Thursday February 27, 2014
Winter will end...eventually and spring will bring good winds and good waves. So remember that spending this winter "surfing" the Internet will give nothing but flabby arms and big old love handles. So before Old Man Winter lets up his grip on you, start now getting those frozen bones back in motion. Hit the gym and start stretching.
I have found that yoga is a great way for surfers to stay loose and focused even when the waves are flat or the snow is falling, and no one connects yoga and surfing better than Peggy Hall and her Yoga for Surfers DVD series. I have been through them all (except baby on Board) and will honestly say that my surfing feels better than ever. The series moves from basic poses in Volume 1 all the way to the the most gnarly Volume 3 - Unleased. Look for a parade of notable surfers and clips of great waves as you stretch and focus yourself to physical and mental health. Hall makes it a point to connect all the poses to powerful and progressive surfing maneuvers and most routines are filmed on the beach in exotic locales. Once you and the water are all warmed up, get on it.
Surfing is so fun that many people overlook its great health benefits, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better (and more enjoyable) cross-training exercise for athletes of all ability levels. Surfing is essentially a blend of swimming, balance training, and jumping rope (with a splash of riding a roller coaster). Surfing offers many health benefits. I think you'll be surprised.
- Paddling increases aerobic and cardio fitness.
- Lastly, surfing brings together the mind and body and nature. Saltwater cleans the sinuses; sunshine helps the body create vitamin D, and riding a wave makes you feel gooooood. Surfing is without a doubt a healthy
- Paddling also builds strength and muscle in the upper back and arms.
- Springing to your feet and holding your line on the board strengthens the legs (thighs and calves) and lower back.
- Turning and twisting your surfboard to catch waves stretches and strengthens the back.
- Catching and riding a wave greatly improves balance and gross motor skills and builds long lean muscle that helps resist future injury.
Sunday February 16, 2014
Tim Baker's piece over at the Inertia comes a few weeks after a conversation I had with photographer Pete Hodgson. The gist: surfing is no longer an activity of rebellion but rather an act of compliance. Kids are being groomed by little league parents to become surfers as if it's some viable career choice. Even more ironic, they surf to please their parents. 30 years ago, most moms would squirm at the thought of her little boy or girl hanging out all day at the beach and foregoing academic lessons for surf sessions. An average dad would gladly break that board in two pieces to keep his kid from wasting his life, but somehow today, average parents are "pushers" (as Baker puts it). They run interference to make sure little Jimmy gets the wave and bark strategy to their sweet Suzy in the lineup even during free surfs. They video and promote, give out hugs for big maneuvers, and glare at rail digs or missed aerial opportunity.
If the kid is no good, the disappointment is palpable. However, if there is a shred of promise, the industry takes over from there by shaving down any rough edges (hair, clothes, back story) to create an advertising machine. Besides the fact they are lugging big board bags, there is no visual difference between your average college frat kid and an up and coming surf star. Does it matter? No, not for today's generation because they never experienced surfing as an outlaw activity. They grew up in a world where you buy Quiksilver at the mall and watch Blue Crush on the TV Guide channel and order surfboards on-line and can't find a beach where someone isn't giving surf lessons. Surfing is now just another sport.
But I mourn not for surfing so much because I still love it, and it's still the greatest way to spend a day. Instead, Baker's little article hit me where it hurts. At home. I spent a year trying to shove surfing down my own kid's throat and in the process doing two horrible things: 1. I was treating surfing like some computer program that could be learned through if-then steps, like a paint-by-numbers Picasso tutorial. I took the natural joy out of it. 2. Worse. I made what should have been a day at the beach with dad into some kind of force feeding bum out. The take away? Surfing will be great. It will survive and change into something I barely recognize and my kid will be great whether he's surfing or not.
Saturday February 8, 2014
Jaimal Yogis' newest surf-based memoir slash research thesis is entitled The Fear Project. On the surface it comes off as a standard memoir that chronicles a given gamut of time and follows a thematic thread along the way to an eventual epiphany that illuminates the journey he has just taken. That was the thoroughly enjoyable approach Yogis took in his freshman effort, Saltwater Buddha. Buddha is a spare yet satisfyingly rich delving into the author's own mission to find spiritual meaning in classrooms and books while his own obsessive-religious devotion to riding waves guides him along a meandering path to true suffering and enlightenment. He nailed it: Short, pithy chapters dripping with surf laden sound and fury. But The Fear Project embraces a different aesthetic. Yogis plays researcher as he delves into the history and reverberating effects of human fear through exhaustive references and interviews with prominent scientists, doctors, and extreme athletes all set to the rhythm of his own mission to surf giant Mavericks. It's Saltwater Buddha all grown up...definitely worth the time.
The Fear Project got me thinking about the place of training and preparation in surfing. For the most part, just surfing a lot is enough prep work. But when things get heavy, Yogis makes the point that only mental and physical training can improve confidence and overcome fear. Even if massive amounts of paddling and wave riding keep you loose and strong, taking big wave surfing seriously by learning the wave, swimming laps, and doing underwater breath work gives you that extra edge when the waves get real. And that makes all the difference when you are caught in a rip or pinned down by a macking set because fear uses more oxygen.
But make no mistake. Surfing is not about fear. It's about fun, the outdoor experience, and finding your happy zone with maneuvers and experimentation; but sometimes, there is nothing like finding a new limit and pushing yourself to another level as long as you're still smiling. And getting prepared will keep you smiling and keep you safe.
Monday January 27, 2014
This video of Hawaiian maniac Mark Healy getting soundly creamed by a 20 foot cold stone beast at Mavericks via Go Pro brought back a flurry of feelings. As you watch Healy's face, you see the steely realization that there is nowhere to go and no fleeing this avalanche of freezing freight from getting unloaded on his head at ground zero. Boom! There is a moment when you see those shadows on the horizon peaking over the water line and you think there might be a chance, but once you paddle over the next wave and see that set in full display standing erect and feathering in full menacing beauty, a certain understanding replaces the panic. It's the realization that no heavy breathing, cussing, or any manner of spazzing will save you. There is only one option: relax. You understand that the wave will have you and you must square with that truth. The next 40 seconds will be a thrashing whiplash that will either be another slip through the wormhole into safety that you will talk about over beers tonight or something all the more ominous. Healy has been through this all before a hundred times, but you can see that there is no taking this beating lightly. We must all face the music at some point. We just hope the music is Jack Johnson over a beach fire, nice and dry, and a bottle of wine...not Black Sabbath and salty foam under 40 feet of freezing cold water.
Here are some basic tips to help you live through your next big wave beat down.
Here are some ways to get be ready for your first big wave session.