Surf Outfitter Blog

  • The Connection Between Surfing and Mental Health

    There is a nearly indescribable feeling that comes over us in the water. A calmness, a determination, sometimes an invincibility. This is a feeling that is unique to the pursuit of surfing. As science is now learning, it’s not an imagined Zen―these effects are not only real, but are proving increasingly beneficial to those living with mental illness and mental health disorders.

    A 2010 British study sought to test this hypothesis through a six-week study for aspiring surfers between the ages of twelve and twenty-three, with mental illnesses ranging from depression to schizophrenia and psychosis. What they found is that six weeks of surfing was enough to provide not only physical benefit – creating surfers that could stand up and catch waves “at a reasonable standard” ― but also mental benefits, including heightened self-esteem, perceptions of fun, and the ability to stave off negative feelings.

    A South African organization called Waves for Change also recognized the positive mental changes that could come from time in the water and capitalized on it to grow their program, which combines use of surfing and therapy to tackle mental illness. On a continent where many countries have no access to mental health therapy, this program stands out for creatively addressing a rampant public health worry.

    Presently, it is the third most pressing health concern in the country (after HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis), but Waves for Change has grown from two surfers to over four hundred while effectively addressing anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of trauma that can seem endemic  - some estimates indicate that 1 in 5 children suffer from PTSD.

    And back Stateside, researcher Ryan Pittsinger of the University of Iowa found that just one half hour surfing unlocked feelings of calm and heightened mood in surveyed Manhattan Beach surfers.

    So, the positive, mind-calming effects of surfing has been documented well across not just the country, but the world. The question now stands: why? Why does surfing have this effect? A closer look at the sport is showing it may not just be the practice of surfing, but also the chemicals it creates and provokes that make a difference.

    As with other activities that arouse passion in their participants, surfing elevates two key hormones that counteract powerfully the hormones and neurotransmitters that facilitate mental illness: adrenaline and dopamine. The former raises your heart rate and increases your reaction time (allowing you to progress in the very act of learning to surf); the latter is triggered when you find enjoyment in an activity, making you feel good and confident in what you’re doing. But it’s not just the internal chemical process that affects mood while surfing.

    “Surf stoke,” or the calm but powerful feeling that comes from surfing, increasingly appears to be the result of a chemical reaction happening in the air surrounding waves as they churn and break. The turbulence in the air created by breaking waves leads to the breaking of air and water molecules, releasing charged ions. This release of negatively charged ions has proven to lift the spirits by triggering the release of endorphins and serotonin―hormones and  neurotransmitters that affect mood―in the surfer.

    This domino effect of positive hormone and chemical releases seems to last well after one has left the water, along with an increase of blood flow and circulation of oxygen in the body that would come with any aerobic exercise that one chooses to undertake. Given that running or biking don’t provide the same opportunity to churn the all-important ions, surfing seems to be a uniquely healing experience.

    These skills are particularly important to another group that Pittsinger is working with these days: U.S. Marines who have been diagnosed with combat-related PTSD. His Camp Pendleton-based study, seeking to utilize what he calls “ocean therapy,” hopes to help these former soldiers take the lessons of confidence, devotion, and trust, and use them both on the water as they learn to surf and in group discussions to help them address their struggles from during and after their time in combat.

    Make no mistake, these benefits can come to anyone who chooses to embrace the stoke – not just those seeking to improve their mental health. Bev Sanders, founder of Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women, recognizes its potential to help anyone seeking to center themselves in a society that rarely affords us the permission to slow down: “You have to be forgiving, patient with yourself, and willing to let go. You’re really not thinking about anything else and that’s hard to come by these days.”

    In many ways, the benefits cited from surfing mimic those cited from a different popular means of treating mental illness: meditation. The presence it requires―you worry about little else, beyond finding the next wave and making it to shore safely – can make it a high-impact, high-thrill alternative to the often touted practice.

    Mntanywa, one of the South African youth benefiting from South Africa’s Waves for Change program, recognizes the importance of that presence in helping him deal with his traumatic past:

    Just being in the water — away from his family and in a beautiful place — helps him deal with his past. "Pasts don't go away, man. It's always on your mind. But when I'm in the beach," he says, "I always think about the waves."

    So, if you’re near the water, and are in need of a boost, a surprisingly effective way to combat the blues may be hiding just over the next set of waves.

  • Island Time: The Best Surf Spots

    The ocean is full of beauty and wonder – the crashing waves, the rise and fall of the tides, and the abundance of wildlife. One of the best ways to witness this majestic part of our planet is by surfboard. Surfing connects us with the planet and causes us to have a greater appreciation for the world around us. From Florida to California to Hawaii and Australia, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the wonder of the ocean.

    Sometimes swells are small, while others are large, and water can range from crystal clear to blue, green, and gray. No matter where you are in the world, you are bound to find some incredible surf at your local beach. However, you’ll probably want to head to an island to catch some of the best waves around.

    Here we bring you the top 10 best islands for surfing. But, we’re warning you: After seeing the list, you’ll get that travel itch. So, make sure your passport is ready and your board is waxed … we’re going island hopping!

    1. Bali, India

    Easily considered the best surfing island on earth, Bali has everything to create a surfer’s paradise. Powerful and consistent waves - check. Exciting nightlife - check. Surfers have been flocking to the island to surf in the Indian Ocean waters since the 70s. Along with the killer surf, Bali offers its visitors beautiful scenery, Hindu culture, and the charm of the locals. Definitely a must-see.

    1. Thanburudhoo, Maldives

    Just a small piece of land located in the Indian Ocean, uninhabited Thanburudhoo offers quality waves. It was once exclusively Tony Hinde-Hussein and friends’ surfing retreat, and then later became a military firing range, which, needless to say, ended surfing on this island for the time being. Now, after the end of the ban on surfing and end of flying bullets, the island is a favorite among local surf charter boats. Thanburudhoo, the last unpopulated islands of North Malé, may soon become a “boutique surfing resort” with access to the best waves in the Maldives.

    1. Oahu, Hawaii

    This island should come as no surprise, as it has been a popular surfing destination for decades now. It’s safe to say that most aspects of modern surfing have been influenced by the events that have taken place on the island, starting with the images of the Waikiki beach boys of the 30s. Surfers flock to the North Shore of Oahu every winter to take their place amongst the world’s best surfers. This is highlighted during the Triple Crown of Surfing, three big-wave events that take place during five weeks of competitions and performances.

    1. Siargao, Philippines

    As of late, Siargao has become one of the most popular surfing destinations in the Far East. The island has been on every travel surfer’s radar since 1992 when Cloud 9 was first introduced. Even with issues of overcrowding, the island is still a favorite among Filipino and foreign surfers alike.

    1. Barbados

    Barbados, a former British Colony, is placed perfectly in the Atlantic Ocean. There are few flat days, and the occasional in-season hurricane swell makes the island an ideal location for surfers to flock to. Barbados is small in size, making it easily accessible, and getting to and from the different surf spots is a breeze. With accommodation choices ranging from mansions to one-bedroom apartments, there are options for every surfer’s traveling budget.

    1. Santa Catarina, Brazil

    Far from hectic Rio and Sao Paulo, Santa Catarina strikes the perfect combination of quality waves and a European ambiance. The island is located in Southern Brazil and is insanely popular among the local Brazilian, Argentine, and Uruguayan surfers. The best season for killer waves (over 40 surfable waves in some areas) is March-April and September-October. Oh, and don’t worry – you’ll feel safe and sound. The island is considered one of the safest urban cities in Brazil, not to mention it isn’t short of delicious restaurants and energetic nightlife to wrap up a long day of surfing.

    1. North Island, New Zealand

    With friendly locals, easy-to-navigate roads, and lots of waves, it’s no wonder that North Island made our list. Both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea offer a haven from overcrowded surf territory among a backdrop of picturesque green hills. And, due to the relaxed lifestyle, many compare North Island’s vibe to that of California’s surf scene of the 1950s.

    1. Taiwan, China

    China may not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of great surf spots, but the island of Taiwan is a growing favorite among surf enthusiasts. Kenting, in the south of the island, is the capital of Taiwanese surfing. The town is filled with plenty of restaurants, hotels, and, of course, surf shops. To catch the best waves, you’ll want to visit the island during July to October, but, be warned of typhoon season. Since typhoons aren’t completely predictable, if you visit during this time you’ll have to be up for anything.

    1. Jeju, South Korea

    A volcanic island, Jeju is the Hawaii of South Korea. More than 1 million people visit the island each year, but it wasn’t deemed a surf destination until recently when local Korean surfers discovered it. When a typhoon moves north from Taiwan into the East Sea, it causes bigger swells on both sides of the island. With such great waves and few surfers to ride them, who wouldn’t want to make the trip?

    1. Reunion, France

    While most people might think of Paris when traveling to France, to surfers the real French paradise is found on the tropical island of Reunion. The waves are great, especially in the southern hemisphere’s winter season from April to October, but it is worth noting that there are big sharks in the area during this time. This doesn’t stop local and visiting surfers, but they do proceed with caution and utilize good judgment.

  • Surfing Builds Character

    Whether you’re surfing on the North Shore of Oahu or skimboarding ankle biters, any experienced surfer can tell you that surfing isn’t a sport that comes with an easy benchmark for success. Put into practice first by high-born Polynesians, the surfing tradition has evolved as the centuries have, calling on generations of participants to learn the patience that comes with waiting for just the right wave and the select combination of skill and intuition..

    The fundamental truth of surfing is this: Unlike politics and investment banking, you’re unlikely to reach those lofty peaks with only yourself in mind.

    Engaging with the Sea

    The best surfers learn early that, with respect for the wave comes respect for the ocean – at least in part because the sport itself is entirely contingent on nature's cooperation. If the waters are choked with trash, if the wind isn't moving, if any number of interdependent factors fail to come together at the right moment, no amount of skill on the board can change the outcome.

    Though every surfer hopes for the chance to snag a snapshot moment on a high wave, the chance means waiting – sometimes for hours or even days – and accepting no certainty of reward at the end.

    Going Green

    With the ocean currently under threat from an increasing litany of issues directly relating to change, including rising seas and pollution, surfers have begun to come together with astonishing political power. Several groups have called for cleaner beaches and a stronger movement to halt sea level rise – which continues to contribute to erosion in a growing number of communities, whose members are even now watching the stunning landscapes that once put them on the map slip irretrievably away.

    One such community is the Save Trestles Campaign, which took action against plans to construct a road that would have endangered San Mateo Creek – a popular surfing spot and thriving habitat for marine animals. Other groups have singlehandedly, and often successfully, tackled environmentally destructive development plans and pollution, saving beaches and wild animals from habitat loss.

    Staying Safe

    Of course, no surfer enters the water without the deeply held understanding that any wrong move can mean injury and even death – for themselves and bystanders. Surprisingly, attacks by marine animals are among the most common causes of injury, followed by wipe-outs on sand or rocky outcroppings.

    A surfer who's miscalculated the energy and breadth of a wave can also easily be swept underneath, held down by a surging current, or knocked unconscious by a falling surfboard, all of which can lead to drowning or serious injury.

    In the communal environment inherent to beach life, it’s nearly impossible, and always conspicuous, to surf without the safety of others in mind. Established beach etiquette, though still largely unspoken, arose as American surf culture did in the 1960s, as popular beaches became increasingly crowded and chaotic. The rules, though they vary by location and culture, are strictly enforced by most beach-goers, and those eager to cut corners for a shot at glory will often find themselves outnumbered.

    Surfers also use shorthand to define the right of way in the water, and a line order that everyone is expected to follow while paddling out. The system is simple, but it works, ensuring that everyone in the water understands where to expect other surfers to appear and how to avoid them when necessary. Fewer injuries are typically reported at beaches with a cohesive system of rules, and, as a community, surfers have proven more than willing to embrace them.

    Down to Mindset

    Balancing over hundreds of feet of crashing water takes more than an afternoon of practice to master, which is largely why so many experienced surfers paddle out at nearly every available moment. Persistence is the key to mastery.

    And persistence means falling hundreds, sometimes thousands of times, often in front of spectators, and running the gantlet of emotions that go hand in hand with continuous failure. And still, the best of the best are those still willing to get up, dust themselves off, and paddle right back out for another try. Like so many other difficult tasks in life, it usually is not enough to suffer a public fall only once.

    With everything in the water in constant flux, nailing a perfect run means cultivating the ability to think far past the moment, without ever letting outside distractions in. As new contingencies evolve by the moment, even pitch-perfect accuracy and positioning isn't always enough, and, in many cases, success comes down to hard-won practice, and the ability to suffer with grace the consequences of wrong actions.

    The Art of Technique

    Surfing techniques, from the standard paddle to the more visually stunning front side snap, are nearly as individual as surfers themselves are. Those who stick with the sport often choose to brand themselves with signature moves, such as Australian champion Tyler Wright—who famously made the Big Frontside Kick her own. It's a recognized mark of a professional, to be able to bring a spark of creative flair to a sport that requires so much intensive focus. Generations of surfers – both pro and those at an amateur level – have upped the ante for newcomers by imbuing the sport with a healthy sense of creative, as well as physical, competition.

    Final Thoughts

    In any sport with a diverse range of participants, equipment selection often comes down to skill and often requires a helping hand from a professional in the know. Surfing is a great sport. Not only is it fun and a great way to remain in shape, but it can also help build character. Respect for nature and yourself remains an essential element of surfer culture.

  • Bathing Suit Season: Don’t Fear It Any Longer

    The summertime is synonymous with fun for many people. The longer hours of daylight and warmer temperatures allow everyone to get outdoors and have some fun in the sun. The beach, lake, and pool are all hot spots that people flock to during this hot season.

    However, there is one aspect of summer that many despise – swimsuit season. After a long winter of covering up and holiday eating, it can be frightening to walk down the beach with your head held high in a bikini.

    Even the task of finding the right bathing suit can seem impossible. Most women loathe an afternoon spent trying on suit after suit under the bright lights in a dressing room. However, you can’t exactly wear your clothes to the beach. So, what’s a girl to do?

    You can’t avoid swimsuit season, but there are ways to make it a little better. Believe it or not, you can feel carefree and confident in your swimsuit. The key to beach confidence is wearing a bathing suit that you feel good in. One that complements your frame and body type. A good bathing suit should not only fit, but draw the eye to areas you want to highlight and away from areas you don’t.

    The Secret

    Have you ever seen other bikini-clad girls splashing in the ocean or running down the beach confidently and wondered how do they do it? Meanwhile, you’re busy pulling on and adjusting your bathing suit, and wishing you could cover up. If you don’t feel too hot in your swimsuit, it makes it even harder to emerge from under the umbrella, let alone strut your stuff down the beach.

    Everyone should love the bathing suit they wear. We want everyone to feel confident and have fun on the water. That’s why we’re going to let you in on a little secret. It’s all in the fit.

    When you go to try on swimsuits, if you know what styles and cuts to look for, along with selecting one that fits you correctly, you’ll walk away with a suit that you feel good in. If you’re stressing about the impending swimsuit season, don’t worry! Below, we have included all the different bathing suit styles that complement each body type.

    Body Types

    First, you need a crash course in body types. If you are unsure of what body type you may be, then there’s a good chance you’ve been wearing the wrong bathing suits – which might explain while you haven’t felt fully confident. Below is a guide to the most common body types for women.

    Hourglass

    As the name insinuates, you are shaped like an hourglass. This means you have curvy hips and a larger bust. Your waist is cinched, meaning it is drastically smaller than your hips and bust.

     Pear Shaped

    Pear shaped women are wider on the bottom than they are up top. Their upper bodies are usually slender with a smaller bust. They have great hips, which are the widest part of the body.

    Petite

    Petite women are small all over. Short in height and weight, these ladies likely have a smaller bust and hips.

     Full Figured

    Full figured gals have an all-over curvy or heavy figure. With larger bust and hips, however, measurements aren’t as drastic as hourglass figures.

    Straight Up and Down

    Ladies who are described as straight up and down have very few curves, and their hip-bust-waist measurements are similar.

    Athletic

    Women with athletic figures have broader shoulders with narrower hips and naturally muscular or toned legs.

    Apple

    Women with apple figures resemble the rounded fruit, with thinner legs and arms, but a fuller torso.

     

    The Style and Cut for You

    Now that you have your body type figured out, find out the style or cut that’s perfect for you!

     Triangle top

    Triangle tops have cups that are – you guessed it – shaped in a triangle with string ties. They work best for those with a smaller bust, as they don’t give any added support. They also accentuate broad shoulders, toned arms, and smaller upper bodies.

    Bandeau tops

    Since these tops have no straps, ladies with a bigger bust should stay away, as they give no extra support. Also, those with an apple shape should steer clear, as the straight across cut will only bring more attention to broad shoulders and round belly.

    Underwire and halter tops

    Women who need more support should turn to molded cups and underwires. Halters are another great look that gives you an added lift.

    Molded cups

    Those with a smaller chest might like molded cups as they create a fuller bust line.

    Hipster bottoms

    These bottoms are shaped like boy shorts or briefs and sit at the hip. They are perfect for those who want full coverage on their lower half. Another option is the currently popular high waist bottom. Fuller bottoms tend to look the best on pear and athletic-shaped women. Petite women should stay away from them as they might overwhelm their frame.

    String bottoms

    String bottoms complement triangle tops and have an adjustable tie at each hip. They have medium coverage with little support. They tend to look better on athletic, straight up and down, and petite figures.

    Brazilian cuts

    Brazilian cuts are not for the faint of heart! They have very minimal covering and are perfect for ladies who want to show off their backside. While they look good on most bodies, athletic, hourglass, and petite figures usually gravitate toward this style to show off their great lower halves.

    Current Trends for Everyone

    With that being said, there are several bathing suit trends that look great on everyone.  One-piece styles are no longer reserved for older women. One-pieces have made a comeback. Many have taken inspiration from suits of the past with the high leg and deep back from the 80s and 90s.

    Mesh is also a biggie this season. You can find just about any type of suit with mesh detailing – high waist bottoms, one-pieces, triangle tops, etc. – so try one out! They look great on the beach, and the extra detail makes a solid-colored suit pop.

    Lastly, no matter what your body type or the suit you choose, mixing and matching will never go out of style. So, have fun and mix two of your favorite colors together for a head-turning look.  Also, keep in mind that cutouts, ruffles, and patterns are always on trend. Just because you’re in a bathing suit, it doesn’t mean you have to play it safe with solids (unless you want to.)

  • Catching Waves: Finding Your Surf Haven

    Finding that perfect wave is a very subjective hunt because skill level and personal preferences play a big part in where to go and what kind of wave you want to ride. There are some amazing places all over this ocean-filled world. With seven oceans, and innumerable seas to choose from, the most important factor is what kind of experience are you searching for?

    Casual or beginner surfers may dream of the ultimate surfing experience, such as surfing Pipeline, a well known Hot Zone, where heavy and hollow waves break very close to shore. If you fit into this category, you may find yourself frustrated because of localism. Typically, this type of surf attracts professionals or expert level surfers for whom these waves are their nirvana. Injecting yourself to their line-up can result in not only feeling the stress to match their skill and speed, but they too will become resentful of your casual approach.

    Conversely, if you are a highly skilled surfer and surfing is a part of your life, then finding a laid back beach, known as a Cool Zone, where it is crowded with newbies, families and weekend warriors, the experience will leave you unsated.  The waves may be mellow and crashing at a perfect angle, with that glass like glaze on the ocean, but you won't have the fulfilling adventure of chasing the wave with other like-minded members of a competitive pack.

    Image1 Surf Haven

    By all means, track down that rising swell, coming fast and hard towards the beach. High performance rippers will find the Hot Zones more culturally acclimated to their skill level. There are always the unspoken Bill of Rights and Lefts that should be followed no matter what level you are. Straight from www.surfline.com, here are the ten commandments that every ripper should follow.

    Bill of Rights and Lefts

    1. Pick the right location. Hot Zones versus Cool Zones, depending on your skill level, should be chosen wisely. Every surfer should have the experience they desire, and certainly can accomplish this with a little research of the area they want to hit.
    2. Don't drop in or snake your fellow surfer. These are the two types of essentially taking away another surfer's wave.
      • Dropping in is when a rider has already claimed the wave, and someone else picks it up from further out on the shoulder. This may be an accidental occurrence, especially in a crowded line-up. If you do happen to drop in on someone's wave, be sure to get off as quickly as possible and apologize.
      • Snaking is a more malicious because it is intentional and though still dangerous, often happens with highly competitive surfers. Essentially, when one surfer is lined up, preparing to take a     wave, the snaker will come up behind them while the first surfer is totally focused on the wave, and follow them off the shoulder. It appears that the rightful rider of the wave dropped in on the snaker, which onlookers will know the truth.
      • Note: You may be visiting an area where you see drop-ins happen with a pack, and they are smiling and having an epic good time. They are probably friends enjoying a ride share, and by no means does this give you the a-okay to do the same. Respect the locals.
    3. While paddling out to or within a break, it is your responsibility to stay out of the way of riders on waves. Once a rider has caught a wave, it is good manners to allow them to enjoy the wave and do your best not to interfere. If you do find yourself caught in whitewater, push through it and don't frantically paddle to reach the shoulder. It is extremely bad etiquette, as well as paddling directly into a rider's take-off. Not only can this cause you or the rider to wipeout, you can get seriously injured and risk the wrath of your fellow ripper.
    4. Though shalt learn to take turns. Surfers tend to be greedy creatures, wanting all the best waves, all the time. However, unless you are surfing alone, it is a best practice to share wave-catching opportunities and keep the peace on the ocean. On occasion, hot surf spots will be packed with long line-ups and not enough waves for everyone. Surfline recommends you adjust your attitude to the situation, or find a better, less crowded spot to ride.
    5. In any surf session, respect the pre-existing vibe in the lineup. Any surfer will tell you that there is a distinct vibe in every session, and you can feel it change with new riders coming to join. The vibes may vary on the type of surf and the time of day, but ultimately the determining factor is attitude. To get a feel for the vibe, ask questions of surfers coming off the water. Ask various questions like “Get any good ones?” or “Much room out there?” This will give you an idea of whether or not it is a good spot for you to join, or move to a different area of the beach.
    6. Always aid another surfer in trouble. As with any potentially dangerous situations, you must keep your own safety at the forefront of your mind. However, surfing is a unique sport because often there are no paramedical services close-by, and riders rely on one another to stay safe. Being at the mercy of the power of the ocean proposes its own dangers, so be conscientious of your fellow surfers and be sure to help in any way you can if one is in trouble.
    7. When traveling, thou shalt respect the local surfers and their rights and customs, without forfeiting your own right to a wave. It doesn't matter if the “local” surfers grew up there or have only been surfing for a week in that location. They have more history there than you and know how the sessions roll. If you are traveling in numbers to a spot, don't immediately charge the water to catch the next set of waves. Take a little time to watch, and other riders will come in to give you space to join the session. Especially take heed when traveling to other countries to surf, as customs vary around the world as much as languages. Let the locals set the pace, and fall into their rhythm. This not only will create a positive experience for you, but leave the local surfers more open to the next rider who comes to town. Always thank them for sharing their spot and invite them to your home surf spot.
    8. Though shalt not use your surfing advantage to abuse your fellow surfers. This may seem like a complex piece of etiquette, it can be summarized in four simple words: don't be an a-hole. You may be stronger, bigger, have a longer board, better surfing skills, higher surfing fitness, and/or more knowledge of the local customs, but it doesn't mean you wield it to the detriment of your fellow riders. Surfing is all about escaping the rat race, to be able to have a physical activity one can enjoy, in the sun, on the surf, and for many it is a zen-like experience. Recognize advantages you may have over your fellow surfers and don't use them to put others at ease, or worse, in danger.
    9. At all times, be responsible for your own equipment and respectful of others'. Surfboards can be dangerous when mishandled, like letting one go in the middle of a ride. Never throw away your board, as it can injure others. Keep your board in good maintenance, free of nicks, sharp fins, or any other damage as it can cause problems out on the ocean. If you do cause damage to someone else's board, always arrange to have it repaired or agree upon a solution.
    10. Lastly, relax, have fun, and enjoy your surfing and that of your fellow surfer. Drew Kampion, famous surf writer and editor says, “Life is a wave and your attitude is your surfboard!” A good attitude goes a long way in life, and on the ocean.

    Always remember your fellow surfers' experience matters just as much as yours. Creating a surf haven for everyone to enjoy is up to each individual rider. Respect each other, and keep chasing your perfect wave.

  • Surfing for Total Health

    “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

    -Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986.

    Everything is about speed today: how fast can a project get finished, how fast can I drive, how fast is the wireless internet? So much speed and efficiency and yet nothing ever seems to get finished. So many questions, so few answers. To some degree even our vacations seem to be stuck on fast-forward: rush to the airport, hurry to a hotel, get to the buffet, the show, the tour bus on time. So much scheduling and stress - is it any wonder that so many Americans are medicated nowadays? We are just not designed for this much unabated hustle.

    Even worse, we can make the time we DO carve out to invest in ourselves equally stressful. Exercise has long been a universally agreed-upon option for reducing stress, but so many forms of exercise are both competitive and anxiety-inducing. We are so organized, we take away the spontaneity and joy of the pursuit. Instead of running outside in nature, we’re on a treadmill multi-tasking (reading a magazine, listening to a podcast or TV) or taking on gigantic though admirable challenges like a Tough Mudder or a Spartan Sprint.  As a culture, we just don’t seem to be able to just let go. Life moves too fast - it did for Ferris Bueller back in 1986 and it certainly hasn’t gotten any slower.

    SurfingForTotalHealth1

    Finding an activity that blends the exercise our bodies need with the soothing discipline our minds require seems nearly impossible - until you look out to the ocean. In the water, free and unplugged from the distractions of our digital world, surfing may be a near perfect stress reducer for modern Americans. More than just a sport, surfing is a beautifully logical counter to the strains of the modern world. The benefits of surfing for both body and mind are extensive, having been proven to be an effective whole-body workout coupled with outdoor meditation.

    At www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au, they approach total health and wellness by taking small steps each day to exercise. They go on to say that going to the gym or playing a sport is even more important to boost overall health such as a stronger immune system and improved heart and lung function. Surfing, among other water sports, is physical and mental exercise, truly promoting total body health.

    The common parental refrain to children everywhere of “Go outside!” shouldn’t be forgotten as we become adults ourselves. Outside adventures with fresh air, room to move, along with time to just think or create never lose their value. As great as the ‘Great Outdoors’ can be, there is perhaps no better outdoors than that found seaside, on the beach or in the ocean itself.

    Time spent seaside has often been lauded as a great improver of disposition. Sheer proximity to something so enormous helps provide perspective, the sounds of the ocean is a natural white noise to calms our senses and quiet our mind, and even modern science is starting to investigate the impact that negative ions produced by the ocean have to lift our spirits.

    Simply spending time at the beach affords moments for mindfulness. Surfing takes that to next level. Surfing requires you to pay attention to the sky, the wind, the waves. Focus is required to be able to read the world around you, from current patterns and wave formation to the angle of the sun and weather changes. The accumulated mental hubbub and chatter we carry to the ocean have no place there, for distraction will get you a face full of seaweed or an unexpected cold dunking.

    Surfing teaches patience and keen observation skills, and rewards them with a glorious adrenaline rush. Waiting, adrift, while watching for that one perfect wave to come narrows your focus down to the purity of being absolutely in a moment. It engages all the senses, from the taste and smell of saltwater to the sound of crashing waves and the calling of gulls.

    The shading of sunlight on water surrounds you, and physical sensations abound: cold or warm water, pulling currents, the board under you. Nothing comes with you except what you absolutely need: no excess gear, no thoughts, and especially no cell phone or other digital tether. A whole wide world of clamor narrows down to waiting for the next wave and solving the problem of how to ride it best. In short, the soothing elements taught in stress management classes are all waiting for you out there on the water. All you have to do is engage with the environment to disengage from the fast lane.

    Developing a passion for surfing and a healthy addiction to the accompanying Zen peacefulness also have satellite benefits that cascade into aspects of everyday life. Surfing is a sport that chases the dawn, so being up early gives surfers a chance to go out and play well before any work or school commitments have a chance to cloud our minds. Starting the day with a brisk, fun activity makes the rest of the day run more smoothly, fueled by a greater perspective and natural endorphins.

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    As a demanding and very physical activity, food and diet become essential to getting the best out of any given trip because a body must be fueled well for optimum performance. The exertion also counteracts one of the most diabolical aspects of stress in the modern world: insomnia. Peaceful yet exhilarating, surfing is a full body workout coupled with intensive meditative concentration. Together these components help to provide a deeper, more rejuvenating, and restful sleep, a sleep that allows you to greet the dawn on your board morning after morning with vigor.

    It is just as important to support a full body workout on the surf with the right equipment, such as protective clothing and leashes. Maximizing your workout is easier to do when you are comfortable and protected from burns, rashes and scrapes.

    Examined as a whole, the benefits of surfing coalesce swiftly into an argument as convincing and inevitable as the tides. Nature. Meditation. Exercise. Awareness. Escape. Ferris Bueller was right - if you don't slow down, life is easy to miss- but it can also be one amazing and enjoyable ride, where hard work and a mind at ease allow the balance we find on a surfboard to find its way into the rest of our day.

  • Limits Exist ... Sort Of

    Everyone knows that surfing is one of the best exercises out there for all-over strength, conditioning, and overall physical fitness. It’s challenging, exhilarating, relaxing, and simply just fun. However, not all of us live within a reasonable daily drive to the ocean. Many of us live in places where the ocean is a frosty prospect for much of the year, or where the waves aren’t quite up to standard. For us, the mere mortals of the surfing world who do not own a beach house in the tropics, surfing as a sole means of exercise doesn’t work—not because we don’t want it to, but because of the constraints of normal life.

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    Like many all-encompassing passions, surfing enters every aspect of your life, sometimes whether you mean it to or not. Sometimes it manifests in habitual checking of weather and wave forecasts, sometimes by pouring over surfing magazines and catalogs. When you are out there, it's all you can think of. When you’re not, all that you can think of is how to get back. Not bad for a pursuit that hones your core, strengthens your heart, and lends great mental balance to everyday living.

    Facing the Challenge

    The hitch is how to get the most out of the days you DO get out there, and how to fling yourself tirelessly (okay—almost tirelessly) into one wave after another all day long? If you’re landlocked, what do you do to prime your body for the best surfing?

    Like most great athletic challenges, the answer comes in the form of cross training. Not only does cross training up your overall performance, it also lessens your likelihood of sustaining an injury that would keep you from performing at peak efficiency. Professional athletes have been incorporating aspects of other branches of fitness for years; what works for them can also work for the everyday Joe who wants to make the most of his weekend or vacation. Like any great discipline, attention to the small details makes all the difference.

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    The Basic Theory

    When people do repetitive actions over and over again, whether through sports, employment, hobbies, or habits, the great danger lies in overuse issues. Tendinitis, bursitis, sprains, and strains can all stem from overusing some muscle groups while allowing others to stay weak or underutilized.

    By incorporating different patterns of use and movement, any given muscle group can be toned and strengthened in ways that both prevent injury and optimize performance. This has been apparent in the NFL for decades, as ballet core exercises have been assimilated into training programs. Greater balance and flexibility allows for the body to undergo great strain and demand, while still being able to bounce back unharmed. In this light, cross training falls into three categories: cardiovascular activity, strength training, and flexibility.

    Training on the Run

    Cardio, in a nutshell, is the branch of exercise that focuses on training your heart and circulatory system. It may manifest in activities that make us pant and sweat; but the true target is to strengthen your heart so it can beat with greater efficiency and distribute blood and oxygen to all parts of your body. A strong heart manifests most obviously in great endurance—something that is essential, to make the most of a day of surfing.

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    Paddling and swimming both take a great deal of cardiovascular training; and, while riding a wave is the fun part, it's only about 5% of your time in the water. Supplementing your aquatic cardio with land-based pursuits like cycling, dancing, running, and martial arts will pay of dividends.

    Pick Things Up and Put Them Down

    Resistance or weight training seems to evoke a love/hate reaction from people. Fear of “bulking up” or “not bulking up enough” haunts this otherwise very reasonable activity. It is also very time intensive and physically challenging—but it works. By including weight training in your surf body preparation and maintenance program, you achieve several different benefits.

    First, stronger muscles in general lend to better performance and balance. Squats are a prime example of a perfect land-based training exercise that translates well onto a board. By strengthening those muscles that most come into play, abrupt shifts through fatigue and loss of balance are less likely to occur. Push-ups, crunches, and plyometrics can all be assimilated into your land routine with spectacular results. Additionally, strength training has the long-term benefit of increasing bone density, making your skeletal structure less susceptible to the fractures and breaks that occasionally accompany rough surf or bad luck.

    Don’t Be So Uptight

    Like any physically demanding activity, warm up and cool down time are absolutely essential. Even if you have superb cardio capacity and rock-hard abs, you can still fall afoul of strains, sprains, and overuse issues. These are perhaps the most insidious kinds of injuries, accumulating slowly over time and taking even longer to properly recover from. Without properly supple muscles, abrupt shifts of balance can net you a painful tear that keeps you landlocked for weeks on end.

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    To this end, attending a regular yoga or barre class can be an enjoyably social way to ward off injury while simultaneously improving your overall balance. No one has ever claimed that yoga or ballet is easy; that being said, this discipline of regular stretching may be the single most essential aspect to staying healthy and strong in between surf sessions. If you’re lucky, you can even attend classes that blend stand up paddleboarding and yoga, combining two challenges at once, with a guaranteed soft landing if you lose your balance.

    Just Do It

    The Ancient Greeks said “All things in moderation,” and to some degree that applies even to such a fantastic sport as surfing. Hampered by time, geography, and responsibility, not everyone gets to surf as often as they like—and that is perhaps not such a bad thing. Time away from the ocean allows for different but complementary training that enhances the time we do get to surf, and it wets our appetites and our enthusiasm.

  • The Best Core Exercises to Supercharge Your Surfing

    The first day of surfing can leave even the most physically fit of novice wave-riders exhausted. The continued paddling, repeated “pop-ups,” and holding posture while riding waves to shore can take a lot out of a person. But the muscles that are most often pushed to their limit? The core muscles. This multi-muscle network is responsible not just for simplifying your push to your feet, but keeping you balanced as you await the perfect wave, as well as keeping you upright once you pop to your feet.

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    Contrary to popular belief, core strength means more than having defined abdominal muscles. There is actually an inner corecomposed of the diaphragm, multifidus, pelvic floor, and transversus abdominis. The outer core, surrounding these elements, is comprised of the abdominal muscles, the obliques, and the muscles running up the spine. Both elements of the core must be strong, flexible, and engaged for good surfing to take place.

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    Why the Core Is Central to Good Surfing

    A strong core is about more than just looking good in the bathing suit you’ll surf in. An engaged core will keep you upright while out on the water; without attention to these key muscles, your performance atop your board will suffer, or perhaps even cause injury.

    In addition to strength, however, any workouts you do to strengthen this area must also encourage its flexibility. Cris Mills elaborates:

    Do you have the required flexibility to rotate the lower body away from the upper body? If not, and you go into high speed core training or whippy snaps, you’ll really end up hurting something.

    To ensure that you’re building a core that can serve you well out on the water, Mills encourages you to focus on “spinal stability and pelvic control, and then progress into high speed rotational work, which is much more functional.” You’ll appreciate taking the time to develop these muscles once you’re shredding waves, pivoting expertly without pain, discomfort, or risk of injury.

    Isolated exercises, such as crunches, are minimally effective when building up the sort of strength that aids surfing. Instead, seek to focus on abdominal exercises that mimic some of the motions you’ll utilize out on the water. This will commit these motions to muscle memory, making them easier to do when called upon in the moment.

    Planks

    Planks are a comprehensive exercise; they engage not just the abdominals and back muscles, but also the shoulders and arms. Further, you’ll pass through the plank position in your “pop-up” to your feet, and so this is a good position to get used to. To plank, get into the “top” position of a push-up, with a straight back and straight arms. Feet should be flexed, with the toes holding up the body. Start by seeking to hold the plank position for 20 seconds, and gradually add time as workouts get more complex.

    Prone Swimmer

    Another exercise that engages the back muscles, a portion of the core that is often neglected, the prone swimmer also can provide relief for tight abdominal muscles. Lie face down on the ground, then arch the back, and lift the arms and legs off the ground. Then pull your arms back, as though you were doing the breaststroke on dry land. This added arm movement will give you practice in warming up the shoulder muscles, another set of muscles that must be strong for success in surfing.

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    Jackknifes

    Also sometimes called V-sits, jackknifes start from a full lying position on the back. At once, lift your extended arms and legs up in the air, aiming for them to touch with the body folded while balancing on the butt. Once the arms and legs touch (or come as close as possible), return to the extended lying position in a controlled release. Aim for twenty reps of this exercise to start, increasing this number as your strength improves. Ab muscles and back muscles are engaged here, while also helping you adjust to bringing the arms and legs together quickly as you do in the pop-up.

    Walking Lunges

    While holding the upper body straight up and down (clench the abdominal muscles to make sure of this), lunge forward with one leg, bending the knee at ninety degrees. Push off that leading leg to return to the neutral position. Then, repeat the motion with the other leg. This motion should be repeated twenty times ten on each legwith reps increasing as you get stronger. In addition to engaging the core, the lunge helps to engage and move the hip flexors, another key part of rotating the lower body away from the upper body.

    One final note: as you work to build strength, make sure that it’s not at the expense of also developing flexibility. These two abilities work in concert to prevent fatigue and injury, but overdevelopment of muscles can prevent flexibility when it’s neededsuch as during and after a fall from your board. Supplement exercises like the ones above with copious stretching before and after you hit the waves, and yoga workouts as cross-training. Attention to the strength needed to surf well will keep you safe, energetic, and strong as you ride the waves in to shore.

  • Surfing Songs: The Best Surfing Inspired Music

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    Out on the water, the only soundtrack you have is the ebb and flow of the waves pulsing through your ears. On land, however, you have a little more control over the music that inspires and fuels your surfing. If you’re searching for a bit of inspiration, whether your time is spent dreaming of surfing or just relaxing on the beach, we’ve got a number of suggestions for you!

    Dick Dale, “Miserlou”

    You likely recognize this tune from its role in 1994’s Pulp Fiction, or its use as a sample in The Black Eyed Peas’ “Pump It.” But Dale’s song, and indeed his whole repertoire, has been iconic enough to earn him the title “King of Surf Rock.” Dale and his Del-Tones formed in the early 1950s and played the lion’s share of the songs that formed the genre during that time. Though their style evolved to focus more on cars than surfing in the sixties and seventies, Dale returned to it in a solo career later on. Despite advanced age (at the time of publication, Dale was nearly eighty) and a host of medical issues, he continues to tour and delight audiences with distinct guitar licks and liberal use of a whammy bar.

    The Ventures, “Hawaii Five-O”

    In addition to giving us one of the most iconic TV theme songs, The Ventures are one of the most popular instrumental rock groups of all time. The song charted in the top five in 1969, although this was far from their only chart success. In fact, they had 37 albums hit the charts between 1960 and 1972a staggering total even today. Their name was a verbal representation of the genre-hopping they were willing to do to stay inspired, and they proved highly prolific as a result. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, and occasionally still tour with a modified lineup.

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    The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds

    It may not have the immediate surf appeal of “Surfin’ USA” or “Surfin Safari,” but Pet Sounds solidifies the exceptional nature of The Beach Boys as a band. The groundbreaking album from the Beach Boys celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2016, and continues to have an impact on longtime fans and newer listeners alike. The band’s eleventh studio release, it features some of their most popular songs, including “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B,” and “God Only Knows,” a song Paul McCartney once deemed the best song ever written. Their breezy, beach-inspired sound captures the energy of the best beach days, and gives you hope for channeling their genius into your time on the water.

    Weezer, Blue Album

    What The Beach Boys did for surf-inspired music in the sixties, Weezer may have done for the nineties. Their Blue Album hit upon surfing themes directly with songs like “Surf Wax America,” and even recreated the sock-hop craze that shared a time period with surf films in their video for “Buddy Holly.” The gentle but intricate lead guitar work that you hear through the music of the prior artists shows up, courtesy of frontman Rivers Cuomo. Give this album a listen while en route to the beach, or even while cleaning your board after a long day of surfing.

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    Jack’s Mannequin, “Holiday from Real”

    The opening strains of Everything in Transit evokes memories of the beach, with the blowing wind and gentle squawk of seagulls. From there, lead singer and pianist Andrew McMahon launches into this song about spending time with friends near the beach, living a life that feels like a getaway. Those of us who use surfing as a getaway from a hectic or less peaceful life undoubtedly identify with this message. The rest of the album takes an emotional and less escapist trajectory, but its opening song was just made for a carefree trip to the beach.

    Jack Johnson, “Upside Down”

    Especially when shredding in the barrel of a roaring wave, the world can feel like it’s upside down when we’re out on the water. Jack Johnson’s quiet twangy “Upside Down” captures that with a combined bounciness and stillness that feels like the right song to play in your head as you catch a wave and prepare to ride it to shore. Especially when you make it to your feet, and the rush of euphoria washes over you, it’s easy to think what Jack repeats toward the end of the song: “I don’t want this feeling to go away.”

    This is far from a comprehensive list, but we hope it’ll get you started in building your playlist. Have suggestions on what to add? Let us know in the comments!

  • Surfing on Screen: TV and Movie Surfing Favorites

    Our first priority is generally to be at the beach. The sunshine, the waves, the feel of the sandit all just feels right. But, sometimes, that’s not always in the cards. Whether we’re landlocked, nursing an injury, or weather has gotten in the way of our perfect beach day, sometimes we have to stay inside.

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    However, those days can still include surfing through movie (and TV!) magic. We’re sharing a few of our favorites to add to your queue or search for online.

    The Endless Summer (1966)

    The seminal documentary on surfing by filmmaker Bruce Brown, The Endless Summer follows surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave; its title refers to the extensive travel required to surf year-round. Beautifully photographed and intimate in its feel, you’ll love the spirit of this film, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.

    Riding Giants (2004)

    Three years after his heartfelt and energetic documentary on skateboarding, Dogtown and Z-Boys, director Stacy Peralta turned his eye and camera toward a different board sport: surfing. Riding Giants shares current testimony on the sport, with footage and interviews about its history. Peralta is a painstaking filmmaker, and you will learn a staggering amount about the sport as a result. This one will have you itching to catch waves once it’s done.

    Gidget (1959)

    Admittedly, this 50s-era Sandra Dee vehicle (which later inspired a Sally Field-starring TV show) has a different tone from the films already listed. However, it can be fun to look at the image surfing had in earlier daysone of rebellion and slight dangerand what effects that image had on naive young teenagers. This pick is definitely a sillier one, but still worth a watch at least once.

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    Point Break (1991)

    In the early nineties, it would appear that surfing still had a reputation for rebellion. Point Break capitalized on that assumption with its story about an undercover FBI agent who works his way into a surfer gang, hoping to connect them to a string of bank robberies. Among the best of Patrick Swayze’s movies, it also stars Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, and Lori Petty. A remake was released in 2015 ... but you can go ahead and skip that one.

    Blue Crush (2002)

    Although Gidget does surf in her movies, relatively few movies focus on female surfers. In 2002, Blue Crush provided a change to the formula. Starring Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, and Matthew Davis, it tells the story of a talented surfer preparing for the Pipe Masters competition with a distraction on her mindquarterback Matt Tollman. Although the film has its stereotypical teen film moments, it also features skilled action sequences of surfers, and is worth watching for those moments, too.

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    Surf’s Up (2007)

    The surfers in Surf’s Up are also preparing for a major competitionthe Penguin World Surfing competition. Released during the height of a “penguin craze” in the U.S., this animated “mockumentary” features the voice talents of Shia LaBeouf, Zooey Deschanel, and real-life human surfers Kelly Slater and Rob Machado. This is another silly way to spend a rainy afternoon, and may be particularly entertaining for younger kids still building enthusiasm to take on the waves for themselves.

    BONUS: Drunk History, “Hawaii” (2014)

    If you’re looking for a short story about the history of surfing ... told by someone who vaguely knows what they’re saying, check out Comedy Central’s Drunk History. A season 2 episode focusing on stories in Hawaii details the brief feud that took place between surfers in Hawaii and ones from Australia. Surfer Eddie Aikau is shown brokering a “peace treaty” of sorts between the two factions over a mutual respect for the sport. There’s some explicit language on this one, so we don’t recommend watching it with kids or at work.

    We’re always wishing for the next beach day, and for conditions that favor time among the waves. In the meantime, we hope these picks will keep you entertained and inspired until the next surf outing arrives.

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