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Physiological aspects of surfboard riding performance

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Surfboard riding (surfing) has experienced a 'boom' in participants and media attention over the last decade at both the recreational and the competitive level. However, despite its increasing global audience, little is known about physiological and other factors related to surfing performance. Time-motion analyses have demonstrated that surfing is an intermittent sport, with arm paddling and remaining stationary representing approximately 50% and 40% of the total time, respectively. Wave riding only accounts for 4-5% of the total time when surfing. It has been suggested that these percentages are influenced mainly by environmental factors. Competitive surfers display specific size attributes. Particularly, a mesomorphic somatotype and lower height and body mass compared with other matched-level aquatic athletes. Data available suggest that surfers possess a high level of aerobic fitness. Upper-body ergometry reveals that peak oxygen uptake (V̇O2peak) values obtained in surfers are consistently higher than values reported for untrained subjects and comparable with those reported for other upper-body endurance-based athletes. Heart rate (HR) measurements during surfing practice have shown an average intensity between 75% and 85% of the mean HR values measured during a laboratory incremental arm paddling V̇O2peak test. Moreover, HR values, together with time-motion analysis, suggest that bouts of high-intensity exercise demanding both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism are intercalated with periods of moderate- and low-intensity activity soliciting aerobic metabolism. Minor injuries such as lacerations are the most common injuries in surfing. Overuse injuries in the shoulder, lower back and neck area are becoming more common and have been suggested to be associated with the repetitive arm stroke action during board paddling. Further research is needed in all areas of surfing performance in order to gain an understanding of the sport and eventually to bring surfing to the next level of performance.




Mendez-Villanueva, A., & Bishop, D. (2005). Physiological aspects of surfboard riding performance. Sports Medicine.

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