The only way to get better at surfing is spending time out in the ocean on your board. Beginners and intermediates will focus on charging down the line before they even zipped up their wetsuit in the car park. Initially you need to master how to lie on a surfboard before you can even paddle out into the line-up. This is known as trim position and is heavily reliant on a strong and reactive core.
‘The core’ should be regarded as the epicentre of force production. In every co-ordinated movement we use in day-to-day life (both conscious and subconscious) your core is the first muscle to be activated by the brain to stabilise the trunk. Anatomically stretching from your neck way down past your pelvis, your core is an intricate and complex group of muscles surrounding the spine, that work in unison to generate a base from which to function from.
The core can simply be broken down into major/minor movers and stabilisers, with anterior and posterior musculature relating to its anatomical position. An example of a major anterior core muscle would be the Rectus Abdominus which is used for flexion of your trunk. Whereas a minor posterior core muscle would be your glute medius which helps stabilise the knee. Below is a table of some more muscles from the core complex:
Internal + External Obliques
Psoas Minor + Major
Pelvic Floor Muscles
Glute Complex (Max/Med/Min)
As you can see your ‘core’ is a vast network of muscles that orchestrate anatomical movement for both sports performance and everyday life.
The Transverse Abdominis (TVA) is the foci of the core. Buried deep below the internal obliques the TVA provides thoracic (mid-back) and pelvic stability, one aided by proper contraction. Without a stable spine the nervous system fails to recruit the muscles in the extremities efficiently, and functional movements cannot be performed properly.
Also known as the ‘corset muscle’ a strong TVA will act like vacuum to help pull in a protruding abdomen, one that cannot be fixed with sit ups.
Below is an illustration of how your TVA helps centralises your balance to keep your board stable in the water
Float – Shortboard vs Longboard
The relationship between the surfer’s gravity and buoyancy effects how the boards perform in the water, this can be theorised by Archimedes Principle. A longboard has more volume and length, this means there is greater buoyant force from the water acting below, allowing the surfer to more remain more balanced on the surface when sitting or paddling, a perfect board choice for a surfer looking to catch their first wave.
A performance board has less volume meaning more buoyant force is required for it to stay afloat. The board sits a few inches below the surface meaning the buoyant force acts on both you the surfer and the board, which increases the hydrodynamic resistance making it harder to paddle as a result of drag.
IT IS THEREFORE ESSENTIAL YOU CHOOSE A BOARD MATCHED TO YOUR WEIGHT AND SKILL LEVEL
Lying prone on your board with a perfect trim will create a gliding effect by equalising the hydrodynamic force between you, the board and the water. This is greatly influenced by consciously contracting your TVA creating maximum propulsion and minimal drag. By actively pushing your trunk and hips into the board, you will equally distribute the gravity across the board to provide a stable surface from which to paddle from.
Below are some exercises for beginner/intermediate surfers that you can incorporate into home training plans or as part of your warm up before hitting the waves.