There’s something special about hitting the beach on a perfect day and taking advantage of waves when the swell builds up. But we surfers are all fully aware of one of surfing’s greatest drawbacks: back pain. So is surfing good for your back? And why do you feel that pain every time you paddle out?
Generally, surfing isn’t good for your back. Our muscles are tight and/or spasm, while sometimes you may feel continuous back pain. This is because you’re putting too much strain on the wrong muscle groups and aren’t getting enough support from other muscles while lying on your board or paddling.
Surfing may not be good for your back with the wrong technique, but you can change your technique and your posture if you understand exactly what’s causing the pain and use some exercises to correct the issue.
The Causes Of Back Pain In Surfers
When you’re surfing, you are spending a lot of time paddling out and in what is known as the “prone position.” A study from the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education found that 23.3% of all surfing injuries are back injuries.
Furthermore, considering that you’re spending so much time on the water and prolonged lobar extensions (i.e., while you’re paddling) is extremely strenuous and could make you predisposed to chronic back injuries. Also, if you aren’t extending your cervical (neck) and thoracic (pectoral) vertebrae, it increases the pressure on your lower back, which wasn’t built to withstand that kind of activity.
Other movements while you’re actually surfing, such as cuts, turns, and the combination of trunk movements, flexing, and rotating, make your chances of hurting your back so much higher. Beyond this, if you have a weak core (which serves to stabilize your muscle movements and prevents over-extension), you’re creating a true recipe for disaster.
Can Surfing Be Good For Posture?
Surfing can help improve your posture… if you do some work on it away from the waves and work on your form. Balance your surfing with some other exercises and, like any physical activity, it can be remarkably beneficial. But you have to look out for the imbalances.
Most of the time, you are surfing with your face down and your neck up, but if you adjust your paddling technique, you can avoid the detrimental effects that surfing can have on your posture.
For example, turns and maneuvers improve your core strength and rotators – two key components for good posture.
Beyond this, standing up on a surfboard, maintaining balance trains your body how to hold proper posture while you’re not surfing.
How To Strengthen Your Back For Surfing?
Perhaps the best way to improve your posture, stretch and build up those core muscles is to use some basic yoga exercises that you can do anywhere… even on the shore, while you’re getting ready to paddle out.
This simple pose helps to stretch your lats and your ribs, which often put your back under strain if not properly strengthened and stretched. You’ll find that once you’ve got this technique down and built all the appropriate muscles, the process of paddling out becomes almost effortless
This is one of the best ways to stretch out your back and your spine and build core strength. Having a strong core and an appropriately aligned spine are critical building blocks for good posture and could be the catalyst that helps you beat that back pain
This may be the most important yoga pose because it stretches your lower back from the sides, which is exactly the kind of strain you’re taking while lying on the board. Getting this right can make a monumental difference
Are You Using The Right Surfboard?
Perhaps part of the problem with your backaches, your bad posture, and bad technique has to do with the size of your surfboard, which is very important and depends on your body type, your weight, and your experience level. Beginners, for example, should be using longer boards that provide a bit of stability while they’re getting familiar with the waves and extensive paddling and, of course, standing up and balancing.
Taller and slightly more adept, intermediate surfers may also need slightly bigger boards, while shorter surfers with a bit more experience can opt for smaller and lighter boards.
To figure out what size is best for you, to make surfing good for your back, you can use a general rule of thumb, which is that intermediate surfers should get a board that is about one palm higher than your standing height. Wider boards offer more flotation and are better for beginners, and the shape of your board and/or type are equally important. Figuring out which shapes and designs are better for your level of skill and body type is a bit more complicated, but try to stick to longboards, funboards, and SUP boards if you need stability and want to save your back from excessive strain.
More Useful Exercises
If you’re looking to defeat a surfer’s back pain and need some more exercises to get you there, you can also try a reclined twist. Lying on your back, bringing your knees to your chest with your arms spread out to the side, flat on the floor, lower your knees to the floor sideways, one side at a time while engaging your core. Once your legs reach the floor, relax into a stretch, breathing and doing your best to keep your opposite shoulder on the floor.
The upper back extension (or Superman exercise) involves lying face down on the floor, with your arms stretched out in front of you and your legs hip-width apart, lifting your arms and legs simultaneously so that they lift off the ground and engage your upper- and mid-back. This is a key strengthening exercise that improves your endurance and allows you to relieve some of the pressure on your lower back, in particular, while you’re surfing.
Deep core exercises, in addition to focusing on your back, are critical. If your abdominal muscles are strong enough, they will be able to share the load when it comes to the strains that surfing can put on your back. Rather than focus on situps, however, learn how to activate your deeper core muscles and will do wonders for your lower back not only when you surf but throughout your day.
So when we asked the question, “is surfing good for your back?” the immediate answer seems to be “no,” and it seems to be a common issue among surfers everywhere. However, it doesn’t have to be. If you can get your posture right, do helpful exercises, and prepare your body for the strains of surfing, the answer changes, and it could even end up being good for your back!