Bored in Between Sets? So Stretch!

You just milked another head-high ride for over 100 yards all the way to shore. Stoke factor is off the charts. Adrenaline pumping, you can’t wait till the next long ride. Problem is the next set doesn’t come for another 5 minutes. What to do?

Most surfers paddle back out to the lineup and just wait, meditating on the horizon. Getting more in touch with your inner soul-surfer in between sets is a good thing, yet you can make the most of your time during the lull by stretching.

If you’re paddling a lot, there’s a reason your arms start to feel like two giant beams of steel: they get saturated with lactic acid; your muscle attachments become tighter, clinging to bone. But if you stretch in between sets, you’ll be limber enough to catch that next epic ride.

Here then are some simple stretches to do in between sets:

Side bends

Hardly anyone takes the time to stretch their sides. But your sides, including the serratus anterior (the “boxer’s” muscle; the prime mover that activates during a punch) and other muscles that hold the rib cage together should be stretched every day, especially when you surf.

This stretch is easier if you are on a thicker board but you can do this even with the thinnest thruster. Grab one rail for support. Raise the other arm straight up, your palm facing your ear. Inhale, reach your arm up to the sky; exhale and keeping your arm relatively straight, do a side bend. Don’t be concerned with having your arm reach all the way across and down; just feel a good stretch. Keep your shoulders squared. Pretend you are stuck in a glass wall and there is no room for one of your shoulders to roll forward.

Repeat other arm. Try to look behind each shoulder to throw in a spinal twist.

Variations on this stretch are also highly effective. Try with both arms, first with your hands apart (remember, palms facing your ears); then perform with palms pressing together.

Between the Blades

A great stretch for the muscles in between the shoulder blades (rhomboids), a problem-area for all surfers: one hand grabs the other at the wrist and pulls it across your body at a 10 o’clock angle for the right arm and a 2 o’ clock angle for the left. Keep the arm parallel to the water.

Another effective stretch mirrors the bump in volleyball. Interlock your fingers and set your arms like you’re about to bump to the center (this is the first hit in volleyball; before the overhead set and spike). Pretend your fingers are glued together. Apply strong force like you’re going to pry your fingers apart but don’t let them do so. Very slowly raise your arms and try to spread your shoulder blades. Keep reaching your arms forward. Spread those blades and repeat on the way down.

Mid-back Stretch

Sit on the tail of the board and lean back, grabbing the rails towards the top. Allow your back to round out, much like a cat stretch in yoga. Again, try to spread the shoulder blades to let those muscle attachments relax a bit. When paddling, your spinal extensors, including those at the low back are constantly working (unless you’re an old salty dog with a back as flat as the 10-foot plank under him). This stretch will give the mid-back muscles a therapeutic counter-stretch.

Shoulder (Deltoids) Stretch

An oldie, but a goody: To stretch the left deltoid group, take your left arm and wrap it around the opposite shoulder, like you’re giving yourself a hug with just your left arm. Position the crook of the right elbow under the left arm and lock the crook just above the left elbow. Next, pull in the right arm comes towards you. You should feel a stretch across the left shoulder muscles.

Triceps Stretch

Another classic stretch: Raise one arm straight overhead, bend at the elbow and let the forearm dangle behind the upper back and neck. With the opposite arm, grab the elbow of the bent arm and gently pull down. As with any other stretch, you can increase your range of motion by inhaling and easing off of the stretch, then exhaling and increasing the range of motion by a couple of inches. Repeat a few times. Exhaling when you go deeper in the stretch is crucial.

Reverse Paddling

If you spread your arms out parallel to the water and swing them straight back, you’ll not only feel a great stretch for the chest and arms, but you might even get a chiropractic crack in the back. Swinging the arms straight back is important because it will keep the intrinsic muscles balanced.

Perform these stretches on a daily basis and you will notice your sessions going longer without getting as easily fatigued. You’ll also feel less sore the next day when you paddle back out. And if you stretch in between sets consistently, you’ll be surfing for many years to come.


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