The 3 Best Stretches for Surfing
Improve your surfing and minimize injuries with 3 of the best surfing stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 14, 2010 | Updated May 2, 2019
Including surfing stretches in your surf training program can bring huge health and fitness benefits. The extensive use of specific muscles in this extreme sport can lead to overuse injuries, and regular surfing stretches will help to minimize the risk of these injuries.
Muscles used in Surfing
Surfing places a large emphasis on the core muscles, as well as the muscles of the arms, shoulders and back. The shoulders and triceps are used while paddling; hamstrings and quads help you to stand up; and the lower back muscles and obliques are used while turning.
In the upper back, the trapezius, rhomboids and latissimus dorsi muscles are used. Among the chest and shoulder muscles, the deltoids, rotator cuff muscles and the pectorals are involved. The core muscles, such as the rectus abdominus, obliques and the spinal erectors are involved.
Most Common Surfing Injuries
Surfing is a sport with many inherent dangers. Drowning is a major concern in heavy surf. The violent tossing and bouncing in the surf can lead to traumatic injuries to the body. Most injuries in surfing are traumatic in nature. Due to the reliance on weather and surf conditions, rest days are common; allowing for recovery and reducing overuse injuries. Aside from drowning, a surfer may also experience:
- Muscle bruises and contusions;
- Skull and facial fractures (usually the result of a forceful impact with a board or other hard object);
- Shoulder injuries, including separated shoulder, and shoulder subluxation or dislocation;
- Lower back strain;
- Knee injuries, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain, and meniscus tear; and
- Ankle sprain.
Injury Prevention Strategies
A conditioning program with focus on strengthening the core muscles for balance and flexibility training to reduce injuries will help the surfer stay on top.
- Always warm up and stretch before entering the water, as cold muscles are more prone to injury.
- Take time to cool-down and perform gentle stretches after surfing.
- Add cardiovascular training to help prevent fatigue and other overuse injuries.
- A solid weight training program with strengthening exercises for all of the muscles will help protect the bones and joints from the impacts and violent tossing involved when wiping out.
- A comprehensive set of surf stretches will increase overall flexibility and prepare the body for the many awkward positions it may end up in while rolling in the surf.
- Learning and practicing swimming skills in rough surf will also keep the surfer safe, as well as providing a base of overall conditioning.
- Avoid surfing alone or in unsupervised areas.
- Knowing the limits of your ability and avoiding surf that is too big or rough will help prevent a lot of injuries.
- Never dive into shallow water, as serious risk exists for disabling neck and back injuries.
- Proper equipment and clothing, including protective headgear, will also protect the surfer from many of the hidden dangers on the seas.
- Use of drugs and alcohol should be strictly avoided before surfing, as judgment, orientation and thermal regulation are all impaired with drug and alcohol consumption.
The Benefits of Surfing Stretches
Surfing trainers and surfers alike have emphasized the necessity and multiple benefits of proper surfing stretches. Some benefits of adding surf stretches to your training include improved body control and balance, which is a very important factor in surfing, and leads to improved body awareness, posture and coordination. Regularly stretching also reduces the risk of injury by improving range of motion, and also helps to reduce fatigue.
The 3 Best Surfing 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 of the best stretches for surfing; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Lying Knee Roll-over Lower Back Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.
Kneeling Hip and 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.
Kneeling Heel-down Lower Calf and Achilles Stretch: Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward.
Watch the Surfing Stretches video
Click on the play button below if you prefer to follow along to a 10 minute video of the best stretches for surfing.
These surfing stretches are best done after your surfing or surf training, as part of your cool down. They can also be done as a stand-alone stretching session to improve your surfing flexibility, but make sure you’re fully warmed up before starting the stretches.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, May 2). Surfing, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Dimmick, S. Gillett, M. Buchan, C. Sheehan, P. Franks, M. Ratchford, A. Porges, K. Day, R. Milne, T. Anderson, S. (2019). Prospective analysis of surfing and bodyboard injuries. Trauma, 1460408617753660.
- Jubbal, K. Chen, C. Costantini, T. Herrera, F. Dobke, M. Suliman, A. (2017). Analysis of surfing injuries presenting in the acute trauma setting. Annals of Plastic Surgery, 78(5), S233-S237.
- Everline, C. (2007). Shortboard performance surfing: A qualitative assessment of maneuvers and a sample periodized strength and conditioning program in and out of the water. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 29(3), 32.
- Coyne, J. Tran, T. Secomb, J. Lundgren, L. Farley, O. Newton, R. Sheppard, J. (2017). Maximal strength training improves surfboard sprint and endurance paddling performance in competitive and recreational surfers. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 31(1), 244-253.
- Kokkonen, J. Nelson, A. Eldredge, C. Winchester, J. (2007) Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(10), 1825-1831.
- Shellock, F, Prentice, W. (1985) Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4):267-78.
- Fradkin, A. Zazryn, T. Smoliga, J. (2010) Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1):140-8.
About the Author: Brad Walker 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 (author page) 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 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.