31 May, 2013 31 May, 2013

Stretch Before You Shred


Zag, for one, used to laugh at the thought of stretching before a surf. “We feel GREAT, and there’s no time to waste…” we’d tell ourselves before hurriedly paddling out into cooking surf. But now, 37 years down the road we’re feeling each and every cramp and niggle sustained while trying to go hard in the surf. It happens. We all age.

With that in mind, we got some informed words by Durban-based Biokineticist Schalk van der Merwe, which should help slow the transformation from nimble grom to rickety old guy substantially. Just remember, you’ve got to stretch before you shred.


3 good reasons to stretch before you shred – by: Schalk van der Merwe

So, there you are waxing up your board on a cold winter’s morning. The carpark is as packed as usual, with guys frothing to hit the building swell which is stacked to the horizon. It’s cranking out there and some are already hooting their way onto the beach, while all you can do is pray that your dodgy back will hold up and allow you to return to the beach post-session looking more like John John as opposed to a Vaalie named Jannie.


Chris Molde, feeling loose at Scarborough.

Surfing is a graceful, majestic and often spiritual act, but let’s face it, surfing while injured is about as majestic as Julius doing a vastrap. So what is it we as surfers need to do to prevent our bad backs, knees and shoulders being a convenient excuse for not paddling out when it’s firing?

It is important that with any injury or niggle you receive, that you have it properly diagnosed before embarking on just any old training program. Yes, I know most guys are pretty stubborn and wouldn’t set foot in a doctor’s office unless they have a skeg sticking out of their skull or impaled in their bum, but the prospect of being out of the water for a prolonged period of time is a scary one for any surfer.

In my experience as a Biokineticist, most of these little ‘niggles’ can easily be overcome by making stretching a part of your pre-surf routine. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Bru, who has time for stretching when the waves are pumping?”. Some die-hard locals will smirk at the thought of doing stretches on the beach, and laugh at the thought of becoming a yogi. The truth is that if it’s good enough for Mick, then it’s good enough for you!


Josh Fairley rotates at Long Beach, all loosened up.

Surfing is suitable for all age groups, but let’s face it, as a twenty-odd year-old, you don’t want to be mistaken for a ballie while you’re being watched from the beach. Surfing requires mobility – laybacks, snaps and aerials are all made far easier when your body is more nimble.

So here are some benefits to stretching:

Obviously. Surfing involves you having to go from lying flat on a moving object while paddling, to leaping up to your feet in a split-second. You also need the flexibility to withstand a nasty wipe-out and feeling like a rag-doll in the teeth of a fox-terrier. Stretching tight hamstrings and lower back muscles is essential to combating the onset of injury. Tight shoulders (Rotators) lead to biomechanical problems which could not only lead to serious injury, but could be the difference between paddling for a bomb and ending up on the wrong side of a closeout.

Taking time to stretch in front of the break provides vital knowledge of the conditions. Also, as I stretch I project myself onto the wave and it gives me time to visualise what I want to achieve.

No matter what board you are on, all manoeuvres require high degrees of flexibility. How do you attain this? It’s simple, you stretch every day. Stretch before surfing, stretch after surfing, just stretch.

A quick 5-10 minutes of stretching can make the world of difference.

Going from chump to champ starts with taking pro-active steps in terms of getting fitter and stronger. Flexibility plays a huge role in your conditioning as a surfer.

So, whether you want to make it on tour or just outshine your mates at your local break, make stretching and cross-training a priority and note how your performance and your stoke levels sky-rocket.




Schalk van der Merwe is a qualified Durban based biokineticist, who has extensive experience in working with rehabilitation of orthopedic injuries. Not only has he worked with many of SA’s surfing elite, but also has helped with the conditioning and rehabilitation of high profile sportsman and woman in all sporting codes. When he is not out at backline, you will find him at Kings Park Sports Medicine Centre (Glenwood Branch).



If you’ve got a surfing injury that needs some attention, why not try contacting one of Zag’s friendly neighbourhood Biokineticists:

For KZN:
Schalk van der Merwe

For Boland:
Philip Nel
Le Roux and Nel Biokineticists

1 Comment

  1. Phil
    31 May, 2013 at 12:33 pm · Reply

    Good work Schalk.

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