Every surfer knows that surfing requires countless years of dedication, natural athleticism, and feline-like tight rope balancing ninja skills to ever get good at the sport. It’s a sport of finesse, subtle timing, going with the flow, and rapid directional changes that often throws many surfers for a loop (a.k.a.- wipeout!!). Forced to deal with limb twisting wipeouts, oxygen depriving hold downs, never ending recurring injuries, old man maladies, and muscle constricting Charlie horses, the surfer needs a force, a tool if you will to combat all of these body wrenching woes. Better known as “stretching”, it’s like milk and it does a body good! It’s the antidote that every surfer needs to incorporate into their surfing regimen to preserve and extend their surfing years injury free. (Note: Stretching also happens to come pre-approved by your Jr. High school gym teacher as an excellent pre-workout ritual (minus the shorter than short “man hammock” gym shorts - check please!!)).
Stretching as a practice maintains a rather long history in the hallowed halls of mainstream sports. Every major sports league from peewee division to major league professionals have implemented some form of stretching or calisthenics to get the blood flow flowing and the muscles juiced before hitting the field. With surfing things are no different but the approach is vastly different, some might even say counterculture to the norm. As to be expected, surfers are a different breed; a colorful cast of characters that tend to fall into a few basic schools of thought on how stretching should be done prior to paddling out. Drumroll please…..Here they are!!!
The “Free to Be Me” Yogi Stretcher:
This particular breed of hippidy dippity surfers brings the yoga studio to the beach with numerous displays of tantric sun salutations and downward dog poses. The “Free to Be Me” Yogi Stretcher is the pre-eminent expert on striking a pose and maintaining all things chi, circular, and earth whilst sipping on a gourd of yerba mate. All jokes aside, this group of surfers is definitely “in tune” with their bodies and especially their inner child (i.e.- child’s pose). It’s anyone’s guess if they’ll ever make into the lineup sometime this century with their seemingly never ending chi inducing extenda-stretch sessions and meditation routines. One thing’s for certain is that when they finally do, they’ll pull off a killer headstand with ease!
The “Half-Assed” Stretcher:
The “half-assed” stretcher has no shame in the eyes of their surf stretching peers. This limber group of stretch abstaining surfers are typically younger, devoid of injuries, way “too cool for school”, and often maintain a relatively undeveloped frontal lobe in their cerebellum incapable of considering negative consequences based on their actions or inactions (i.e.-not stretching!!). Either that or they’re entirely too stoked to wait around and stretch while enticing waves await them just a stones throw away. Common half-assed stretches practiced by this group are the 2-3 second half-assed quad stretch shuffle at the waters edge or the ever popular “I kinda bent over and touched my toes but gave up and went surfing instead” routine. Ahhhh youth!!
The “Spring Training” Stretcher:
This particular group of surfers are on a level all their own. They were probably voted most likely to win the presidential physical fitness award in elementary school gym class or deemed runner up as the next Lance Armstrong in their high school yearbook. They are unique in the fact that they show up to the beach rearing to go and instead of just surfing like the half-assed stretcher choose to embark upon a series of strenuous workouts and stretching routines prior to actually setting foot in the water. It is not uncommon to see this group of surfers running wind sprints up and down the beach like a not so magical Baywatch moment followed by overzealous displays of windmill stretches, jumping jacks, and a power set of push ups for extra credit (added bonus points for grunting sound effects). These are also the kind of surfers that will tell you about how they already scored a 2 hour dawn patrol sesh, ran a half marathon, and snagged an Acai bowl all before you saw the light of day. Feel the burn!!!
The “Exhibitionist” Stretcher:
The exhibitionist stretcher likes to put on a show when they hit the beach. They’re kind of like a cross between the “spring training” stretcher and the “free to be me” yogi stretcher except way creepier! This particular breed of stretchers likes to be noticed and will often post up uncomfortably close to a group of sunbathing babes and proceed to stretch like a cheap, oiled up Chippendale looking for a tip. Focus will be on gyrating hip rotations sans hula hoop and overemphasized glute (butt) stretches straight out of a kama sutra infomercial. Creepy….very creepy!
The Injury Prone Stretcher:
The injury prone stretcher always seems to have something wrong with their ailing body. Whether it’s a bad back, torn rotator cuff, broken bones, arthritis; the list goes on and on. It is for this very reason that The Injury Prone Surfer is an extremely dedicated stretcher – they have to be, they don’t have a choice! Take notes from this breed of stretchers as injuries can happen to the best of us regardless of age, skill level, or body type. Keep it limber and the surf will deliver!