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Surf for Life

We are charting new territory here; baby boomers “pushing the envelope” and surfing at ages where many of our grandparents and/or parents were either in retirement homes or dead.

Of course lighter boards and better wetsuits enable us to keep surfing as we age; but what about our minds and bodies?

Of those of us pushing the envelope, many of us ponder the same question: what can we do to keep surfing for as long as possible?

We ran across a good read on this subject by Dr. Tim Brown, D.C. titled:  “Surfing for Life”.

Dr. Brown writes on the topics of surfing and health on Surfline; with their permission we have reprinted Dr. Brown’s Surfing for Life article for you here...

Big John; closer to 70 than 60; avid surfer, mentor, and inspiration to all...

Surfing for Life

By Dr. Tim Brown, D.C.

I drank the surf Kool-Aid early on in my life.  I can think of few things that would be as personally upsetting as failing to maintain the mobility, stability, endurance and strength it takes to ride waves. 

It's been a goal of mine to surf for life since I was a teenager, and with this theme in mind, I reached out to some special friends I've met along the way and asked them for their brief perspective on the topic and to share a few tips that have kept them in the water.

From the sage words of wisdom from Gerry Lopez to a medical doctor who specializes in sports medicine specific to watersports, I wanted to see their perspectives on this topic.

Everyone's experience is unique and I believe we can each find a few pearls of wisdom below to add to our plan that might just help us keep our bodies and minds fresh and remain stoked for as long we choose.  Because the whole idea is to stop doing things we love when WE choose to...not when our body says "no more!"  

Enjoy a sampling of some real world experience we can all benefit from. 

Stay wet,

Tim Brown

Shane Dorian, former pro, current big-wave dude

I think the key things for being able to surf for life is a healthy diet and lifestyle, good friends that also like to surf, and having personal goals in place.

Troy Eckert, Volcom Marketing dude

Read books about synchronizing mind and body.

Pay attention to posture when sitting behind the desk and on the computer. 

Clayton Everline, MD, DMO, CSC

ID hazards (currents, rocks, entry/exit points) and know your friends in the lineup or make some by being polite and positive.

Plan to avoid all possible hazards including those on your rig (noseguard, blunt fin edges, UV protection, adequate leash for wave size) and learn first responder techniques to address and triage injuries;  hopefully making new friends in the process.

Respect the ocean, the culture of surfing, those of higher ability and be prudent in all actions accepting responsibility for your mistakes and those of the less experienced.

Know your personal limits of ability of your equipment, yourself and physical fitness and adapt them to your session.

Allow your body to rest adequately between sessions; eat a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, protein (especially after a surf session) and avoid fad diets, processed foods, drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Warm up prior to surfing. Stretch after surfing.  Respect your body.

Use surfing as an outlet to be a better individual:  Be a steward of your ocean and other users.  Do not hassle others or become a victim to feeling surf rage but instead take an opportunity to teach and learn in each session.  Help those in need and set a good example for surfing while maintaining a healthy sense of self-respect.  Again, defer to those of better knowledge and ability in hopes that you may learn, progress and do right by them. 

Justin Frandson, trainer, CSCS, athleticism.com

Mindfulness meditation:  Breathe in and say the word 'calm', exhale and say the word 'ease'.

Fuel your body with food that can be EASILY absorbed during long sessions.

Maintain hydration with mountain spring water.

Do a warm-up and stretch and strengthen prior to surf.

Do a recovery stretch post-surf.  Always stretch the Big 3: Pecs, Glutes and Psoas.

Do land training (speed, coordination and jump-rope) and water training (swim intervals with all strokes) to maintain cardio.

Matt Gray, ASP medical

From a recovery/ injury perspective:

Sleep:  A full night's sleep absolute imperative for recovery. Without it, it doesn't matter what else you do.

Eat well post-surf:   A well-balanced meal with a low fat protein component for muscle recovery.

Regular flexibility program:   Practice daily if possible.  Best to do at a time away from surfing which is far more effective than the cursory couple of stretches just before surfing that most guys perform.  Cross training away from surfing for core strength/balance.  I like Pilates, personally, but there's a lot of other options.

Training for surfing by surfing alone just re-enforces bad habits and sets us up for injury.

Have fun:  Don't get too uptight about crowds, wave counts etc. Don't drop in and snake. Give respect to gain respect. Remember what you are there for in the first place: FUN.

Matt Griggs, coach to world champs

Understand technique: This is how you move your body, the turns you pick and how you perform them.  First understand where your balance (center-of-gravity) is, then add rotations, flexions and extensions from that position. You can move as hard and fast as your balance allows.  Your best surfing is done by feel.  Stay connected to the feel and be aware that your eyes can be a distraction because they're at a place you are not.  Get comfortable with surfing in the critical part of the wave, then add bigger turns as you go along.
Understand your equipment:  What sort of surfing do you want to achieve and how can your surfboard help you? Start this and talk to your shaper.

Diet:  Eat organically, stay away from processed foods, microwaves and white bread, rice and sugar.

Understand your metabolic rate (how quickly you convert food into energy) and type (everybody has a unique system that requires a different ratio of proteins, fats and carbs). Protein is anything that has eyes + avocados and nuts; everything else is carbs.

Food takes up to two hours to digest and digesting food takes a lot of energy, so rest when digesting.  If you are surfing and training a lot you should be having around 1.3 times your body weight in grams of protein for muscle recovery.  If you've had too much protein you'll do what a lion does after eating (want to sleep).  If you've had too many carbs, your energy will rise and fall steeply.  It’s best to have a consistent flow of energy. For the most part, your electro-chemical energy (what you are made of) answers to the spiritual law of moderation of all things.

Exercise:  Build and understand balance first. This can be achieved through training and stretching your body as a whole unit. If you don't know what to do, ask someone experienced, if you do, get it done.

Recovery:  Rest is very important. The primary form of recovery or rest is sleep. Make sure you rest as soon as the sun starts going down. This is when your body is regenerating at a cellular level. Meditation is one of the simplest and most profound ways to understand yourself and let go of any disharmony.
Enjoyment:  Remember always why you surf; because you love it!  What parts of surfing do you enjoy most?  Power, speed, creativity, flow, progressive?  Study what you enjoy most, as this is what you probably do best.  Plus, it is easier to feel one theme and let everything revolve around that. 

Gerry Lopez, all-around legend

If you haven't started yet, start your Yoga practice today.  It's never too late for anyone no matter how old, stiff or unsure.  And remember that Yoga isn't just a class you go to once in a while, it's a lifestyle that permeates every moment of every day and involves correct breathing and proper diet besides the Hatha Yoga practice.  These aspects are just the beginning and the foundation on which to build everything else.  Do not delay or scrimp in starting, improving and evolving this important part of living.

Pat O'Connell, former pro, current Hurley marketing dude

Well, first you MUST adopt the surf-no-matter-what ethos. At least get in the water everyday.

On the days off, or early morning I go on to my ITV and check yoga podcast for fun new 30 min sessions. These are fun and a good use of time.

I do like to do a few sprints, in and out of the water.  30 secs on, 30 off type of thing.

Fun thing to do in the surf is to sprint out after each wave.  We sit so much even just this little burst of exercise will get your heart jumping. 

Sarah Reese, yogini surfer

Warm up before you paddle out. Ten sun salutations should get you warm!

Focus on your breath and let your body wake up. Remember to breathe, not just when you are warming up but also while you are surfing and throughout your day.

Stretch AFTER your session.

Cut out refined foods.

If you feel even a whisper of discomfort in a joint, LISTEN. The earlier you catch poor movement patterns, the easier it is to correct it and avoid injury.

Find your team of people, even if it just a few specialists in your area, that you can go to for advice and healing.

Health is a process.  Be consistent with your diet and training.  Your commitment to your own health is the greatest doctor you will ever have.

Keep your mind open and positive. Just as we can create healthier movement patterns in our physical bodies by consistently training, same goes with our mental patterns.  When a self-depreciating thought arises, practice actively changing it.

Garth Tarlow, O'Neill marketing dude, on what he uses with Jordy Smith

Flexibility:  Yoga, Tai Chi, Movement Pattern Training.  Loss of mobility is usually for the majority of surfers, the culprit behind many injuries.

Soft Tissue Maintenance:  Regular bodywork on a constant basis is essential. BioSync, Rolfing, and massage are great form to keep the body feeling alive.

Chiropractic:  We all deal with some form of spinal issues from extensive over repetitive use. Keep it all in line with a Chiro that gets the biomechanics of surfing.

Food/ Supplements:  Proper plant-based eating habits and supplements are key.

Hydration:  We are probably some of the most dehydrated athletes because we don't see the water loss when in the water. Focus on getting it in this is one of the most underestimated for cramping and general function.  8oz for every 20 minutes of surfing, plus regular daily intake.

Cross Training:  You can get away without it when you are younger, but the older you get, the more benefit this gives you.  When the Integrity of your core is compromised the rest of the body suffers. It's key to find something that works and fits your budget.

Rest:  This is the most simple but the most overlooked performance takes a back seat if you are not well rested don't burn yourself out. This will help you to avoid injury and make your surfs the most effective when trying to improve.

Video:  Watch yourself on video and critic yourself; technique is crucial when trying to learn new maneuvers. When you are trying to learn new things watch videos of top pros, try to watch everything from the approach to the exit of the maneuver you want to learn.

Have Fun With It:  We are so lucky to be surfing in this day and age; wetsuits and boards are at the highest of quality; enjoy yourself and don't take it too seriously.

Peter 'PT' Townend, former world champ, Bronzed Aussie

There's NO substitute for time in the water!

Go dancing!  Gives you rhythm and surfing takes rhythm.

Get a new board for that quiver as often as you can. There is nothing more stoking than putting a new stick under your arm!

Treat that quiver like musical instruments; keep them tuned.

Read Jack London's The Royal Sport often.  No one has written about the thrill of riding a wave better.

Play pinball, video games and watch videos; keeps your mental reflexes sharp which is what great surfing is all about.  Great surfing happens when you don't think about it, it just happens and if you can be sharp and visualize it will happen.

Most important:  Have an understanding partner, wife, girlfriend, significant other, etc.


To contact Dr. Tim Brown, D.C. directly, check out DrBrownDesigns.com.  Stay tuned to Surfline for monthly features by Dr. Tim Brown and his staff of experts. Click here to go to Dr. Tim Brown's blog page.)

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in Surfline Health & Fitness is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use this information for the diagnosis or specific treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, or supplemental program, before taking any medication, or suspect you might have a health problem. You should not stop taking any medication and/or should not discontinue any prescribed treatment or exercise without first consulting your physician. The opinions expressed in the Health and Fitness department are of the author and the author alone. Surfline does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.