Surfing the Long Game

Achieving good mobility and building strength is a good place to start if you still want to be able to carve it up in your old age.

Want to surf to your potential? Want to still be carving it up in your old age? Learning to breathe properly, achieving good mobility and building strength is a good place to start.

Marcel Scrivener grew up biking in, and sliding down, the mountains of the South Island but fell in love with surfing while studying physiotherapy in Dunedin. He opened One Health Physio & Wellness in 2017 with his wife Julia, and more recently founded SurfWell. The vision of SurfWell is to help
surfers move well, prevent injuries, and surf to their potential. SurfWell also uses surfing as a platform for promoting healthy living and sustainability within communities.

Marcel reckons it’s annoying enough to surf with pain and restriction, but there’s nothing worse than missing out on pumping waves because of an injury. Here are some of his tips to prevent injury so
you can keep getting those waves...

Breathe Correctly

Breathing poorly will put the handbrake on your flexibility and how well you move.  Holding your breath or using your upper chest to breathe at rest are some signs that you could benefit from breathing exercises. Learning to diaphragmatically breathe and practising a longer exhale can create more flexibility in your body and allow you to deal with hold downs much better too. If your ribcage or diaphragm are not functioning efficiently, you might notice stiffness in your shoulders, neck and hips. Breathing exercises can increase movement within minutes if done correctly.

Move Well

Surfing requires good mobility throughout your body. Rather than doing a lot of different stretches
for each area, you can target certain movements and ‘unlock’ mobility throughout your body. One
of these movements is a functional squat. This expands the ribcage and improves your pelvic posture to dramatically improve your upper and lower body movement.

Begin by placing your heels about a foot length out from the wall, shoulder width apart. Bend your knees a bit and lean back against the wall. Aim to get your lower back flat against the wall by
tucking your pelvis under (think about bringing your belt buckle towards your belly button). If this
is challenging, just start here. Breathe gently in through your nose toward your belly. Then exhale slowly through your mouth for as long as possible.

If this is easy, progress away from the wall to holding onto the back of a chair, then the seat of the chair and finally the ground. Allow your knees to go forward over your toes and maintain the pelvic tuck throughout. Practice three to five breaths, and repeat for three sets. Just a note: if you experience any pain doing these exercises, please seek advice from a physio.

Get Strong

Once you have good mobility, the next step is to progressively strengthen your body. Take your
time and master the basic moves, first focusing on technique. Some basic moves include a squat, deadlift, lunge, push up, pull up and overhead press. Once you have these mastered, you can move on to more complex movements tailored to your surfing goals (eg stronger bottom turn, quicker
pop up and so on).

Create a Habit

If you’re like me, warm-ups go out the window when the surf is pumping! Create a mobility
and strengthening routine that works for you so that when the surf’s up, you’re ready to go.

For videos of breathing techniques and exercises, visit surfwell.co.nz
Follow Marcel on @SurfWell or @surfwellnz for news of Surfwell workshops.

By Marcel Scrivener
Photography by ilk

First published in issue 25 (December 2019) of Our Place magazine.

↑ Marcel uses a functional squat to prepare himself for the waves.