By Claire Smail
The clocks have definitely changed for the summer, wetsuit hood, gloves and boots are starting to be left at home as the water and the air temperature warm up. With these lighter mornings and longer evenings comes the potential to get in the surf as often as possible. I find, with the increase in water time also comes the desire to stay in the water for longer, surf more waves in a session and get the most out of each ride. To help me achieve these goals I try to maintain my fitness level throughout the year and stay focused in the water. Over the last years few years I have found the following tips useful…
Swim once a week to maintain fitness
Even though swimming does not use exactly the same muscles as paddling a surfboard I do make sure I always keep my swim fitness up by going to the pool or in the sea once a week for about an hour, throughout the year. The fitness you get from swimming is not only a great and low impact way to keep aerobically fit, strong in the arms, back and core, maintain flexibility in the shoulders and hips but also gives me confidence when I’m surfing. The knowledge that if I ever did lose my surfboard in the line-up I would still be able to swim back to shore, is a real confidence boost and definitely makes me get in and feel more comfortable on those slightly bigger or stormier days.
Cycle at least once a week to maintain leg and cardio fitness.
I have found over the years that I can naturally maintain my arm, shoulders and back strength from just surfing as much as possible and swimming once or twice a week. What I struggle with is keeping my legs as strong as when I am surfing. I am only using them for as long as I am standing on the wave and during swim training my legs just seen to be pulled along behind me. Only a few years ago, when I started to try to learn to surf a shorter board, did it occur to me how important it seemed to be to have stronger legs to generate effective speed through the process of turning. It felt like I just did not have the strength in my legs to push down on the board at the beginning of a turn when you are trying to compress your legs and body. The beginning of a bottom turn or to ‘pump’ along a flatter section in the wave just seemed impossible and knackering unless the wave was perfect and had enough power to do all the work for me. So I dug out my old childhood mountain bike, asked my Dad to check it was still in good working order and started to use it on the odd day a week to commute to work, pop in to town to avoid parking fees or round to the beaches to enjoy a coffee with a view. I certainly think this leg and cardio fitness the riding a bike generates, has helped me be able to generate more turns on a wave and surf more waves in a session.
Paddle on flat days
During the summer months there is always a few prefect days with blazing sunshine, not a breath of wind or for the surfers out there a ripple of swell to surf. To maintain fitness and still get in the ocean I always try to still get in the water and go for a paddle along the beach on my most floaty surfboard. I normally take my 9ft4 single fin as it is my widest, thickest and so most buoyant surfboard. I find this is great way to maintain paddle fitness, back strength and get to know the coastline even better.
Keep looking for the best waves
In the summer I find I mainly surf beach breaks because of the small to medium sized swells hitting the beaches. Generally the great thing about these surf spots is they have several peaks along the beach that you can pick that work at different stages of the tide. You can take your time to locate the best place to surf when you first arrive at the beach and are walking down to get in the water but once you paddle out, after fifteen, forty five minutes or an hour and a half that peak can easily shift and stop working due to the movement of water. At this point you can be left waiting for a wave that might not break as often or as good a quality as the waves that you first started out surfing. In this situation I have got into the habit of constantly looking around me to see how and where the waves are breaking across the rest of the beach, my location to any rips or areas of deep water and where other surfers are. At this point if some other peaks looks like it have started to work you can paddle over to take a look. If you do find yourself in this predicament see if anyone else is catching waves or has it just gone flat? Sometimes if your arms are really tired, it is even worth catching a wave in and when your back on the sand have a look from the beach as to where is the best place to surf, then you can just walk over to the better surf.
Have enough energy to surf
You can have the best waves, wetsuit, surfboard and intentions but if you run out of energy in the surf none of these things will help for every long. I think we have probably all done it, in a rush to the beach we forget to eat enough food or drink enough water and unfortunately I find that leads to a lot shorter surf. Now if I am planning to go straight to the beach from work or even get prepared for a second surf I always fill up and pack my reusable water bottle and make sure I have enough food or even snacks for before and after a surf. My go to ‘in a rush’ food includes homemade flapjacks (find the recipe HERE), date and coconut energy balls, sliced apple pieces and a jar of wholemeal peanut butter, bag of mixed nuts or a stack of oatcakes and cheese. I find these are all great options as I normally have them in the cupboard at home, quick to pack in the van and easy to eat when you’re at the beach.