5 Reasons Why Pilates is Great for Surfers

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Pilates is one of those disciplines that can really be applied to anything, and anyone. It creates a level of body awareness that helps you build strength and stability in very specific ways, and I think it’s this level of specificity that draws me to the discipline, or maybe I just have OCD, I am not quite sure. Either way, the more sports that I engage in, the more I see the benefits of my Pilates practice coming into play. And surfing is one of them, well, wake surfing in my case, and I find that Pilates is a great way to create a strong base from which to work when on the water. Here are 5 reasons why Pilates is great for surfers.

1. Builds Core Stability and Strength

There’s a lot of balance involved in surfing, so it helps to have a strong, steady structure to keep you centred and stable on the board. Think of that ‘brace’ position that you adopt in the gym, well that’s great for compound movement patterns, but I feel that Pilates improves this concept with a bit more of the mobility side in mind, which works exceptionally well when surfing, as you learn to build a healthy core structure, strengthening the abdominals and back muscles, for a strong, stable torso whilst you stay agile and dynamic in your movements.

2. Works on Mobility and Flexibility

You’ve got to be able to twist and turn on the board – it’s very much about moving with the wave; the more rigid you are, the less likely you are going to find that rhythm. In Pilates we work in all planes of motion, through a wide range of movement patterns – think flexion, extension, rotation, lateral flexion, and so on. And through these movement patterns we work on our ability to both hold and move our body through specific patterns, focusing on time under tension, as we activate small (and large) muscle groups throughout the body. It was called Controlology for a reason you see.

3. Creates a Strong Sense of Focus

I love Pilates for the focus that it gives me – I have to be present in my practice, otherwise I am going to struggle to move and stabilise my body with intention. This neuromuscular engagement, or mind-body connection is something that is vital for surfers; you have to be connected to your movement. And that’s very much why surfers do what they do, there’s that meditative mindful state that we get into when out in the water, and that connection will very much resonate with this form of sport and a surfer mentality.

4. Builds Structured Movement Patterns

By this, I mean that Pilates will help you to isolate different muscle groups in your body, to create a structure to how you move, to create a sequence of events in your musculature in order to enforce a movement pattern. Take for example, a plank – it’s not just about using your arms to push you off the floor, you’ve got the rest of the body to help you out and create an extremely strong structure, you just need to know how, and be able to feel that activation through the relevant muscle groups. The same goes for surfing – that initial push up off the board is a full-body exercise, it’s all about knowing how to get the right muscles involved to make it as effective (and efficient) as possible to reduce energy expenditure and get into position quickly.

5. Helps to Reduce the Risk of Injury

Let’s face it, with any sport there is going to be a risk of injury, particularly when practiced over time. Pilates is a beneficial form of exercise to add to any sportsperson’s routine because this style of training will bring balance to your body, creating strength and stability in a holistic manner – but not only strengthening, also mobilising and creating flexibility so that muscles are neither too tight nor too weak, which is important for creating harmony in the body, to avoid creating too much tension, especially when specific muscle groups are used consistently in a particular form of sport. Add the breathing element that comes with your Pilates practice, and you will quickly see how this will benefit your mind and body in both sport and life in general.

So if you’re a surfer and you haven’t added Pilates to your training routine, I highly recommend giving it a go and seeing if this helps with your form and focus when you’re out surfing.

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