Stay Surf Fit For Your Local Break – Part 1: Point Break

Devoting a little time to be healthy, fit and strong makes sense, in and out of the water. Over the past 10 years I have spent countless hours locked in university lectures, attending Yoga training workshops, being critiqued in Physical Therapy clinics and Pilates studio’s, and subjected myself to food fasts and numerous macrobiotic eating plans. Many of you may be thinking why put yourself through that! For me the lessons learned from this 10 year journey have now manifested into Surfbodysoul, my passion to help surfers of all age and skill level feel great, so they can slide on waves the way they like, for as long they can!

To create the best possible program for my surfer’s I have assess their unique body type, body shape, work history, genetic history, injury history, life schedule, and even the waves they surf regularly. That’s right, diverse wave types place diverse physical requirements on our body. This can influence the type of Yoga posture, Pilates sequence, or conditioning exercise I prescribe to a surfer. Think about the sensation of surfing a long meandering point verse a short, heavy reef slab. Some waves will also place a unique physiological demand on our body, which ideally should be balanced with a sound, nutritious approach to our diet. Today I will discuss both exercise and food under the veil of a classic northern NSW point break, Lennox Head.

The Wave

I have been lucky enough to live near this wave for the past 5 years. Lennox is a classic point break and regular footers dream, offering almond shaped barrels and long open walls, potentially for hundreds of meters. The challenging rock entrance and exit claims the most scalps here and on any given day you will also be sharing the line-up with inspiring surf creatures like Dave Rastavich, Owen Wright, Anthony Walsh, Adam Melling, Wade Goodall and vintage pioneers like Rusty Miller. Lennox loves a south to southeast swell in conjunction with a west to northwest wind. The panoramic seascape is also a spectacular upside to surfing here.

The Physical Requirements

Like all classic point breaks when there is swell, there is sweep. Lennox is no exception to the rule. Combine this with a reluctance to jump out and run back to the take-off zone due to the tricky rocks, and it becomes clear you require your paddle arms. From a biomechanics point of view there are specific muscles that will work repeatedly during your surf propulsion. In particular the three major muscles of the neck, the Upper Trapezius, Levator Scapulae, and Scalenes. These muscles originate from the base of your head, before fanning out on either side, attaching to the top of your first rib, before wrapping sideways and inserting upon the shoulder blades. Every time you lift your arm to initiate a paddle this set of muscles will contract to lift or elevate the shoulder blade, and therefore the shoulder itself. Paddling against a sweep means the neck muscles will contract repeatedly for tens of minutes, or potentially hours on end, depending on how crowded the lineup is, and how high your froth factor is. If you do not re-stretch the neck muscle region daily, or at the very least every time you surf, over time it can become excessively tight. This growing tension will apply pressure to the joints of the neck, including the cartilage, ligaments, tendons and discs that comprise this region. If this continues unabated the typical consequence is an injury, pain and time off your surf sled.

The Exercise

Neck Stretch Variations

These following three stretches help to restore the muscle length and elasticity to the neck following an extended point session, and to be honest I would recommend them after any surf.

Start in a standing position. Hold onto each end of your strap, activate your core and then bend forwards to stand on the centre of the strap. In the absence of a strap use your leg rope or a towel. Ensure your spine is long and lengthened. Tuck your chin in slightly to lengthen the space at the back of the neck. Keep the jaw and face relaxed.

Variation 1

  • Exhale take the right ear directly towards the right shoulder until a moderate stretch is felt on the left side of the neck.
  • Inhale return the head to the midline/starting position.
  • Exhale repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat 3-5 times each side.

Variation 2

  • Exhale take the right ear directly towards the right shoulder and then rotate the head down to take the nose towards the right armpit.
  • Inhale return the head to the midline/starting position.
  • Exhale repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat 3-5 times each side.

Variation 3

  • Exhale take the right ear directly towards the right shoulder and then rotatethe head up and behind the right shoulder.
  • Inhale return the head to the midline/starting position.
  • Exhale repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat 3-5 times each side.

Nutrition

Now lets move to the internal working of surf health, your diet. The sustained nature of point break paddling at a sub-maximal level means the body requires a slow release carbohydrate to give you high quality energy for long periods. Adding brown rice as a fixture in your diet will give you just that. Apart from being a great fuel source, brown rice also contains essential B vitamins, iron and dietary fiber. Unfortunately for the white rice eaters out there, the process of milling and polishing that converts brown rice into white actually destroys a large proportion of the dietary benefits listed above, so brown is best!

I hope you enjoy the benefits of a light and free neck the next time you move through a roundhouse arc at your local point, and the feeling of bountiful energy with a bit of brown rice in your diet.

I look forward to seeing you on the mat, or in the water!

Ryan Huxley is the co-founder and program creator at Surfbodysoul, a website that provides safe, effective, holistic, scientific e-book exercise programs catering for surfers of all age, level and experience. Ryan is a qualified Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist), Exercise Physiologist, Advanced Yoga and Pilate’s instructor. His list of surfing clients includes Chippa Wilson, Fergal Smith, Anthony Walsh, Liz Clark, Paige Hareb, & Rusty Miller.

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