It all started when I was asked to teach Qigong on a surfing retreat in the exotic Mentawai Islands in Indonesia. We set out on a 10 day boat trip with Brett Warner founder of Warner Surf Boards in Australia, the President of the Surfing Association of Portugal and a boat full of enthused surfers to one of the best places in the world to surf. I was asked to work with these surfers to develop exercises to help them have faster recovery times, heal old sore spots and injuries as well as help them reach peak performance with their surfing. Now, we did not get to do as much Qigong as I would have liked, but I consulted and worked with several of them to develop a unique program of applied Medical Qigong for the surfer.
After this trip I began to research and develop this program even further consulting with a plethora of surfers and experts as well as immersing myself in this world to find out exactly what these guys need to reach peak performance. We know that surfing can be dangerous and man, you can sure get sore after a day’s hard work. Is stretching alone going to get the kinks out of the body and help them reach peak performance? Just take a look at modern sports science and you will see the key to athletic peak performance goes far beyond just stretching which usually only works on the sagittal plane. What you need is something that will work deep with the muscle fascia and increase range of motion. You need dynamic movements that will utilize the same muscles and muscle fascia that you will be using when surfing. You need to strengthen the muscles around the joints that are prone to injury with the twists, turns and falls. You need movement to balance the body out after surfing because all the twists and paddling activate some areas of the body while others are neglected. You need breathing methods to stay calm, clear and focused as ride down those big waves.
With surfers increasingly taking to the air, sprains and dislocations of ankles and knees and destruction of the vital anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the knee and the delicate ligaments of the ankles are more and more common. Creating strong legs isn’t just about muscle, it is about strengthening tendons, muscle fascia and more. The common mistakes I see many surfers using yoga as their supplemental training. Being someone who has done various kinds of yoga for years and also having a mother who was a yoga teacher I can tell you this is simply not enough to make the legs strong. The yoga will stretch the muscle which is needed, but not enough to strengthen the legs to the amount they really need. Yoga also fails to address the surfers need for agility. The surfer needs to stay agile to adapt to the constant changes in the waves as well as jumps, etc. The surfer needs to develop elastic like fascia so it has a snap like a rubber band. If yoga is not used in conjunction with other exercises, it can over stretch the body like an overstretched rubber band. The body loses it’s elasticity and the surfer thus will gradually lose their ability for optimal twists and jumps.
Likewise going to the gym and doing weights and machines alone is not enough for supplemental training as it simply strengthens the muscle belly.
Modern fascia research has proven that our bodies are multi-dimensional and your workout should be treated as so. Fascia is like a net across the body. There are some kinds of Qigong that stretches the body while at the same time strengthening it, but they do this in a multi-dimensional plane as opposed to most stretching that only utiizes the sagittal plane.
The surfer to avoid injury needs exercises that increases:
- Muscle Strength
- Tendon Strength
- Ligament Strength
- Elasticity of the fascia
- Core Strength
The Qigong exercises I put together for surfing ticks everyone of those boxes! Through dynamic movements of deep, twists, low stances, undulations of the spine and coordination of the extremities with the core the surfer will reach be able to not only have injury prevention, but also reach peak performance doing what they love most, riding the waves.
Let me give a clear example of what I am talking about in terms of multi-dimensional fascia
Modern fascia research has proven that our bodies are multi-dimensional and your workout should be treated as so. There are some kinds of Qigong that stretches the body while at the same time strengthening it.
When people think of muscles they think of simple, antiquated anatomical concepts. Many are not aware of the modern research of muscle fascia.
Particularly pertinent to surfing is the Spiral Line.
Spiral Line the Fascia Line that Surfers Utilize
The Spiral Line loops around the body in two opposing helices, right and left, joining each side of the skull across the upper back to the opposite shoulder and then around the ribs to the front to cross again at the level of the navel to the hip. From the hip, the Spiral Line passes like a ‘jump rope’ along the outside of the thigh and across the shin to the middle of the arch, passing under the foot, running up the back of the thigh all the way up the spine close to where it started on the skull. -Anatomy Trains, Thomas Meyers
The Spiral Line serves to maintain balance across all planes. It helps to keep efficient knee tracking. Many surfers have knee problems and by strengthening this line of fascia you can prevent knee injuries. This line is particularly important because it helps in twists and rotations in the body. When you are surfing, forces from your leg can travel up the same side or cross to the opposite side of your body at the sacrum. When you go for a turn this really comes into play. People who have a weak Spiral Line when surfing are more prone to neck and knee injuries and have weaker torque resulting in weaker, slower turns. Often times surfers get a sore neck and with some simple Qigong exercises you can open up this line of muscle fascia quickly and easily relieving the tension deep in the neck.
© Copyright Anatomy Trains, Thomas Meyers
This line serves a major role in rotations of the body, eccentric and isometric contraction, to steady the trunk and legs to keep them from falling into collapse.
Here is one exercise from my upcoming book, Qigong For Surfers, which is due to drop in the next few months and one you can start using this one right away.
This exercise is particularly helpful for the twists and turns a surfer needs to make as they ride.
There are many variations of this exercise in different systems. White Tiger Qigong teaches over 4 different variations.
Serving Teacups Qigong For Surfers
Instructions: With the left hand in front facing up and the right by the floating rib cage (palm up) while in horse stance, twist across to the right, bringing the left arm across the body. Come down to your lower dan tian and across, circling to your kidney behind you. Bending forward, bring the palm over and in front all while keeping the palm up. Moving in a circle around to the right, come up with your body and now bending backwards, circle to the left until your arm reaches back to center again.
Become aware of spiraling energy in the body as you move; Focus on holding tea cups in both palms and in your and do not spill it. The image of holding tea cups and not spilling the tea helps the practitioner retain an intense focus (intention) on the hands and thus “keep the Qi”in the hands throughout the exercise.
- Loosens the spine, neck, hips, shoulders, wrists, and elbows opens the chest, gentle
lower back and kidney massage, full neck rotation, shoulders, wrists and more
- Stretch the intercostal muscles and rib cage
- Opens and loosens the shoulders
- Aids for more torque in the twist of turning
- Loosens and relaxes a stiff neck and back with a deep, full neck rotation
- See the above benefits
Gaining an increased degree of suppleness and flexibility around the spine is essential for maintaining optimum health.
This article was an excerpt from my upcoming book, Qigong For Surfers, subscribe to my newsletter to stay tuned.