Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Surfers are Great Athletes

I recently went to Bear Mountain to do some early season snowboarding.  It was crowded, horrible snow conditions, and there was only one run open, but the weather was a warm, sunny, and sixty degrees, so needless to say I had fun.
What really sparked my curiosity during the day was the group of guys I was with, five in all, and very eclectic.  Our "shred crew" consisted of myself, my twin brother, our longtime childhood friend, a Hawaiian, and an Italian raised in Bali, Indonesia.  One look at our motley crew and any person would say that we had no reason being there.  Besides my brother and I, the combined snowboarding experience between everyone. at the most, a meager five days.
However, after the first run it was apparent that our group definitely belonged on the hill.  I was amazed at how fast our friends that never snowboard caught on and progressed.  Every run, they progressed there skills immensely and got better and better.  After pondering on the conundrum of why these guys were progressing so fast, it dawned on me.  They are all surfers.
Surfers are great athletes.  There is no way around it.  If you surf everyday you are going to be in very good shape.  Paddling strengthens the arms, shoulders, and back, standing or popping up on the board works out the shoulders, core, and lower body, and actually surfing and performing turns on the wave works the entire body.  Thus surfing is a whole body workout.  While a seasoned surfer may not feel sore after a surf session, the beginner is usually dead tired after.  One beginner I was teaching to surf literally collapsed on the sand afterward and complained about not being able to move his arms.  That sore.   As well as the strength aspect, surfers tend to be flexible and have the ability to adapt to changing conditions.  Surfing on a wave is different every single time, mother nature is always dishing out something different.  And on the wave a surfer has to adjust accordingly to chop and ripples on the face of a wave.  Every aspect of surfing requires a physical element, there is no rest.  Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning is also a major aspect of surfing.  Surfers must be able to hold their breath and control their breathing when being thrashed by the wave underwater, and still have the conditioning to paddle back out after.  Thus surfing is truly an all encompassing workout hitting every part of the fitness spectrum. So the stereotypical image of a surfer as a lean well-toned human is entirely accurate.
Back to my snowboarding experience, I feel that is why my friends progressed so quickly at snowboarding. As a result of all being active surfers, they inherently possessed the physical tools and  fluidity that surfing provides.
In my opinion surfing creates the most diverse athletes as well.  I lived in Seattle for a while going to school and none of my friends there were surfers.  I had friends that were tremendous basketball players, football players, snowboarders, and skateboarders, but from my observations noticed that while playing a variety of different sports, their athleticism did not transfer over.  I was scared to death whenever I saw one of my football friends get onto a skateboard, and frustrated and embarrassed when a snowboard friend played basketball.
(Michel Bourez from France. No gym needed.)
This is not the case with my friends that grew up surfing.  They all seem to be good at every sport they play.  Maybe it is just coincidence and luck, or maybe its because surfers posses the tools of great all around athletes.  Evidenced by my surfer friends learning to snowboard so effortlessly, I choose the latter.