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4 November, 2011

I Used to Hate Swimming

Right now would you believe, I find myself land-locked 200km inland in the intriguing city of Marrakech. I’m here for a fairly important conference on Tropicsurf duties. Meanwhile a five-metre swell is about to hit one of the world’s best rights, Safi … an incredible wave that tubes for hundreds of metres over a perfect sand bottom. It is going to be all time. And I won’t be there.

For me this raises important questions about priorities – some of which I’ll address in a later post. Needless to say this is tearing me up. That’s why at Tropicsurf we have our Pulse program – aimed at dropping everything when the swell is on. It’s the only way to surf. More on that later.

Anyway, what to do when you’re nowhere near the beach?

I used to hate swimming. Even though I was one of those weird type of endurance runners who used to love exercise and pain… I sucked at swimming. But as a surfer, it is one of the best forms of cross training that you can do in the absence of the real thing. So it was hard for me to ignore.

Without fail, the guests on our surf trips who stay out the longest (and therefore catch more rides and get better value for their money) are the ones who swim laps in the pool on a regular basis. (Note the word regular.) The act of dragging your heavy body through the water is a wonderful example of the overload training principle – which in simple terms means that because it’s a lot harder than paddling a board, when you do get back on your board, it’s much easier because your muscles have been over-conditioned.

So swimming freestyle does wonders for your paddle strength. But also for your cardio fitness too. Try alternating your breathing on different strokes: eg: only breath on these strokes – 1,3,5,7,9,7,5,3,1,3,5 etc… You need to get puffed and get your heart rate up if you want to get more comfortable on those hold downs.

Also … don’t just swim every lap at the same pace. Mix it up. Sprint for a lap. Then slow. Then rest. And so on. Your heart rate needs to get up above its fat burning zone unless you want it to decay with age.

And what to do about the mind numbing boredom of following that little black line? Well I used to hate that too. Now I just zone out and treat it a bit like a form of meditation. Something I really need at times.

So, when you can’t surf – swim. The benefits are there. Paddle power, endurance, cardio, stress release. I did it this morning in Marrakech. It wasn’t as good as surfing 8 foot barrels … but maybe next chance I’ll be better prepared as a result.


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