5 Fundamental Training Strategies for Junior Surfers
There’s something inspiring about junior surfers, the raw talent, the joy of competing with their friends, their pure stoke! It is infectious! As a parent, a coach, a practitioner, you want to help these kids. You want to give them every opportunity you can, so that they can reach their dreams. You can see it in surfers as young as 8, they want to be the next Steph, Mick or Parko. Bless their starry eyes.
As a practitioner, I screen surfers at events. I look at their posture and fundamental movement patterns. I have been doing this for a few years now and there are some crucial findings arising. Firstly, our junior surfers are at risk of injury, sometimes serious injury. They can pull off airs and blow your mind with their talent, but junior surfers appear to be lacking fundamentals in stability.
Secondly, there is commonly a high volume of surfing going on, with 15–30 hours per week being reported by surfers and their parents. Just as a reference, this is similar to the number of hours a professional surfer would spend surfing per week. An important difference, however, is that for junior surfers, this volume of surfing is being completed on top of developing bodies, changing social environments, school stressors and other sporting endeavors.
Junior surfers are different. To train them and place expectations on their bodies as you would an adult athlete is, in my opinion, wrong and risky. Based on my findings from screening junior surfers at events over the last few years, I would recommend the following 5 top tips for junior surfers in 2019:
1. Holy moly! Decompress and recover!
Surfing is asymmetric. It has a sided dominance, being goofy or natural, depending on your stance. This means it will ALWAYS wind your body up into a particular pattern. If you keep surfing the same break, this will do the same. Over time, patterning produces changes within the body and increases the risk of overuse injuries. In developing athletes, muscle strain can also lead to bony changes (just re-read that point). So, learning how to recover from a surf and re-align your body can help reduce injury risk and decompress your body from repetitive movement patterns for a time.
2. Get your stability down pat.
The fancy stuff is fun. I get it. I used to be a high-level athlete myself. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and unfortunately, so many injuries and pain could have been avoided with improved stability. I’m not just talking about stability on a wobble board either. I am talking about the fundamentals of stability. This means: Do you have stability in the parts of your body that should be stable? How are you breathing? Where are you uncoupling in your movement? Parts that generally need to be stable, particularly for surfers include ankles, knees, pelvis, core, shoulder blades and the neck. Please note that stability and stiffness are not the same thing.
3. Consider Quality vs Quantity.
OK, I could talk about this point in a number of ways. Let us just look at this from an energy perspective. A lot of energy is used to grow and to develop. Junior athletes are doing this almost constantly. When our energy stores are used through high volume activity and are not replenished, fatigue sets in. You may not feel sleepy 24/7 but certain things can happen, such as slower recovery, fatigue upon waking, slower reaction time, elevated resting heart rate and increased risk of injury. High volume training is OK if you can recover and put in what you take out. As an adult athlete, with an already developed body and a monomaniacal sport focus, this is difficult enough to achieve. As a junior athlete, where there are many things going on in life and the body is changing rapidly, over training can be a real thing. So, perhaps think about the quality of your training and the quantity of your training.
4. Work on your feet and ankle mobility.
When your feet lack mobility, you are missing out on some important information from your board and the water moving underneath it. And, when your ankles lack certain mobility (mobility and instability are not the same thing), you are winding yourself up for some nasty injuries, particularly in the knees and hips.
5. Choose your land-based training wisely.
Based on the four points above, please choose your land-based training wisely. I have honestly seen Instagram videos of trainers coaching junior athletes with fun, explosive, spinning movements, on knees that are compromised during walking or squatting alone. Please, please choose your land-based training wisely. Find someone who knows what they are doing.
The 5 points mentioned above have been so consistent throughout our screenings that I have developed a series of training workshops for junior surfers. I really want to educate our young surfers, their families and coaches. More importantly, I want to help young surfers prevent injuries from overuse and lack of stability. During these workshops I explain junior development, the results of our screenings, the impacts of growth spurts along with fun ways to:
a) Prepare for a surf
b) Recover from a surf
c) Develop your surfing stability
You will find the details of these workshops and events on our website www.enitor.com.au. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any specific questions. We can provide individual screenings and exercise strategies to junior athletes, outside of events, at our clinic on Bay Street, Tweed Heads (07 5633 5207)
Here’s to supporting our junior athletes
Enitor Exercise Physiology