Surfing is a sport enjoyed by millions of people around the world, particularly in the islands of the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia.
A study published in 2014 looked at the mechanism, location, type and frequency of chronic injuries incurred from surfing (1), a sport which in 2013, had an estimated 37 million participants globally (2).
Surfing is a repetitive sport which requires paddling and manoeuvring the board. This can result in chronic injuries, which are defined as lasting for three months or longer. The 2014 study showed that the lower back had the highest frequency of injury compared to all other regions of the body (1).
Turning manoeuvres accounted for 25.9 percent of the mechanisms attributed to chronic lower back pain, with prolonged paddling, lying on a surfboard accounting for 38.5 percent of the mechanisms for shoulder pain.
Lying prone on a surfboard can result in hyperextension of the lumbar spine (lower back), which is required for lifting the nose of the board out of the water, increasing clearance space for paddling with the arms and allowing the head to face in the direction the surfer is going.
If the cervical (neck) and thoracic (upper back) spines do not have the required extension, then increased demands will be placed on the lumbar (lower back) spine, thus one of the mechanisms contributing to lower back pain (1).
Being strong and powerful as a surfer will help reduce risk of chronic injury. I recommend that you find your body’s weakest links and add strengthening exercises or mobility exercises to address these areas. This will assist in reducing your risk of injury to your lower back, shoulders and knees by addressing muscle imbalances and weakness.
Often acute injuries which are not rehabilitated appropriately can slowly return as chronic pain or injuries and can take longer to resolve.
Adequate leg strength will provide the power for propulsion in the water and powerful turns.
I have put together my top five exercises for avid surfers. These are a combination of mobility and strength exercises. Depending on where you are currently at, these exercises can be regressed or progressed accordingly. As usual, ensure to thoroughly warm-up for 10 minutes before commencing strength training.