Land-based conditioning for UK-based surfers

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John Metcalfe with John Kelly

Surfing in the UK has increased in popularity in recent years with an estimated number of participants in excess of 500,000. Improvements in wetsuit materials and construction have had a positive impact on the sport by allowing surfers to spend more time in the water. This has also given surfers the freedom to pursue surfing in much colder conditions than was previously possible and has led to big-wave breaks such as Thurso, Scotland featuring in the international O’Neill Coldwater Classic Series. Furthermore, readily available wave-buoy data, coupled with the advent of reliable wave-prediction internet sites, have meant the sport is no longer limited to coastal dwellers but also to those individuals living in land-locked counties. With nowhere in the UK being more than 70 miles from the sea, surfers are only ever a few hours’ drive away from a coastline when the waves are ideal. However, ideal waves are at the mercy of oceanic and meteorological factors, with man variables including the correct combination of swells, winds and tides needed for optimal conditions. The vacillating nature of the prerequisites of waves means that ideal conditions are often sporadic and are routinely punctuated with weeks or even months of poor conditions. The irregularity of suitable waves in the UK means that it is difficult for surfers to use surfing to get fit; the duration, intensity and frequency of surfing are dictated by environmental conditions, thus making it problematic to plan water-based training workouts. Furthermore, despite surfing sessions lasting up to several hours, only a small duration is actually spent riding the waves resulting in a limited training effect. Instead, surfers need to be physically conditioned beforehand in order to perform optimally in the water and avoid injury. This training approach is also of importance to those UK-based surfers who surf at international destinations. A land-based strength and conditioning programme is therefore a much needed component of any UK surfers’ physical preparation for the sport.

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