Words: Rachel Lingham, Head of Pop-Ups
Hands down, the best thing for surf fitness is surfing.
We all know this, but it isn’t always possible to get as much water time as we’d like. Whether it’s because you are landlocked, you don’t have your own kit, or even if it’s too cold (no excuse really, but we get it!), there are ways of preparing your body for your surf trip, making sure that you are strong, confident and ready to make the most of your time.
After all, who wants to waste the first week just getting their paddle fitness back?
The benefits of yoga in relation to surfing are pretty well documented by now – I can absolutely vouch for how yoga helps me to keep surf fit when I can’t surf, but it isn’t always possible to squeeze in a long practice. So I use a short, high intensity yoga-based sequence to maintain fitness, strength and flexibility.
Paddle fitness and the explosive core strength needed for an effective pop up decline very quickly if you are out of the water. The sun-salutation based sequence below will train you and that pesky core so you can easily spring to your feet, and will build strength in your biceps, triceps and shoulders for a more effective paddle stroke.
Plus it’ll open up those hips and hamstrings for better turns, and keep the lower back in good shape too. All in ten minutes a day.
Chair Variation – Glutes and Hip Flexors
With your left foot on the floor, place your right ankle just above the left knee. Slowly sit back with your hips to increase the stretch, taking your hands out in front of you. Hold for two – five breaths and repeat on the other side.
Divers Stretch – Rotator Cuffs and Hamstrings
Interlock your fingers behind your back, and slowly lift the hands up. Allow your head to draw down further as you fold forward.
If you would like more of a hamstring stretch, slowly straighten your legs without locking knees, and draw hands away from the lower back to deepen the stretch across the shoulders.
Plank to Chaturanga – Biceps, Triceps, Shoulders, Abs, Glutes, Hamstrings – everything!
In High Plank, shoulders are in line with the wrists, body is in a straight line and the heels are pressing backwards. If it’s too much, then pop the knees down.
Hold here for a full breath, hug the elbows in towards the ribs and press down into a low push up (Chaturanga) with the elbows tracking backwards.
As you move the body down, make sure that the core is engaged by lifting the pelvic floor and pulling the belly button in and up – don’t allow the elbows to dip below the shoulders.
If you feel strong, you can press back up into Plank (without letting the hips sag to the floor) before lowering yourself all the way to your belly for Cobra.
Cobra – Lower Back
Press the palms into the floor and lift the chest. Shoulders are moving away from the ears, and the pelvis presses down into the mat. As you lift your chest, make sure the front of the core is engaged too.
Five Pop Ups
Now for the fun part. From Cobra, pop up with your leading foot landing between your hands, staying low (the action is like a twisted burpee!)
If you surf a longer board, using your toes to help is an option, but if you surf a shortboard, then practise springing up from your thighs (keep the feet lifted before you jump to avoid using them.)
Keep the hands on the floor as you jump into this low, drop-knee position. Then step back to high plank (or jump to Chaturanga if you are full of energy!) ready to lower down for four more pop ups. After the fifth pop, step back to Plank and press back into Downward Dog.
Down Dog – Shoulders, Arms, Chest, Hamstrings and Calves
Take five breaths in Down Dog. Hands are shoulder width, feet hip width. Press evenly into the fingers and knuckles, move the shoulders down the back, away from the ears, and lift the hips high.
You can keep the knees a little bent if you like, and don’t worry if your heels don’t come all the way to the floor. When you have finished your five breaths here, step forward to the front of the mat to start again.
Repeat this sequence as many times as you like!
LAND BASED POP UP TIPS
- If you have an old yoga mat that you don’t mind defacing, a little tip that did wonders for my pop ups is to draw around your hands and feet in the position you’d like them to end up in on your board. (And keep the mat in a place that’ll make you feel guilty when you look at it. I used to put mine in front of the shower to remind myself to pop up on it at least twenty times per day!)
- Practice popping up as if you were going left and right down a wave. Alternate, and look left or right as if you are about to turn.
- Look up! Get used to keeping your head up on land, and when you next go in the water your body will remember.