T Nation

Surfing/Diving and Lifting


#1

I come from a powerlifting/strongman background but am now living in Hawaii and have found several other hobbies that I enjoy instead of hitting the weights six days a week....mainly surfing and spearfishing. Long-term fitness is drastically becoming a bigger part of my life and I hope to be able to lift/surf/dive for a long time to come. While I enjoy being one of the bigger guys out there, it doesnt help me what so ever.

I have obviously lost some muscle mass, which I knew would happen, but am looking for types of conditioning that will still help me hold on to as much muscle mass as I can but still be efficient in giving me a higher level of conditioning required for surfing and freediving/spearfishing.

Any advice would be appreciated. I currently am forcing myself to get into the gym for three days to get my core lifts in. On many occasions I am lifting and surfing in the same day.

I am playing around with nutrition as well. I have always had it dialed in when I was only weightlifting but now it is a bit more complicated. Some days I wont know my activity level until I get off work to check to surf.


#2

Welcome to the forum. I do a lot of bodysurfing myself, and am really into Skimboarding. I just started logging it, but I’ve been doing at least 2 bodysurfing/Skimboarding sessions a week. What I’ve found is that my ocean activities are PLENTY conditioning-wise. And saltwater sports, like any other sport, improve with practice. Kill 2 birds with one stone man, that’s training economy. Plus i don’t know about you, but I’d rather hit the surf than run up a hill any day of the week, haha.


#3

I agree with you about being great conditioning and enjoying the surf more than any other type of exercising.

What I am concerned about how much of a set-back it has taken on my main lifts. I am surfing/diving at least 4-5 times per week and this hinders my recovery for the gym.

I guess it is one of those things…which is more important.

Where in Texas are you from? I grew up going down to Surfside.


#4

So, I’m just curious what you’re actually looking for here. Are you looking for specific ways to better condition yourself for surfing/spearfishing while sacrificing as little mass/strength as possible, or do you just want to hang on to as much mass/strength as you can while spending more time and energy on non-gym acivities?

I only ask cause it’s kind of 2 different questions really. BTW, I totally get it. I’d rather surf/dive/climb/hike/play than hit the gym myself and I am super jealous that you have the opportunity to do so 5-5x/week in Hawaii, no less.

If you’re already too wasted to train I don’t really see where you need to add conditioning per se. Just dial in diet/recovery/mobility stuff as best you can and maybe look at a 2 day split (5/3/1 or some such) to hang onto what you can accepting that you have a different focus for now.

Play safe and have fun.


#5

[quote]txrowdy wrote:
I agree with you about being great conditioning and enjoying the surf more than any other type of exercising.

What I am concerned about how much of a set-back it has taken on my main lifts. I am surfing/diving at least 4-5 times per week and this hinders my recovery for the gym.

I guess it is one of those things…which is more important.

Where in Texas are you from? I grew up going down to Surfside. [/quote]

Yeah there’s always a trade-off man. What this poster below said pretty much sums up how I feel about it.

[quote]batman730 wrote:
If you’re already too wasted to train I don’t really see where you need to add conditioning per se. Just dial in diet/recovery/mobility stuff as best you can and maybe look at a 2 day split (5/3/1 or some such) to hang onto what you can accepting that you have a different focus for now.

Play safe and have fun.[/quote]

Oh awesome! Always nice to hear from a fellow saltwater Texan. I grew up in Houston, going to Galveston and yeah sometimes Surfside. For the better part of a decade I’ve been living in Corpus Christi, and just this past year had a house on North Padre Island.

How about you? Man, you’ve made quite the upgrade from Surfside haha.


#6

[quote]batman730 wrote:
So, I’m just curious what you’re actually looking for here. Are you looking for specific ways to better condition yourself for surfing/spearfishing while sacrificing as little mass/strength as possible, or do you just want to hang on to as much mass/strength as you can while spending more time and energy on non-gym acivities?

I only ask cause it’s kind of 2 different questions really. BTW, I totally get it. I’d rather surf/dive/climb/hike/play than hit the gym myself and I am super jealous that you have the opportunity to do so 5-5x/week in Hawaii, no less.

If you’re already too wasted to train I don’t really see where you need to add conditioning per se. Just dial in diet/recovery/mobility stuff as best you can and maybe look at a 2 day split (5/3/1 or some such) to hang onto what you can accepting that you have a different focus for now.

Play safe and have fun.[/quote]

Ya sorry my question was kind of vague and confusing. I guess my main goal as of now is to keep as much size/strength as I can while still being efficient at the activities I enjoy. I know to get better at those activities, I need to do those activities more but I believe I could possibly kill two birds with one stone and train in a way that still allows me to keep a certain amount of strength/size while still improving my conditioning and improving my breath/oxygen usage (*biggest thing for me right now). Dare I say crossfit or circuit type of training?


#7

[/quote]

Oh awesome! Always nice to hear from a fellow saltwater Texan. I grew up in Houston, going to Galveston and yeah sometimes Surfside. For the better part of a decade I’ve been living in Corpus Christi, and just this past year had a house on North Padre Island.

How about you? Man, you’ve made quite the upgrade from Surfside haha.

[/quote]

Nice, ya I grew up in Hockley on the NW side of Houston. If I ever moved back to Texas I would definitely have to be in Corpus or Padre. How about tropical storm Bill? I saw some pictures of the surf that it produced.

This is actually my second time living here. I came back to Houston for 3 years and tried to settle back in but it never felt right. Being away from the water took a toll on me mentally so I finally got to balls to move back and its been about a year now.


#8

Haha, no way! I’m from the NW area too. I grew up around Jersey village and moved to Cypress before I came down here. You were 10 minutes down the road.

Bill produced some great swells. Long, tall, pretty powerful, and really low frequency waves. No choppiness at all really, and with predictable breaks. Probably the best conditions I’ve ever seen down here. The skim hovered closer to the dunes than the gulf. Currents were strong though, when I got back to the sand from bodysurfing I was probably 200 meters down the beach.

I feel you man. Even when going to Houston for a visit, after a week I miss the salt in the air. And bars get old. Fishing, surfing, snorkling, diving, kayaking never seem to get stale. Doubt I’ll ever live anywhere without a beach again.

How is Hawaii? Other than the traffic I’ve heard nothing but amazing things.


#9

I live on Maui so no traffic what so ever. Oahu can get pretty bad though. I love it here but not much social life to speak of. Work, play, sleep.

Giving Paul Carter’s shoulder routine a try to strengthen my shoulders and lean out a bit as well.

Mondays and Fridays -

Seated Front Press -
5,4,3,2,1,1,1,1,1 - All the singles at the same weight
Dips - bodyweight only - 4 sets of 20 or as many as you could get on Monday. On Friday do 3 sets of 5 weighted.
Side Lateral/Front Raise Super Set - 5 rounds of 15-20
Upright Rows - 4 sets of 20

Tuesday - Squats and Leg Work

Wenesday -
Incline Press - 5 sets of 5 Same weight for all 5 sets after warming up
Rear Laterals - 4 sets of 10
Back and Bicep Work (pulldowns/rows/curls)


#10

I’ll make it out there one of these days.

There you go man, just get plenty of food w/ all that activity. Good luck!


#11

So I’m coming at this from the opposite direction really. I’ve surfed since I was 12/13, 27 now. I surf at a fairly high level (I’m sponsored, for what thats worth, I don’t get paid to surf but I get free clothes and surf gear, and I compete). I just got into lifting a couple of months ago, after a couple of shoulder dislocations and another couple of injuries I’ve been working with a top physio who basically got me into lifting to fix my imbalances and get better at surfing.

You probably need to decide on your priorities. The heaviest professional surfer currently on the tour (so top 34 in the world competitively) is around 180, maybe 190 pounds, and he’s 6’3. There have been a few bigger guys, but they are generally only good in bigger more powerful waves. The greatest surfer ever, kelly slater, who is still arguably the best (at 43 years old) is 5’9 and 160. Half the top guys in the world are sub 160. Strength to weight ratio and agility are what you need, plus explosive core strength. You will see a lot of bigger guys who still surf well though, especially in hawaii where the waves have power the extra weight is less of a disadvantage.

Being sub 10% body fat but strong and flexible is way more important than deadlifting big weights, think gymnast not powerlifter. I’d never touched a weight in my life (I never even did push ups or pull ups) until 2 months ago and I was ‘ripped’ by most peoples standards, (although obviously I’m super skinny by this site’s standards), first time I tried to do pull ups in the gym I managed 15, I did 10 pistol squats the first time I tried, it took me about a month to learn how to do dragon flags and one armed pull ups.

Point is that surfing for several hours a day is sufficient to get you in pretty good shape if you surf aggressively on a shortboard… If you get 4 waves an hour on a longboard you probably aren’t getting much in the way of training from it.

You also need to make sure your whole body works together as a unit. Isolation exercises are probably in no way beneficial unless you have an actual rehab reason. And stay flexible, a pistol squat touching your ass to your heel and with your knee staying well behind your toes should be easy and shouldn’t bother your knee or your hips are too tight or your balance sucks…

My training consists of full body workouts twice a week, but I move it around depending on the surf, if its going to be good I won’t hit the gym the day before. I basically do vertical pull/push and horizontal pull/push for upper body, plus a few other things, laterals and front raises, YLTWs and face pulls for shoulder health (paddling a surfboard really strengthens and tightens your internal rotators but does nothing really for your external, thats why my shoulders were hurting). I do back squat, but I don’t go too heavy (usually around my bodyweight on the bar) since I squat slightly asymmetrically due to spending so much time standing on a surfboard slightly twisted, the more time I spend in the gym the more that is getting fixed.

People here like to bash bosu boards and the like, but surfing is all about how much force you can apply to a really unstable and constantly moving object, so I do things like pistol squats on the balance boards, I squat on swiss balls etc.

Long rambling post, hopefully there’s something useful in there…


#12

I should also add that I counted my calories for a week when I first started training (and discovered this site…) and my average for the week was 3800 per day (and thats at 155). Some days when I surf lots, maybe smoke a joint or 2 I’d eat 4500. It actually surprised me, friends tell me I have a crazy appetite but I didn’t think I was eating that much.

If you surf 3+ hours a day (I either surf or skate for at least 2 hours every day, if the surf is good I’ll be out there for 6 hours). If you surf every day and surf energetically you are going to have to eat obscene amounts of food if you don’t want the weight to fall off. In 2 months of lifting I haven’t put on any weight but I have got significantly stronger (which is what I want really).


#13

[quote]dobster88 wrote:
So I’m coming at this from the opposite direction really. I’ve surfed since I was 12/13, 27 now. I surf at a fairly high level (I’m sponsored, for what thats worth, I don’t get paid to surf but I get free clothes and surf gear, and I compete). I just got into lifting a couple of months ago, after a couple of shoulder dislocations and another couple of injuries I’ve been working with a top physio who basically got me into lifting to fix my imbalances and get better at surfing.

You probably need to decide on your priorities. The heaviest professional surfer currently on the tour (so top 34 in the world competitively) is around 180, maybe 190 pounds, and he’s 6’3. There have been a few bigger guys, but they are generally only good in bigger more powerful waves. The greatest surfer ever, kelly slater, who is still arguably the best (at 43 years old) is 5’9 and 160. Half the top guys in the world are sub 160. Strength to weight ratio and agility are what you need, plus explosive core strength.

Being sub 10% body fat but strong and flexible is way more important than deadlifting big weights, think gymnast not powerlifter. I’d never touched a weight in my life (I never even did push ups or pull ups) until 2 months ago and I was ‘ripped’ by most peoples standards, (although obviously I’m super skinny by this site’s standards), first time I tried to do pull ups in the gym I managed 15, I did 10 pistol squats the first time I tried, it took me about a month to learn how to do dragon flags and one armed pull ups.

Point is that surfing for several hours a day is sufficient to get you in pretty good shape if you surf aggressively on a shortboard… If you get 4 waves an hour on a longboard you probably aren’t getting much in the way of training from it.

You also need to make sure your whole body works together as a unit. Isolation exercises are probably in no way beneficial unless you have an actual rehab reason. And stay flexible, a pistol squat touching your ass to your heel and with your knee staying well behind your toes should be easy and shouldn’t bother your knee or your hips are too tight or your balance sucks…

My training consists of full body workouts twice a week, but I move it around depending on the surf, if its going to be good I won’t hit the gym the day before. I basically do vertical pull/push and horizontal pull/push for upper body, plus a few other things, laterals and front raises, YLTWs and face pulls for shoulder health (paddling a surfboard really strengthens and tightens your internal rotators but does nothing really for your external, thats why my shoulders were hurting). I do back squat, but I don’t go too heavy (usually around my bodyweight on the bar) since I squat slightly asymmetrically due to spending so much time standing on a surfboard slightly twisted, the more time I spend in the gym the more that is getting fixed.

People here like to bash bosu boards and the like, but surfing is all about how much force you can apply to a really unstable and constantly moving object, so I do things like pistol squats on the balance boards, I squat on swiss balls etc.

Long rambling post, hopefully there’s something useful in there…

[/quote]

Totally agree with your training tips and great points, but does a guy who wants to enjoy surfing/free diving really need to worry too much about what it takes to be elite? Coming to the sport in your 20’s or older the likelihood that you’ll ever approach competitive levels is virtually nil. That’s ok. It’s still a wicked sport.

Regarding size, sure KS is 5’9" and a buck sixty, but Laird Hamilton is 6’3" and 215. Yeah, he’s obviously a big wave guy but he’s also an amazing all around waterman and one of my personal role models and pretty much a damn superhero.

Full disclosure, I’m 6’4" natural weight around 205-210. Learning to surf/skate/snowboard I hung out with guys who were in the optimal size range you describe and who rode at a very high level. I struggled like hell to keep up. I love Laird cause he proved to me that big guys can rip too. I was always at a deficit in that area and had I been less concerned with trying to compete with guys whose body types were better suited to the sport and more time enjoying myself and leveraging my assets I would have had more fun and less frustration.

As an aside to the OP, if I could change anything from my early surfing experience it would have been to accept sooner that as a bigger, novice surfer I would have been further ahead to accept sooner that the super aggressive shortboard shape I tried to learn on was a poor choice compared to something with way more volume. But I was 18/19 and fun shapes weren’t cool yet, so live and learn.


#14

Yeah for sure mate. I didn’t mean to say that surfing isn’t fun if you start late or aren’t competitive (half my mates did in their early 20s) and they like surfing just as much as I did. I do think surfing gets more fun the better you get at it.

I also definitely didn’t mean to say bigger guys can’t rip (although big by the standards of surfers is a bit different to tnation ‘big’, that’s really what I was trying to get at, I think my post would have been a bit different on a surfing forum). I did edit it to also say:

"You will see a lot of bigger guys who still surf well though, especially in hawaii where the waves have power the extra weight is less of a disadvantage. "

I love watching guys like dane reynolds and jordy smith who are both 190ish (dane also seems to have put on a bit of weight in the last year and is surfing better than ever I think) and can really throw a lot of water around, but they are still really agile and flexible.

Big wave specialists like laird are a bit different, and I think have less crossover to the average surfer than the guys on tour who can rip apart normal waves that we all surf all the time.


#15

No doubt man. I didn’t really mean to imply that you were saying that, although I did come off like that. Pretty much agree with everything you’ve written here.

It’s a funny situation being a bigger guy who’s drawn to sports where size is a disadvantage. I’m the poster child for this really. I like football, throwing, rowing and other speed/strength sports where I’m physically predisposed to excel. But I LOVE climbing (my first love), board sports, martial arts and other stuff where my assets are liabilities. I mean crap, I climb trees for a living which is totally a skinny guy’s game. Kinda the opposite of the undersized kid who just wants to play football, lol.

I don’t really care now cause I’m in it for love and I know I’ll never be “elite”, but as a younger guy who really wanted to be the best, it made me nuts trying to diet down and chasing those 145# dudes. Had I gotten over myself earlier and just had fun, it all would have been way more rewarding and of course would have gotten much better cause I would have gotten out more and maybe would have eventually found some niches where I could outperform the lightweights (or at least where it didn’t matter, i.e. backcountry snowboarding vs park riding).

None of this is in any way intended as an arguement against any of your comments, which as I said are pretty much spot on. Just an old guy shooting the shit.


#16

I agree with everything stated. I am fully aware that I will never be one of the top dogs or ever rip on the same level as all of the groms growing up with dad pushing them into head high peeling honolua bay. I have come a very long way in a short amount of time and I think my athleticism and strength/mobility has helped immensely. I started out surfing at 205 (5’9") and am down to 180 but still one of the bigger guys out there.

My mind is definitely set on being able to surf for as long as my body will allow so that keeping up with general fitness/mobility while working on surfing specific movements will be my goal going forward.

Unfortunately I work a full time 7-3:30 job and only get 2 hours after work and the weekends to surf so no crazy long 6 hours sessions for me. I am still all about wave count right now. When the surf is pumping I will get 2 to 3 sessions in a day and pounding food all day trying to recover for the next session.

I am actually amazed at how some really great surfers don’t see the power of nutrition and weightlifting especially the older they get. The older guys I see out there all the time (50+) are always the most in shape in the lineup.


#17

not your typical surfer body