Balance is the foundation of surfing, whether it be staying atop your board while paddling out through the waves, sitting on your board waiting to catch a wave, or actually riding a wave. With improved balance comes an easier, more enjoyable time in the water. Aside from actually paddling out and surfing, there are several easy ways to improve balance for surfing while on land. The three major categories related to balance are flexibility, strength, and muscle memory. By focusing on these areas, you can see great improvements in your balance and subsequently your surfing.
Stretching isn’t just essential to maintaining good flexibility; it is also essential to improving one’s balance. The key movement to maintaining balance while surfing is the ability to bend your knees and get low. A lower center of gravity generally results in a more stable ride. As such, it is important to focus on increasing flexibility in the legs (quads, hamstrings, and calves), hips, back, and groin to improve your balance while surfing.
Stretches to improve balance while surfing
- Quads: A great way to stretch your quadriceps is by isolating each leg and stretching them one at a time. To do this stretch, begin by standing up straight, bend one leg while grabbing your ankle behind you, then proceed to hold this position for 25-30 seconds.
- Hamstrings and Back: Stretching your hamstrings requires a series of three different stretch variations. Begin in a standing position and then bend at the waist, letting your upper body hang freely. Allow your head to hang and your body weight to bring you closer to the ground. Hold for 25-30 seconds. Next, bend your knees and rise back to an upright position. The next stretch in the progression calls for a shoulder-width stance while bending over to hang for another 25-30 seconds. Lastly, rise and widen your stance to 1.5x shoulder width. Then bend and hang for an additional 25-30 seconds. By incrementally widening your stance, you better stretch the various parts of the hamstring.
- Calves and Hips: One of the best stretches to loosen up one's calves and hips is a standing lunge. Stand with your feet 1.5x shoulder-width apart. Then rotate to your left or right and shift your weight to your front foot, bending your knee and lunging forward with your hips. While doing so, try to push the heel of your back leg into the ground to stretch your calves and hip flexors.
- Groin: The butterfly stretch is beneficial for increasing flexibility in one’s groin. To do this stretch, find a seated position and bring your legs together with the soles of your feet touching. Then lean forward or use your arms/hands to push your knees downward until you feel the stretch in your groin.
Improving your strength can also help enhance and maintain your balance. When it comes to maintaining balance while surfing, the legs, glutes, and core are most important to focus on. Examples of exercises that involve strengthening these specific areas include bodyweight squats, sit-ups, lunges, and mountain climbers. Improving your strength is not only beneficial for balance but also plays a key role in reducing your risk of injury and for improving mobility.
Muscle memory is generally acquired by doing a given activity repeatedly. However, because ocean conditions aren’t static or fixed, going out and riding waves isn’t always an option.
A way to “re-create” the experience of surfing and build muscle memory is by practicing the reverse burpee. To do so, begin by laying on the ground. Using your arms, perform a push-up motion and spring to your feet. Once on your feet aim to land in an athletic position with your knees bent as though you’re low on your board, riding a wave. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds.
Fortunately, there are several easy ways to improve balance for surfing by strengthening your muscle memory right at home, such as using a surfboard balance trainer. By replicating the movement of riding a wave, using a balance board allows you to develop muscle memory and improve your balance no matter what the ocean decides to do that day.