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The 10 Best Stretches for Surfing

Surfing may be a fun activity at the beach, but stretching is an essential element to preparing your body for the demands of surfing. Since mobility, stability, balance, and strength are all necessities to surf well, integrating stretches that specifically address the demands of surfing is paramount. 

What Muscles Are Used While Surfing?

Since surfing involves a lot of twisting and rotating, the muscles in your torso (abdominals, obliques, thoracic spine) and hips (glutes, hip flexors, groin) are used any time you are standing on your board. And because the waves provide an unstable surface, your foot and calf muscles are used to help stabilize your balance to keep you from falling off your board. 

Common Surfing Injuries

Spine, shoulder, and knee injuries are particularly common in surfing. 


Injuries to the knee such as sprained MCL, or more severe injuries such as torn ACL, happen because your body cannot accept the load required to ward off unfavorable positions. While some injuries, such as shoulder impingements, occur as a result of the unpredictability and force of waves, unconditioned muscles can also lead to injury. 


For example, your thoracic spine needs muscular endurance to withstand the impact of waves, and if your muscles are not prepared, it can lead to hyperextension in the lumbar spine and eventual chronic pain. 

How to Prevent Surfing Injuries

Preventing surfing injuries entails a comprehensive approach to body care. The physicality of surfing means you need to be proactive with strength training, and then a combination of foam rolling and stretching can help improve flexibility and stabilize muscular imbalances.


Listening to your body is also important to prevent major surfing injuries. Minor aches and bruises are expected when surfing, but you never want those minor aches to manifest into chronic injuries. And since stretching needs no equipment, listening to your body and implementing the right corrective stretches will keep you injury-free. 

Best Surfing Stretches

The best surfing stretches aim to target the sport-specific demands of surfing. These 10 stretches will target all muscle groups to help prevent injury and pain related to surfing. 

10. Cobra Pose

Dynamic back and chest stretches that help extend the thoracic spine are helpful to promote flexibility. With Cobra pose, you not only loosen up the thoracic spine, but also stretch your abdominals, obliques, and intercostal muscles.


Here are the steps:

  1. Lay prone on your stomach on your yoga mat.
  2. Next, place your forearms on the mat so elbows are directly underneath your shoulders. Lay hands face down onto the mat.
  3. After that, lift your chest and head up and pull your chest and chin forward and up while maintaining forearm contact with the ground. 
  4. Return to neutral position and then repeat 10x

 

9. Kneeling Hip and Quad Stretch

Your anterior front-side hip muscles (including your quadriceps) can be consistently tight, due to sitting for extended periods of time in a flexed, shortened position. The kneeling hip and quad stretch can help alleviate any restrictions in the hip flexor and quad, which also protects your lower back.


Here are the steps:


  1. Start in a half kneel position, with your right leg upright and your left leg down.
  2. Then, squeeze your left glute and lift your left foot off the ground while keeping your knee on the ground. 
  3. Now, reach around and grab your left foot with your left hand and pull your left foot towards your left butt.
  4. To help with balance, perform this stretch near a wall and use your right hand for stability.

8. Dead Hang

You need a pull-up bar to perform a dead hang, as well as a strong grip. However, the dead hang is a full body stretch that can help decompress the shoulders and spine, as well as promote length and pliability for surfing. 


Here are the steps:


  1. Start by grabbing a pull up bar with both hands and hang, feet off the floor and arms straight.
  2. While breathing, hold this hanging position with relaxed shoulders and hips.
  3. Hold for 20-30 seconds

7. Seated Hip Stretch and Spinal Twist

Since surfing includes a lot of rotation at your torso, the seated spinal hip stretch and spinal twist is an excellent stretch for you. By emphasizing the rotation of the spine, your hips, knees, and feet will all have more freedom of movement during surfing. 


Here are the steps:


  1. Starting in a seated position with legs out in front of you.
  2. To begin, bend your left knee and cross it over your right leg so your left foot is on the ground to the outside of your right thigh. 
  3. Then, start to twist your torso to the left and place your left hand on the floor behind you.
  4. Using your right hand, hook your right elbow on the outside of your left knee. 
  5. Breathe and hold. Repeat on both sides. 

6. Trunk Twist

The trunk twist further explores loosening up restrictions in the thoracic spine. Impaired rotation in the spine will affect your ability to surf well, so including the trunk twist into your stretch routine is an effective way to promote flexibility.


Here are the steps:


  1. Lay on your back and hug your right knee into your chest. Let your right arm extend wide out to the right. 
  2. Using your left hand, guide the right leg up and across the body to the left.
  3. Now, let your knee fall to the left. Bottom leg stays straight. Release your left arm to the left and if comfortable, bring your gaze to the right. 
  4. Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side  

5. Overhead Squat

Unlike regular squats, overhead squats challenge your spine and lats (in addition to your hips and knees). Your ability to perform an overhead squat effectively greatly improves your overall durability and decreases the reliance on lat stretches for flexibility. 

 

4. Pec Release

To complement your stretching routine, self myofascial release can assist with chronic tightness, and enhances your upper body mobility. To perform this pec release, you’ll need a Yoga Strong Roller.

How to Do

  1. With your Roller at your side, lie face down on the ground
  2. Rolling on to one side, grab your Roller and place it under your right chest muscle
  3. Then, extend your right arm and let your body sink into the Roller, so you are able to feel the tension in your pec muscle. 
  4. If you want more, you can roll to find any additional tender spots in your chest.
  5. Remember, breathe and hold through the tension.

3. Lunge Twist

Since surfing requires coordination between upper and lower body muscles to maintain strength and balance, the connection between the hips, spine, and shoulder helps reduce tension and improve mobility. 


Here are the steps:

  1. Start standing, and lunge your right foot out in front of you. 
  2. Next, drop your left hand to the ground while maintaining an engaged back leg. 
  3. Then, twist from your torso and raise your right arm to the sky. 
  4. To be stable, make sure your left hand is planted firmly and your right knee isn’t caving in. 
  5. Breathe and hold for 30 seconds and switch sides. 

2. Leg Kicks

Glute activation and flexibility aids in your ability to drop your hips so you can surf the waves effectively. If you can’t drop your hips, it’ll be hard to balance and you’d be more likely to fall off your board, making leg kicks a valuable stretch and warm-up exercise for surfing. 


Here are the steps:


  1. Start on all fours on your Yoga Strong Mat and engage your core and keep your spine neutral
  2. Now, maintaining the same knee position, raise your right foot off the ground and extend your right leg backwards and upwards until your thigh is parallel to the ground.
  3. Then, flex your foot so your heel is facing the sky and squeeze your right glute muscle and kick up to the sky.
  4. After you kick up, return your leg and thigh parallel to the ground and repeat the kick for 20x repetitions and switch sides.

1. Hamstring to Quads

This dynamic stretch targets both the anterior and posterior (front and back) muscles in the thigh. Supporting your body to stay low and balanced while you surf, stretching hamstrings and quads in one stretch is both efficient and effective.


Here are the steps:


  1. While standing, put your right foot about 6 inches in front of your left.
  2. After that, raise your toes and midfoot of the ground so only your right heel has contact with the ground
  3. Then, hinge at the hips and reach to grab your right toes to stretch the hamstrings and hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Moving on, take your same right leg and flex it up to hip height
  5. Following the hip flexion, start to rotate your right leg behind you, still with a flexed knee, so your right heel is kicking your right glute. 
  6. Subsequently, take your right hand and grab your right foot and pull your right foot closer to your right glute to stretch the quad. 

Benefits of Stretching for Surfers 

Every aspect of surfing demands flexibility and mobility. The unpredictability of waves and grueling movements can challenge even experienced surfers’ performance and resistance to injury. As a result, stretching grants your body access to explore the challenges of surfing, but without the associated risk of injury. Stretching not only conditions your body for surfing, but also provides insurance for when you may need it most. 


References:


Thoracic spine: What it is, Function & Anatomy. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22460-thoracic-spine 

Hip and knee stretches and exercises. Hip and Knee Stretches and Exercises | Pediatric Specialists of Virginia. (n.d.). https://psvcare.org/hip-and-knee-stretches-and-exercises