Pilates and Surfing

As a Pilates Instructor/Trainer, I am often asked, “What can Pilates do for me? ” The simple answer is, Pilates is a movement and exercise regimen to help balance out your bodies specific imbalances, help you move better and move pain free every day. That being said, with a consistent Pilates practice combining strength, flexibility and balance work, people of all fitness levels see the benefit in its addition to their current workout.

Let’s talk about surfing specifically.

Surfing requires a unique combination of skills and strengths. The upper body strength required to paddle out pass the break, and the cardiovascular strength and overall endurance to place yourself in the right place to catch waves are two very basic yet extremely challenging movements.  In addition, flexibility in your hips and hamstrings is needed to pop up and get your feet under you and on the board. Then we have the issue of balance. How many of us can stand on a stable surface and keep from falling over when thrown a figurative curve ball? Not many. To top it all off, you have an unstable surface (water) constantly moving under the small base of the surf board.  With these few factors alone, surfing is one of the most challenging full body sports out there. Pilates provides surfers of all levels the ability to step up their game.

Breaking it down in terms of movement patterns, let’s start with the upper body.  Paddling out against the waves is one of the most exhausting parts. If the shoulders, back and core muscles aren’t well conditioned, you won’t be able to get out far enough in order to catch the Dream Wave. Pilates exercises on the various pieces of specialized Pilates equipment will target the deltoids, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, pecs and all the major core muscles which can strengthen and lengthen the muscles simultaneously, allowing the body to work against the tide and roll with the waves should the ocean rear its ugly head.

Now let’s consider breathing. The cardiovascular endurance and breath control that surfing requires is often overlooked and many don’t know how to properly train for this intense workout. If you’re goal is to hit the big waves and survive a wipe out, the lungs need to be exercised just like any other muscle. Pilates is about the mind body connection and control of the breath with movement. Breath is life. Fellow fitness professional and avid surfer, Bill Sugg, queued me in his workout regimen for surfing, and guess what?! It includes not only strength work, but breath control exercises as well.

Balance; the final building block to a strong surfing foundation. If you’ve done Pilates before, you may have tried to stand on one leg on the inflated dome of a Bosu. Can you stand on top without wobbling? I don’t know about you, but embarrassingly, it took me a while of doing a consistent core workout before successfully being able to do this. Adding an unstable base to any upper body Pilates exercise at the spring board (such as chest press, hug a tree, triceps press, just to name a few) completely changes the game. The springs on the Pilates equipment provide the challenge in strength as well as control needed for these physical requirements. Joseph Pilates, the creator of Pilates as we know it, called this method Contrology. The control of the body working simultaneously in both concentric and eccentric contractions of the muscles allows one to control movement and breathe. Mind body connection is essential. Do we see a theme? I do. Pilates can be a game changer for anyone looking to start surfing or those looking to take their surfing to the next level.

Happy Pilates bodies.

Kit Matthews

Owner, KitPilates LLC

Senior National Travel Master Trainer, Club Pilates