The cooler seasons of Autumn and Winter bring ideal surfing conditions to our coast. As surfers, we are excited for the return of powerful groundswells, offshore winds and bigger waves. However, our eagerness to get in the water without listening to our bodies could result in unwanted physical strain or injury.
Dr Brieuc Wilmart was trained in the UK as an Osteopath and hails from Belgium. He is an avid surfer who is keen to help you understand the biomechanics of surfing and give you tips to improve your performance in the water and speed up your post surf recovery.
Surfing requires power from your whole body. The action of paddling requires multiple muscles to be used; triceps, biceps, deltoid, lats, the rotator cuff muscles as well as your abs and back muscles. Lifting your upper body requires use of the deltoids, pecs, triceps and biceps. When up and riding the quadriceps, gluteals and the gastrocs (calf muscle) leg muscles kick in. All of these muscles need to be sufficiently warmed up before and stretched after a surf. In clinic, surfers often present with common body injuries: tight shoulders, sore necks, stiff hips, low back pain and tight calves as a result of regular surfing sessions. You may have spent your surfing lifetime disregarding your body’s aches and pains. The warm-up will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. Without targeted stretching your muscles may fatigue faster. When you become tired you risk further injury or strain.
A stiff thoracic spine can be associated with shoulder restriction and present as a pinching pain in your neck when turning your head to look behind when paddling. Tight hip flexors may be felt from sitting stationary, straddling your board, for long periods of time. With every bottom-turn and carve, your low back muscles work very hard and could lead to a future back injury; especially if your pelvis is out of balance. Dr Wilmart says he often “finds that surfers with a kyphotic or rounded mid back can create shoulder restriction. Improving thoracic mobility, releasing the rotator cuff, the lats and opening up the chest can greatly help shoulder mobility and thus improve paddling power to catch waves more efficiently.” He also likes to “treat the external hip rotators and deep hip flexor muscles to enable you to pop-up quickly.”
Osteopathic treatment is always designed to suit each individual body and targeted to key problem areas. Dr Wilmart believes it is very important to release the neck and shoulder muscles through targeted soft tissue techniques, trigger point dry needling and resistance based stretching. He pays close attention to the joints in your spine, shoulders and hips to make sure that they are moving as well as possible. If restriction occurs, articulation and joint manipulation may be helpful for your body. A treatment with Dr Wilmart “aims to help your body to move more freely and increase your endurance and performance in the water.” Visit the Sequence instagram page, @sequenceosteo, for some simple warm-up exercises and stretches for surfing.