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Physiological Demands of Competitive Surfing

Farley, Oliver R.L.1; Harris, Nigel K.1; Kilding, Andrew E.1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: July 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 7 - p 1887–1896
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182392c4b
Original Research

Farley, ORL, Harris, NK, and Kilding, AE. Physiological demands of competitive surfing. J Strength Cond Res 26(7): 1887–1896, 2012—This study was a performance analysis of surfing athletes during competitive surfing events in an attempt to inform the development of surfing-specific conditioning. Twelve nationally ranked surfers were fitted with heart rate (HR) monitors and global positioning system (GPS) units and videoed during the heats of 2 sanctioned competitions. Means and SDs represented the centrality and spread of analyzed data. From the 32 videos analyzed, the greatest amount of time spent during surfing was paddling (54 ± 6.3% of the total time) (% TT). The remaining stationary represented 28 ± 6.9% TT, wave riding, and paddling for a wave represented only 8 ± 2% TT and 4 ± 1.5% TT, respectively. Surfers spent 61 ± 7% of the total paddling bouts and 64 ± 6.8% of total stationary bouts between 1 and 10 seconds. The average speed recorded via the GPS for all the subjects was 3.7 ± 0.6 km·h−1, with an average maximum speed of 33.4 ± 6.5 km·h−1 (45 km·h−1 was the highest speed recorded). The average distance covered was 1,605 ± 313 m. The mean HR during the surf competitions was 139 ± 11 b·min−1 (64% HRmax), with a (mean) peak of 190 ± 12 b·min−1 (87% HRmax). Sixty percent TT was spent between 56 and 74% of the age-predicted HR maximum (HRmax), 19% TT >46% HRmax, and approximately 3% TT >83% HRmax. Competitive surfing therefore involves intermittent high-intensity bouts of all out paddling intercalated with relatively short recovery periods and repeated bouts of low-intensity paddling, incorporating intermittent breath holding. Surfing-specific conditioning sessions should attempt to replicate such a profile.

1Sports Performance Research Institute, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand

Address correspondence to Oliver R.L. Farley,

© 2012 National Strength and Conditioning Association