Surfing in the UK…..Lifestyle or Performance?


It’s no secret that the top WSL guys are surfing at an exceedingly high level, consistently and with that, taking the sport from ‘lifestyle’ to ‘high performance’.

Surfing has gradually changed over the last decade with the introduction of land based training methods that are science based and delivered in some cases by accredited Strength and Conditioning Coaches. You only have to look at the Hurley High Performance Centre in Australia to see that the Ozzies are destined to produce more World Champions.

However, whether the aim is to produce Champions or not, this sport and it’s athletes should be provided with Strength and Conditioning support from an early age, and not just in Australia.

Cornwall High Performance are an independent and Accredited Strength and Conditioning outfit based in South West England. They work with a big range of clientele, and have a driving passion to provide the UK’S up and coming Surfing talent with S&C. Approximately 8 months ago the CHP team hooked up with Surf Solutions, another independent company in the South West run by Joel Gray, that looks after the technical side of the sport for the young groms.

Fast forward to January 2016 and the first of many S&C weekend workshops was delivered to 2 different sets of groms, aged 10-15 , who surf very well, but up until now haven’t had the opportunity to experience the ‘training’ side of becoming a high performance surfer. After all, at these tender ages, all you want to do is surf right?

The first workshop kicked off with a detailed look at the physical attributes needed for this sport, a must if effective gym based sessions are going to be successful, and at this age, these kids are already performing manoeuvres above the lip, indicating (in Dr. Jeremy Sheppard’s ,Hurley HPC, own words) that surfing is now a ‘jumping and landing’ sport. Now, if that isn’t a big enough rationale that this sport needs a tonne of strength, flexibility and power, we don’t know what is.

Of course, there are many other qualities that this sport needs, and that’s what we delved into over the next 4 hrs over the weekend with the groms from Surf Solutions. We looked into flexibility and mobility and the ‘shapes’ the body needs to create whilst performing various moves. Power was talked about, and types that were needed. The importance of using a warm up specific to the session plan(gym) and the session(surf). Energy system demands were discussed and how the athlete can expose themselves to improvements when they are not surfing. Agility training methods were discussed and why we need to use these modalities to improve reaction times.

All the above had a huge practical element of course, and it allowed these talented young athletes to learn through discussion but also apply what they had learnt.

All sessions started with a RAMP warm up, leading into agility games as a ‘primer’ for the first practical element of the workshops, which was agility itself. Surfing is a fast paced reactive sport, like many, and so this principle has to be trained to improve the athlete’s ability to act on external stimuli.

As mentioned earlier, surfing is a jumping and landing sport, and alongside this the body has to be able to produce and absorb force through flexion and extension patterns. Via the use of an altitude drop, the group’s ability to absorb force was analysed, as this needs to be checked to ensure mechanics are spot on before jumping progressions were used. Some plyometric, and explosive practical work was done too, and we looked at the rationale behind this so the groms could understand the mechanisms within the body that go to work when they are nailing that all important bottom turn top turn combo! To finish the workshops off, a light strength circuit was thrown at them to show them some typical movement patterns we need to get strong for surfing, which of course underpins everything from paddling out to gouging a round house cutty.

There is no question that performance in the water can be enhanced by appropriate training on land, and staying injury free is just as important. Effective programming is paramount for these young surfers and Cornwall High Performance are providing them with a platform to take their surfing and the sport in this country up to a level where it belongs.





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