribute the weight effectively. Pain, tenderness, swelling, deformity, and inability to bear weight may all accompany this injury. Ice, compression, support, and elevation are all initial steps in treating a Lisfranc fracture dislocation. An x-ray may be required to determine the extent of the injury. As with any dislocation or fracture, the amount of soft tissue and bone involvement will determine the length of recovery time.
- Lower Back Pain: The prolonged lumbar lordosis position assumed by windsurfers as they grip the rigging, especially in low-wind surfing and cruising can lead to chronic lower back pain. The muscles become tight and put stress on the vertebrae they are attached to, causing pain. Stretching and frequent breaks will help alleviate this pain.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Proper equipment, good overall conditioning, and lessons to learn the sport before starting are all important preventative measures that should be practiced by all windsurfers.
- Use of personal flotation devices and practice swimming in different surf conditions will help prevent drowning and near-drowning injuries.
- Frequent breaks and changing positions during long periods of windsurfing will help prevent the muscles from becoming tight and causing pain.
- A good overall conditioning program to strengthen the muscles to protect the joints will also help prevent many of the traumatic injuries.
- Proper sizing of the equipment for the activity and making sure the foot can release easily from the strap will also prevent some of the lower extremity injuries.
- A solid overall stretching routine, with extra work for the lower back and hamstrings, will also help the windsurfer avoid many of the injuries incurred during their activity.
The Top 3 Windsurfing Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for windsurfing; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Reaching-up Shoulder Stretch: Place one hand behind your back and then reach up between your shoulder blades.
Rotating Stomach Stretch: Lie face down and bring your hands close to your shoulders. Keep your hips on the ground, look forward and rise up by straightening your arms. The slowly bend one arm and rotate that shoulder towards the ground.
Kneeling Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.
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About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.