Surf Travel……. plane flights, barrels, tropical weather, passports, boardies, epic food, getting pitted, overseas sickness, overhead frothing, new places, faces, people, and life-experience. I think being a surfer and traveling for the purpose of chasing what you love is one of the pinnacles of surfing.
Getting to travel and surf some epic waves is one of my drivers in life. Being able to experience new cultures, get into new foods, surf points you’ve seen on youtube and read about, hot hot hot weather, coconuts post-surf, getting out of your comfort zone, surfing some solid reef breaks… it’s the life!!
I’ve been fortunate over the last few years to be able to travel pretty extensively to chase some surf. There’s still loads of places I still want to go, but I would consider myself to have a decent “handle” on how to travel for surfing…. but as in life, there’s always a bit more to learn.
One thing I’ve come to especially value over the years is being fit and prepared for finally getting back into some good surf after you haven’t really had to “push” yourself in some decent swells. A few other key points in my eyes while on a surf holiday is staying healthy and injury free so you can keep on getting in the water, and also keeping your immune system strong to ward off those vicious stomach viruses.
Coming Up To The Trip
I tend to focus on endurance, paddle strength and shoulder health, and making sure I’m dynamically flexible. Building up some work capacity, which is essentially your ability to paddle around for extended periods of time is pretty essential. You can accomplish this with some type of endurance work like skipping rope, boxing, kettlebell swing circuits, row maching training, or even some jogging intervals. Even better would be getting some extra time in the surf, but that’s not always an option for many of us.
Paddle strength and shoulder health is obviously critical if you want to surf, and be out in the water for extended periods of time…. you gotta take advantage of that good swell! This comes down to making sure your shoulders are mobile, some extra rotator cuff strengthening, and posterior shoulder endurance work. Straight arm cable lat pulls are great for developing a strong paddling motion, as well as just about any other quality back and posterior shoulder movement to strengthen the paddling muscle groups. You’ll want to aim for higher repetition ranges and shorter rest periods so you can build metabolic endurance in your paddling muscles. You can find excellent movements and exercises here at my Guide To Surf Paddle Training
Dynamic flexibility- get moving! Get into some quality yoga movements, or download Surf Training Success and work on the Performance Mobility Drills. You’re essentially trying to make sure your body can move freely, loosen up stiff joints, restore flexibility, and get yourself ready for that surf trip! If you’re restricted in your movements, you will surf slower, can’t produce as much power, and put yourself at a higher risk of injury… so get flexible and loose!
While you’re traveling, you’ll hopefully be surfing All The Time! At this point it really comes down to keeping your body in top shape so you don’t get hurt, and to make sure you can recover between surf sessions. I always travel with a Lacrosse Ball. It’s essentially a hard rubber ball that you can use to give yourself some shoulder massage. The posterior shoulder muscles get used so heavily in surfing that it’s a good idea to spend some time “releasing” the tissue so the muscles can recover, repair, and just stay moving properly so you can keep paddling. You can find some directions on how to do this effectively with link above for the Guide Surf Paddle Training.
Every now and then while traveling, if the surf is small I’ll get in a workout. Mostly bodyweight movements that have some carryover to surfing and improve balance, strength, power, and core integration. Single leg movements like lunges or bulgarian split squats are great. Pushups are always a classic and have endless variations, and I’ll often also go for some sprint intervals on the beach. I will usually travel with a medium sized workout band as well. You can strap these to trees for single arm push/pull work, and you’re really only limited by your imagination. Here’s just a few moves with the bands… Article on Full-body Surf Training.
Another important and often overlooked aspect of keeping yourself healthy while surfing heaps and traveling, is keeping the body ready for the next round of big swell. This can be accomplished by what I’ve mentioned above with the lacrosse ball and occasional beach bodyweight workouts, but you also need to incorporate some stretching/yoga movements into your daily routine to keep your body loose and mobile. If you’re surfing for several hours a day (hopefully), you’re going to get stiff and tight in certain areas. Some quality dynamic stretching can keep these areas loose and mobile so you don’t hurt yourself… which would keep you out of the surf, and just plain suck. Check out these Full Body Surf Mobility Drills… these are great and only take a few minutes a day.
Epic surf destinations always seem to have epic local food as well. It’s part of the whole experience to indulge in the local food culture. It’s also a great way to give back to the local community. Find the local produce, eat some crazy looking fruit, and try the indigenous foods. It’s one of the best ways to get to know the local culture, and eat some quality food to fuel your surfing (as it’s usually all locally raised and grown). Clearly, if you’ve ever spent some time traveling you have probably had to deal with a stomach infection. That’s just part of the trip maannnnnn! Yeah, it sucks, real real real bad, but it’s likely to happen sooner or later. Something I’ll often do is take along a small bottle of Grapefruit Seed Extract or Oregano Oil. Both of these are strong anti-bacterial and anti-microbial natural supplements. I generally have some with water just about every day, and I feel it’s helped me from getting overly sick when trying new foods, being exposed to new bacteria and viruses, and coming into contact with all this new stuff the immune system has to deal with.
There you have it. A few recommendations to get yourself prepared for the upcoming trip of a lifetime, staying fit while you’re traveling, and most of all, just enjoy it… all of it… even the bad stuff. It’s all part of the trip maaaannnnnn!
Cris Mills is an Exercise Specialist, Massage Therapist, and CHEK Practitioner who works with surfers to improve their performance, become stronger, improve their nutrition, rehab from injuries, and most of all, build a body that can surf powerfully and pain free. He runs www.surfstrengthcoach.com and also www.surftrainingsuccess.com as an outlet for health/fitness information for surfers that will help you stay in the water, improve your overall health and function, build a stronger body with high-quality surf fitness training, and keeping yourself in the surf!