Surfing With Back Pain

Is Back Pain Limiting Your Surfing?

Statistically, you are very likely to deal with some “back issue” or pain event at some point in your life.

If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want keeping you out of some good surf are some pissed off muscles and joints.  It’s a terrible thing to have to watch sets pushing through, and not being able to paddle out because your body won’t allow it.

One hour into your weekend surf session. It’s decent, about 3foot, and clean. There’s a bit of current pushing, so you’re paddling endlessly to stay on the bank. Chest up, abdomen on the board, shoulders burning, and then come the back spasms.

Maybe it’s your lower back, or somewhere on your midback. It starts seizing up so badly you’re not going to be able to keep surfing…. or at least not without constantly thinking about your throbbing back pain.

Me personally, my right side low back and parallel to my spine start tightening up…. really tightly. It sucks. A ruined surf session because your back can’t handle what you want it to, and what surfing requires of it. A strong, durable back is critical for keeping you in the water, even if it is only once per week.

You Need To Build Strength in your Back Extensors

Paddling postures on top of a surf board are basically long periods of spinal extension. If you don’t have the strength and endurance within those back extensors to hold that position, your likely to end up with a really sore back and potential for injury.

Surfing with back pain sucks. I’ve personally had some rather severe back problems, and have had to put a lot of work into getting my back strong, and surfable. This is an area that I constantly hear about from clients, and a problem that you can start taking some easy steps to counteract.

Watch the video here

Back problems can be a pretty involved issue, with many factors that could be the underlying cause of your particular issue. However, often basic aches and soreness are brought about from weakness in various back muscles.

You may think you’ve got strength in those muscles, but very often, even in some really strong looking surfers, the back muscles are really weak, full of tenderpoints and knots, and can’t properly accomplish their job………. keeping you paddling on top of that board.

Start working on back extension endurance. If you can be in the water, with more energy, less fatigue, and can paddle for longer periods because of a stronger back, it’s pretty much a win win situation.

Without delving to deeply into back anatomy, you’ve basically got specific muscles that primarily stabilize your spine, and others that create more gross, or larger spinal movements.

To maintain paddling postures for extended periods of time, and to also keep yourself back injury free, you’ve got to begin strengthening both of these muscle structures, the small spinal stabilizers, and the larger more powerful back muscles.

**If you have any back symptoms, seek help from a professional before attempting any stretches or exercises!!**

Some of the movements I demonstrated within the video can in fact be very detrimental to certain back pathologies, so they may not be right for you. However, if you’re just suffering from the occasional back pain, ache, soreness, you could definitely benefit from some good
Surfer Soft Tissue Work, and some extensor chain endurance work.

How To Perform These Movements

  • slower and longer repetitions – we want to build endurance within those muscles, so you should be holding the position for at least 5 seconds and preferably 10seconds, with enough reps to add up to 2 minutes of work
  • think of elongating the spine, reaching from finger tips to toes, and squeeze your glutes. The glute is a really important “core” muscle that can help to stabilize the pelvis
  • the alternating superman and the cobra movement can also be performed on top of a stability ball to add more stimulus to the nervous system. I would recommend starting on the floor, and after being able to hold for at least 1 minute, progress to the stability ball.

2 Other Great Moves for Back Strengthening / Core Control

Best Surfer Core Exercise

Best Rotational Stability Exercise

So get your back and core strong, so you can get your body to move the way you want to in the water. Don’t miss out on some swell because your lower back is screaming at you.

Eventually, these movements are all progressed to deadlifts, Kettlebell swings, hyperextensions……. all the fun stuff in the gym to build a solid, powerful, pain free back.

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1 Comment

  • Hey Cris: Wats up? Hope your doing good. I am experiencing severe back pain primarily in my QL 's which, is severely effecting my surfing. This has been happening for about 3 months. I even bought a new firm matress lol I watched your brief video with 2 stretches. The Superman and the Cobra but, what else can I do to fix this fast and build those muscles so this goes away forever? I surf the SF bay area and Southern California 4-5 days a week. I travel back and forth. I run 4-5 miles every morning and go to the gym 3-4 days a week so, I am in pretty decent shape. My Dr said ( I want to punch him) Stop running and stop surfing. Then the problem will go away. Oh, I also bought a posture support strap/harness which keeps my shoulders pulled back and stops me from hunching over especially when I am on the computer working most of the day. HELP ! ! !

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