A Griffith University researcher is hoping the results of a trial into surf paddling technique will be beneficial for coaches and competitive or recreational surfers looking to improve their strength, conditioning and mobility when they hit the water.
Dr Steven Duhig, an exercise and sport lecturer within Griffith’s School of Allied Health Sciences, and a team of undergraduate students recruited and tested trial participants for three 40-minute sessions a week over the intensive six-week study.
The trial took place in the Griffith Olympic pool, Griffith gyms and exercise clinics and Holistic Pro Health in Coolangatta.
The 28 participants ranged from beginner to advanced surfers and were split into three study groups – strength, conditioning and mobility.
Week one of the trial was testing, which consisted of:
- three 40m surf paddling time trials in the pool;
- tethered paddling with the surfer strapped to the diving block via a wire to allow stroke forces to be measured during 10 and 30-second maximal efforts bouts;
- shoulder and thoracic spine mobility testing;
- After the initial week one testing, participants were randomly allocated into three intervention groups – strength, mobility and conditioning.
The strength-only participants performed exercises to improve their upper body pulling and shoulder mobility strength; the mobility-only group focused on exercises to improve shoulder an
d thoracic spine range of motion; and the conditioning-only group were assigned to swimming laps in the pool.
Dr Duhig said the data collected so far revealed there were significant improvements across all three groups, and the overall findings would be further analysed and used to produce three separate research papers.
“Unsurprisingly, the strength group got stronger, the mobility group increased their range of motion, and the conditioning group improved their fitness levels,” he said.
“However, when we look at the results from the 40m time trials, it suggests the strength group improved their first 40m time trial and the conditioning group their third – such improvements may suggest improved force application in the water and a decreased fatiguability.
“What’s also interesting is the greater force generation during the tethered paddling across all three groups. In comparison to the 40m time trial, the benefit of using the tether allows us to measure force generated during each stroke and over a much shorter duration.
The practical implications arising from improved force generation would likely make paddling onto a wave easier.
“These sorts of studies can inform the work of surfing coaches, athletes and the everyday surfer, so we were very interested in seeing what effect dry-land training had on paddling for surfers.
“The Gold Coast is a mecca for surfers, and we as researchers at Griffith wanted to understand more about how surfers perform and can improve in the water.”
Dr Duhig said while there was increasing amounts of literature about coastal management, surfboard manufacture, and even wetsuit repellants against shark attacks, there was still very little research into the sports performance side of surfing.
“Surfing is a big business, and this study presents surf coaches and surfers with an opportunity to enhance their skills and competitive performance. We’re also planning to investigate injury prevention, given the rise in severe injuries like high ankle sprains or ACL ruptures and , which usually result from landing aerial manoeuvres,” he said.
After further analysing the findings, Dr Duhig will invite professional surf coaches to have their input on the development of a criteria to assess paddling technique to guide exercise prescription and programming for surf athletes.
This year’s 2020 Tokyo Games will be the first to feature surfing as an Olympic sport, with Australians Owen Wright, Sally Fitzgibbons, Stephanie Gilmore and Julian Wilson set to compete.