Surfing is one of the most exhaustive sports on the planet, and surfing big waves catapults you into the upper echelon of physical demands. Big-wave surfers are commonly polished athletes that put exercise, nutrition, and preparation above all, and set rigorous workout schedules and lung-training routines that meet the demands of them sliding down 30+ foot faces.
Whether you’re a big-wave surfer, are just getting versed in larger surf, or want to simply practice breath-holding to be better prepared in the ocean, we’ve got some thoughts to get you started.
Expand Your Lungs
The best path to longer breath holds is lung expansion. This can be achieved with a regular yoga practice – especially Pranayama – that focuses on deep nasal breathing to increase chest expansion. Studies have shown with 18 short sessions in a group of 53 participants, there were significant improvements in 6 of 7 measures of respiratory functions. Yoga and other lung-expansion based exercise is a surefire way to prepare for long ocean time.
The best surfers train every single day, and big-wave surfers are well aware of the impact their cardiovascular system has on retaining air and using oxygen more efficiently in stressful situations. Everything from running, swimming, biking, running up mountains, and anything else exceedingly strenuous better prepares you for underwater thrashings. Lean, strong muscle processes oxygen efficiently, and you don’t need to bulk excessively to increase your lung capacity.
Being able to remain collected in a demanding environment is one of the most important things you can do to lengthen your breath hold in the ocean. Fighting against whitewater turbulence eats up your oxygen stores insanely fast, and it is easy to burn through that when you’re trying to dominate something much stronger than you.
In hold downs, surfers will commonly go limp and try to remain as stress-free as possible, going with the ebb and flow of the ocean until they are no longer being controlled by swirling water. This method of becoming suspended saves both energy and oxygen, and tensing up will do the opposite.
Breath Holding class
Bob Sievers, a big-wave enthusiast and Mavs regular, is often spotted paddling alone a mile off Southern California, and like many other big-wave or ocean frequenters, has taken to classes at Performance Free-Diving International. "Learning proper technique for long breath holds in a safe controlled environment translates into staying calm in heavy conditions which ultimately conserves oxygen and can save your life."
Breath training is the best way to prepare yourself adequately for increased breath holding. If you’re serious about taking your surfing to the next level or want to improve your techniques, breath training classes will prepare you immensely for long hold-downs and time spend under the surface.
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Note: AST implores that all surfers, swimmers, and ocean-goers train in a professional class like before utilizing these or any breath-holding skills you find on the internet in the water.