(with your mind, body and surfing)  

PART 1: Training the Mind to Connect with the Body
PART 2: Training the Body to Connect with the Mind

In PART 1 we will introduce the foundations of neuroscience (brain science). This will help to understand how your thoughts, actions and habits influence the body.

In PART 2 we will show specific exercises so you can train the body and mind to work together to improve surfing performance and longevity

The message to surfers regarding what style of training is best has for a long time been conflicting and confusing. As the sport grows in professionalism, the need for training that translates to performance and longevity is growing. As surfers, we have all heard many suggestions over the years:

  • Do yoga mate
  • You should stretch more
  • Go to the gym
  • Build muscle
  • Don’t build muscle
  • Just surf, that’s all John John does

The reality is that the top tier of professionals in the sport are taking training seriously. Unfortunately, most of us are not John John. So between work, family and other commitments surfing all day is not an option. This is where land based training can help. The correct training will allow for:

  • Surfing performance gains
  • Less risk of overuse injury
  • Faster Recovery between sessions

To describe the goal of training for surfing performance and longevity in one word it is this;
“CONNECTION”The best surfers are the ones that are the most connected. Connected with their body, mind, equipment and connected with the ocean. Connection allows for speed, power and flow as all the moving parts work together.

In order to train this, we need to re think everything we know. Training for Connection does not mean building large muscles that will slow you down in the water. It doesn’t mean folding your body into unusual positions with your hand over your heart.

It means rewiring the the Mind Body Connection by using the new science of the brain. The goal shifts to learning how to connect the different parts of your body. The foot with the knee and the knee with the hip. The hips with the lower back. The upper and lower body via the core. The left leg and right arm. The neck with the visual fields and so on.

To train the mind body connection requires a brief understanding of neuroscience (science of the brain). The golden rule is this:

“Neurons that fire together wire together”

A neuron is a specialised cell that transmits a nerve impulse (Hebb 1949). These nerve impulses are how the brain communicates with the body. A signal sent from the brain via a neuron leads to a muscle contraction. The contraction of the muscle then leads to movement.

Neurons that consistently fire together create a link with one another (Hebb 1949). This explains why you don’t have to think about tying your shoelaces and it explains why walking requires little conscious thought. It explains why a pop up was once hard and now it happens automatically. The repetition of task has created a cluster of neurons that have fired together enough times to create a “shortcut” in the brain for that task.

The brain is always learning and adjusting by creating connections based on the things we consistently do (Neuroplasticity). The good news is that we can use this ability of the brain to change to our advantage. With consistent effort, it is possible to learn how to control the body in a way that enhances surfing performance.

Awareness also allows us to become mindful of how our thoughts affect our body. How stress can create tension in the lower back or shoulders. How that traffic jam can throw us into a fight or flight response and shift the breathing pattern from the belly to the upper chest. Through awareness you can learn to become more in sync with the mind body connection.

This process is always happening whether we like it or not. The things you think and the things you do are re-wiring the circuitry of the brain. This means that if you sit at a desk all day your brain will adapt the bodies flexibility to meet the demands of this task. So sitting all day results in tight hips and a stiff rounded spine. The exact things we don’t want for surfing.

With this new understanding, the exercises in PART 2 will take on a new meaning. The goal is no longer to flog your body with training so that you are in pain for 3 days and can’t surf. The goal becomes developing the skill of controlling the body. The control on land imprints a pattern in the brain through repetition.

Now next time you are on a wave, the way your brain has learnt to control the body has been upgraded. You will have more connection through your core, hips and shoulders. The result of an upgraded body and mind can only mean one thing – upgraded surfing.

Scott Johnstone (DPT, BAppSc(ExSS)