September 27, 2009: Lessons in Crosstraining

Los Angeles, California – After a few days back of surfing in the incredible 100 degree heat that has once again plagued LA, I’ve come to discover a lot of similarities between my two passions, lessons that can crossover and ones that I want to remember for the next time I’m on snow. While the act of surfing and improving at it has been a lot of fun, it hasn’t come without its share of uncomfortable (scary!) moments and really big bruises.

Lesson 1: Get forward. The very same focus that I’ve been working on in snowboarding holds the same importance as in surfing. I noticed that when I catch a wave and pop up my body weight naturally gets pushed back onto the back foot, and in small waves that puts the breaks on things and I lose the wave. But after watching a few guys do it right, I learned that when I pop up I have to stomp down with that front foot to dip the nose down and get the board into the face of the wave and get moving. And even after getting up I still need to pressure that front foot to control the board and give it direction. It’s the accelerator.

Lesson 2: Stay Low and Ready to Go. At the same time I was learning lesson 1, I noticed that when I popped up I would stand too tall and get thrown off balance. It would also be difficult to pressure my front leg when it was too straight. So once again by watching others, I learned that when I popped up, it was easier to get the weight on the front foot and stay balanced if I landed and stayed low, with the knees bent. I could maneuver the board a lot easier and stay on the board in this more aggressive stance. Just like in snowboarding in the steep section of a course, getting low allows you to be in a position to make quick movements. Plus it’s less scary when you’re closer to the ground.

Lesson 3: Look Where You Want To Go, Not Where You’re Going. Someone told me to always look down the line of the wave as you’re paddling for it. I have the nasty habit of looking down at the nose of my board as I’m padding, mostly because I freak out when the nose of my board dips underwater because that usually means I’m going to eat it (pearl). So I’m constantly looking down at the nose out of paranoia, and not only does that put me in a bad position on the board but it also makes me bottom turn and get into the face of the wave too late. So I need to look down the face of the wave to where I want to go, even if it means not knowing if I’m going to pearl or not. But when I do it right, I get up fast enough so I don’t fly over the handlebars. Like snowboarding, looking down directly at the rut at the gate that I’m at puts me in an incorrect body position and sometimes causes me to freak out at the little bumps. So I need to look a gate or two ahead to not only get there faster, but not to get thrown from every little bump that I’m staring at.

Lesson 4: Stay Relaxed. One of the ways I think of surfing is as a transfer of energy. Energy from the wind transfers to the water to make waves, and energy from the waves transfers to the board which then goes back and forth to the body. If the body element is rigid and stiff, it can’t accept that energy and reciprocate it back to the board to create movement across such an unpredictable environment like the ocean. That energy will just come to a halt and so will my ride on that wave. In order to continually give and receive that energy to ride the wave for as long as possible, my body needs to be supple and relaxed, prepared to take on any little bump (or big bump for that matter) that comes along and move through and past it. Just like in snowboarding, if I’m stiff then those ruts throw me off balance, slow down the energy needed to generate speed, and hurt like heck.

Lesson 5: Timing is Everything. There’s a sweet spot in catching a wave, a perfect sweet spot that sometimes does not require any paddling at all! (I still haven’t mastered that one yet, but watching my cousin do it is infuriating!) If I can get that timing right, then everything else comes together so smoothly. I catch the wave effortlessly which then puts me in the right position to ride the face of the wave for as long as possible. A little too far behind the wave and it passes me by, no matter how much paddling I do, and a little too far in front of it and it picks me up and tosses me like a ragdoll. Just like in snowboard racing where every portion of a second counts, timing is not only everything that can win a race, but it also makes for the most comfortable runs. Turn too soon and I risk cutting on the inside of the gate or rodeo-ing in and out of the rut (= pain), and turning too late causes me to have to travel a farther distance than necessary which takes longer.

So those are the five big (and really long, sorry!) lessons that I’ve learned from surfing that can also be applied to snowboarding. Hopefully these similarities in sport will help me to keep up my progression in snowboarding when I’m off of snow. At the very least it’s been a great experience to interact so much with and in nature, and see my improvement in a sport I used to think was close to impossible in an environment that used to (and sometimes still does) scare the bejesus out of me. Conquering fear can be very empowering.

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1 Response to “September 27, 2009: Lessons in Crosstraining”


  1. 1 Lawrence October 3, 2009 at 1:15 am

    wiiiiiiiiiiiiicked!


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