Some might argue that Matt Griggs and Mick Fanning started this whole surfers-as-athletes renaissance. In 2007, Mick’s maiden World Title year, you’d rarely see the two apart. You’d rarely see Mick not completely laser-focused. You’d rarely see Mick not on some kind of exercise ball, blasting Tool in his headphones, ready to demolish all comers. Which he did. As did Steph Gilmore, under Griggsy’s watchful eye, four times. And Mick did again, a couple years later. Griggs acted as Rip Curl’s ‘pit-boss’ for five years, whipping the team into shape physically and mentally. He’s since settled back home in Sydney, started a private practice where he continues to train young surfers and other athletes, and he’s currently one of the most knowledgeable, experienced surf trainers around.
How’d you get started with Mick?
We’d always be filtering information from high-level trainers into how it would make you a better surfer. We’d strengthen the body how we wanted to strengthen it — in terms of the speed and explosiveness, because that’s where surfing’s at. We want to go faster, and not just in sprinting — ’cause surfing doesn’t look like sprinting. We want to get faster in our rotational movements and our squats and things like that. Guys like Mick and Taylor Knox have got so much range with their body and rotations. It’s not by accident. They train that way.
Do all surfers need training?
Intellectually, it works. There’s no doubt. You can build someone’s body to be whatever you want them to be. And these days, I hear things like, ‘Oh, you know, Dane doesn’t train.’ But look at how many injuries he’s had already. When you put your body through those crazy movements, it’s going to break down. So you can actually build into your nervous system the ability to handle that kind of pressure and strain on your body.
What’s the most important thing a surfer can train for?
Good posture. The more I look at surfer’s technique, the more I realize how important good posture is. As soon as your posture breaks, you’re only using limited power and speed within your body. You can actually train for good posture; that’s what we do when using balls and training with rotational and squatting patterns specific to surfing. People would always ask Tiger Woods how he swings so fast, and he’d say, “Yeah, but I train for that — and I can only swing as fast as my balance allows.” Which is very similar to surfing. You can only swing as fast as your balance and posture allow.
How do you train for balance during explosive movements?
I don’t use any weights, only your body weight because that’s what you carry when you surf. And always on an unstable surface, because surfing’s on an unstable surface. If you do static training — if you train your body one muscle-group at a time, like they did twenty years ago — that’s how you’ll move. Each surfer knows when they’re doing it; they have that feeling of being connected. You are connected, your board doesn’t feel separate; it feels like a part of your body. You can actually train that into your physical being. It means moving and feeling every muscle group communicating and moving together.
Is there one exercise you can break down to work on that balance?
The split-squat with a rotation. That’s just about building stability in both legs, because when you’re either surfing or walking, you’re lifting and pushing from one leg to another. That’ll give you balance and stability in each leg for those subtle movements. So you’re building leg strength collectively in each leg. And you’re also working in a rotation — most surfing movements have rotational movements. And the more range you can use with your body, the more range you can have with your surfing. Kelly or Mick are great examples of that. And there are people who are very stiff in their movements that are the opposite end of that.
General stretching guidelines?
The best time to stretch is in the morning and before you go to bed every day. When you stretch, you put your muscles to sleep and relax them, so you don’t want to stretch before you surf. That’s black and white. You want to have your muscles switched on. You can do active stretching. But you don’t want to do static stretching before you surf. The best way you want to do it is before you go to bed so you can hold stretches for thirty seconds.
What about mental aspects?
Kelee Meditation. It’s been around forever, and it’s about taking the time — it’s only a five-minute meditation — where you just center and become still, and it’s the difference between a good feeling and a bad feeling. You start to just become centered in your own experience in life. And also, just from the performance point of view, when you practice stillness, you’re practicing pure focus. If you look at what the opposite of pure focus is, it’s distraction. And that’s when people make mistakes in life and surfing. So the more that people practice this meditation, the more they don’t make mistakes.
Advice for surfers who want to start training?
Enjoyment level. You don’t want to be daunted — don’t feel like you have to be Mick Fanning straight away. What you want to do is just start. It’s all a process. Just start doing it, find exercises that suit you. There’s so much information out there. If you’ve got the budget and you like being around someone, get a trainer. And just pay attention to the results that you’re getting as individuals. If you feel like you’re getting results, then you’re on a good path. If it doesn’t feel like it’s working, then just keep tinkering until you find something that works for you. But the trick is to not feel like you have to train five days a week. You only have to train a couple of times a week. Rest in between and surf and enjoy your life.
Any specific training for aerial surfing?
I actually just started doing gymnastics with the kids I coach, and it’s had amazing results. I’ve got this agreement with the head of gymnastics at the Academy in New South Wales. I said: “I’ll give you as much speed as possible, and you teach me how to be in the air.” It’s just little tricks, because when they’re in the air, most people break their posture because they go to their board. They try to grab their board and they fold in half. He’s teaching me things like, you’ve got to bring the board to you. So we’re on the tramp usually, jumping into the pit with a board and learning, not only some existing airs, but we’re working on some airs that don’t exist yet.
What about training for big waves?
A really simple exercise: hold your breath for 30 seconds, have a 30-second break, hold your breath for one minute, have a one-minute break, and then hold your breath for as long as you can. I did that every day, and after three or four weeks, I held my breath for three minutes and 50 seconds. So it works. And it just obviously gives you a lot more confidence when you’re in bigger surf.
I think the most important thing is just to do with the mind. People spend so much time understanding all the physical aspects, but they don’t realize that it’s the mind that actually runs the physical. That’s why I meditate and teach meditation. You can be incredibly fit, but if you’re down-and-out one day emotionally, your body’s energy is not going to feel that good. So I think it’s important for people to study their mind, and how that affects their life and performance. Out of everything I’ve learned, and I’ve learned a lot: physical, technical, tactical, and then I realized how important studying your own mind is. So it’s become a huge part of what we do. And you know, the media don’t ask questions about that. They ask questions about board and technique because they understand that. But when it comes to the emotions and the mind, they don’t really ask questions about that, so people don’t really read about it. And I think it’s very important for people to understand what affect it has on your life.
(blog post via www.surfline.com)
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