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Injury Prevention In Surfing

July 4 2018 Categories: Products, Tips and Tricks

A simple guide to avoid having to surrender to those inconvenient aches and pains…

We’ve all had that feeling after a solid 3-hour surf, or even more rare- multiple surfs in a day. That ache which makes you doubt your capability to lift your pint to your face. That is commonly known as muscular fatigue or DOMS (delayed onset muscle stress). This kind of pain, most commonly in your shoulders and lower back, is defined as a chronic pain or in some cases injury. Because of the unpredictable nature of the manoeuvres in surfing unfortunately we are an injury prone bunch.

There are two main types of injury classification

  • Chronic– e.g, lower back pain, re-injury and residual symptoms associated with an acute injury can lead to chronic injury (repetitive strain and over use).
  • Acute– e.g, a fin gash, strained or torn ligaments from those huge hacks you’ve been mastering, or  broken bones – simply put, unpredictable accidents.

However, don’t panic, there are still steps you can take to ensure that your body is in as good a condition as possible to stop such freak accidents from occurring.

One of the many awkward body positions in surfing.. obviously we’re all Kelly in our heads.

The Shoulder- Increase Paddle Power and Flexibility

One of the main culprits which has proven to be prone to injury is the shoulder joint and its surrounding girdle and muscle groups.

  • Chronic Shoulder Injuries- Frozen shoulder, shoulder tendonitis, and other degenerative conditions of the tendons
  • Acute Shoulder Injuries- Any kind of ligament or tendon rupture, tear or strain, generated through sudden jarring movements from your board, the wave or anything else that may not be under your physical control.

First of all, the main priority is to stabilise the joint by strengthening the surrounding muscle groups, whilst also ensuring we maintain suppleness and range of motion in the shoulder. In order to do this, a manageable base point to start at would be to perform basic stretches every day, or after every bout of exercise, be it surfing or a complementary form of surf training, as demonstrated below.

When hoping to strengthen the shoulder girdle, the obvious choice to build muscle mass about the joint is to surf more. However, if this is not possible, such activities as swimming, stand up paddling or various weighted or body weighted exercises, such as…

Pike push up

Shoulder touch

  • Basic Body Weight Shoulder Exercises:
    • Push ups
    • Pull ups
    • Shoulder Touches
    • Inverted Rows
    • Pike Push Ups
  • Weighted/ Resistance Shoulder Exercises (with appropriate weighted bar, dumbbell or TheraBand)
    • Shoulder Press
    • Strict/Push Press
    • Bent Over Row
    • Bench Press

The Theraband is great for less resistance if you aren’t that familiar with the techniques associated with weights, or building up stability from scratch around a previous injury. Some key movements are demonstrated in this video


The Back –  The Bane of Most of Our Lives

Next, we’re going to talk about back pain. Often ranging from a dull ache to full blown spasms. What can prevent these? Many prefer massage or stretch therapy to aid in the eradication of back pain. Again, for self prescribed rehab, a mixture of a lot of mobility work and some strengthening exercises to your lower back, glutes, hammys and core. Some good ways to build strength and stability around these areas are:

Note: All exercises below require you to engage your core and gluteals (bum muscles), fail to do so and risk further pain! 


  • Deadlifts or Single Leg Deadlifts
  • Glute Bridges (weighted or body weight)
  • Nordics/ Leg Curl
  • Variations of Squats and Lunges




In terms of loosening off the lower back and increasing range of motion, a lot of surfers of all capabilities have found various types of yoga hugely beneficial for not only lower back maintenance, but overall balance, glute stability and increasing core strength. Different types of yoga suit different people, and it’s mostly down to personal preferences. The main practices can be loosely categorised into the following, however there is a lot of crossover within each form of yoga:

  • Ashtanga/ Vinyasa Flow– This dynamic, physically demanding practice synchronizes breath and movement to produce an internal heat designed to purify the body. Ashtanga yoga, with its many vinyasas, is great for building core strength and toning the body.
  • Hatha– The word haṭha literally means “force” and thus alludes to a system of physical techniques. Hatha practices are designed to align and calm your body, mind, and spirit in preparation for meditation.
  • Bikram– All Bikram Yoga Beginning Series classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga is a hot yoga style, and is ideally practiced in a room heated to 35-42 °C.

Which ever style of yoga you choose to participate in, there is a high chance you’ll recognise its benefits to your surfing with some persistence and commitment to classes; be it in your recovery time, your flexibility, or your balance.









The Knees – Protect your knees from… well… everything

Lastly, we are going to address the knees. They are notoriously prone to injury due to their flawed design, and lack of awareness of how to look after them properly. Within the context of surfing, the knee joint is prone to vast range of acute and chronic injuries such as ligament damage, patella inflammation, or general wear and tear in the knee socket and surrounding tissue. Similarly, to lower back health and glute stability, the knees need a mixture of improving the strength of the glutes, hamstrings, and quad muscle groups through exercises such as:

  • Squats (front, back, goblet, sumo etc)
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Calf Raises

But also complementing that by elongating of all these muscle groups as well as the Iliotibial Band (ITB) as shown in the diagrams below, where we can see the ITB, glutes, lower back, obliques and hamstrings are targeted. The only areas not targeted that well from the above stretches include the quads, hip flexors and the calf muscles. Demonstrations of these are below:

ITB and Glute Stretches

The Indo Board

When wanting to promote stability and strength in the knees and ankles, the Indo Board is as close to surfing as you can get in terms of balance related training. It is essentially a solid skim board and a cylinder or cushion; the aim is to balance or perform controlled actions or manoeuvres to improve balance and therefore mimic surf  related movements (to an extent). It is a big enough challenge to simply stand stably on the Indo Board with the roller underneath, but for those wanting to advance there are many more balances to learn, such as; squats, cross-steps and push ups.


an example of a simple balance

Now its up to you…

So, knowing what you now know about looking after your shoulders, lower back, hips and knees, you should be able to address most problem areas that may start to present themselves. For more serious or persistent pains its definitely worth seeing a physio, or sport/massage therapist to help with your rehabilitation back to full strength and hopefully pain free surfing.

Generally speaking, physically keeping yourself in the best surfing condition is a combination of common sense, i.e, enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising often, being responsible and admitting to yourself that something may be wrong, and doing your surfing a favour by addressing it before it becomes a real issue.

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