BACK TO BACK: How to survive the QS Grind

by | Feb 11, 2017 | General Knowledge

After working back to back competitions, The Flight Centre Burleigh Pro and the Telstra Stores Tweed Coast Pro, it is time to consolidate, rest and re-set. The purpose of working these World Surf League Qualifying Series (QS) events was to screen the surfing athletes. I wanted to look for consistencies and identify strategies that may assist surfers during their 2017 competition year. I have a pile of screening forms sitting on my desk and the results have been interesting. Firstly, I want to thank Surfing Queensland and Surfing NSW for being open to my attendance at these events. Secondly, I have decided to blog about some of the general findings from these screenings. The QS is called the ‘grind’ for a reason. If any of these findings can assist QS athletes I will feel like I have, in part, done my job as a health professional in the surfing industry. I have listed these findings as the Top 5 factors that may be impacting on your competition performance:



1. Fatigue

Fatigue can really be felt in the soft tissue. It can also be seen in one’s posture. Two of the major factors that appeared to increase fatigue for the QS surfers I screened, include fatigue from travel and fatigue from multiple heats and events. Some surfers I saw at the Burleigh Pro (26th to 29th January) had bodies that still felt tight and sore once they commenced the Tweed Coast Pro 3-4 days later. This was particularly the case for surfers who completed multiple heats in the Burleigh event. Some surfers also continued their strength and conditioning training as per normal in between events.

Whenever fatigue is an issue, I question an athlete’s recovery strategies. Recovery is more than downing a sports drink and stretching. In fact, strategies can vary as much as there are surfers on the QS. Unfortunately, there is not enough space within this blog to chat on about recovery, so I will address this topic separately.

2. Stance

Whether you surf in a regular or goofy stance can pre-dispose you to functional and postural adaptations within the body. Your own adaptations of that stance, e.g. greater inward rotation of the rear knee, can further lead to postural adaptations within the body. What does this mean for surfers? It can explain some pain patterns and can also provide some insight into potential risk of injury. In terms of impact on performance it is important to have this realisation to better manage your training and recovery strategies.

3. Conditions

This point may not be surprising for surfers. When surf conditions were small, more surfers complained of hip pain, groin pain and lower back pain. Being proactive may be the lesson here. For example, if you know your hips crank in smaller surf and you have 4days of small surf ahead of you, stretch, release and stabilise this area appropriately. Then make sure your recovery includes addressing these areas of your body.

4. Employment

A job is a job, right? As an amateur athlete, I only ever thought about what my sport was doing to my body. No consideration was given to how 8hours of desk work might be impacting my performance. Several of the surfers I reviewed participated in labouring type employment. I will use this as an example. Their employment would cause them ongoing hip and lower back issues due the requirements and unique stressors of that job (carrying, lifting, sustained squatting, climbing, awkward postures). When they then overloaded their bodies during competition, these symptoms would often flare up. Instabilities, would also rear their ugly heads during competition. On the QS, employment is still a factor for many competitors.

Perhaps consider what impact your employment is having on your body and then look to address this in your exercise training. As an Occupational Rehabilitation Consultant, understanding the finer details of job demands is what I do, so if you need further help with this, just call or flick me an email.

5. Emotions

Emotions can be easily represented in the body. For example, nervousness or general anxiety can be illustrated by tight upper body and neck muscles. Breathing becomes shallower and involves the upper chest, neck and shoulders. Surfing already overloads the upper chest, neck and shoulders due to the repetitive motion of paddling. As such, competition or general anxiety can really fatigue these areas for surfers. The issue with this is the concurrent risk of injury. Several surfers I screened, who reported increased anxiety and stress also presented with impinged shoulders and pain with paddling. Changing breath patterns and releasing through the chest muscles help to relieve their symptoms. It is worth being aware of your emotional state, not just with surfing but in your life outside of surfing. No body works in isolation from the mind.

For each of the factors mentioned above, there can be a solution. More importantly, there are strategies you can control yourself, that can be done whilst you are travelling and competing in events. I will address possible solutions to each of these 5 factors in blogs to follow. I should point out that compared to the number of surfers who compete within the QS, my sample size is incredibly small. Please don’t think that I am publishing this blog as any form of scientific evidence. This information is presented to you as general information from my findings after working on these two events. In the very least I hope it encourages surfers to gain some insight into factors that may be impacting on their performance.
If you have any specific questions, please drop me an email at Keep jumping onto the website to read upcoming blogs. The first of these will be on recovery. I really hope that this information has been useful and helpful in some way.

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