Pilates is now a key training component for many elite athletes, from NFL players to Olympic ice dancers. It’s interesting to see that it’s now being adopted by some of the world’s best surfers.
Last year saw Kelly Slater, a big Pilates advocate, surf his way past a field of young elite-level athletes to win the prestigious Pipeline Masters the day before his 50th!
Four-time world champ Carissa Moore is another champ tapping into the power of Pilates. 2 world champs can’t be wrong!
For surfing, much like other subjectively scored sports, Pilates can greatly impact an athlete’s workout regime. Classical Pilates’ intelligent training system develops motor patterning, muscle function, and kinesthetic awareness to impact our skill acquisition and our style or form significantly.
I do believe that form is founded in function and to train this we need to have a well-balanced training program, much like the ingredients for a delicious, nutritious meal.
Now for every athletic pursuit and individual, these ingredients will require some personalized programming, and Pilates cannot do it all. However, Pilates offers many key ingredients and has a magical way of meeting the needs of the individual.
But you don’t have to be contending for a world title to benefit from Pilates in your surfing life.
For me, it was an instant game changer for my surfing.
I fell less, my turns became more powerful, and I grew more confident in more critical waves. Not to mention how my paddling became stronger. I could paddle faster and catch more waves with the endurance to stay in the water longer, which ultimately equated to having more fun.
So whatever level you are at, if you’re looking to continually improve, or add longevity to your time in the water, then adding Pilates to your workout regimen will accelerate you towards your goals.
Romana summed up Pilates beautifully in three words, STRETCH, STRENGTH, CONTROL.
Generally, in surfing, it’s an equal balance between the stretch (mobility/ flexibility) and the strength that helps us to optimize our performance.
An overfocus on the strength element creates an imbalance that compromises the potential for mobility with fluid movement. with functional compression (using the body like a spring), rhythm, and timing generating more aesthetically pleasing and functional motor patterning than simply brute force—basically, smoother, more aesthetically pleasing surfing.
In competitive surfing, where speed, power, and flow are the criteria for performance, an imbalance between stretch and strength will reduce the potential to deliver flow and inhibit the potential for control.
The powerhouse is critical here too. With the core conditioning element of Pilates, we can promote power and flow by creating a stable center from which our movement can emanate. This will allow the limbs to move freely using our muscles in the movement role rather than supporting in stabilizing the body, making for a more fluid surfing experience. Working from the center or the powerhouse creates a surfer that can better respond to the changing landscape of their playing field (the wave) and better connect and articulate through the surfboard.
But, as I stated before, we don’t have to be contending for a world title to benefit from a Pilates practice.
Surfing has been an enormous blessing in my life, but Pilates has given me the power to enjoy that blessing to its fullest, keeping me inspired and smiling daily.
So, whatever your athletic pursuit or goals, Pilates may provide the winning edge in sport or life.