Comparison of the sprint paddling performance between competitive male and female surfers
Australian Strength and Conditioning Association
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Exercise and Health Sciences/Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research
Surfboard riding (surfing) is a popular sport that is performed competitively at both recreational and elite levels. Successful surfing requires a high level of both technical proficiency and physiological fitness, of which the latter is utilised to provide propulsion through the water, in order to be correctly positioned to catch the most appropriate waves. This propulsion occurs prior to the surfer standing up from a prone position and riding the wave, through paddling. Whilst riding the wave, the surfing athlete uses dynamic balance and lower-body power to remain on the board and perform manoeuvres. The current judging criteria, as noted in the “Association of Surfing Professionals Rule Book”, states that “surfers must perform a variety of innovative and progressive manoeuvres, with a high degree of difficulty and commitment”. To be successful, surfers must perform major manoeuvres whilst maintaining speed, power, and flow of the surfboard.Competitive surfing is scored solely on technical ability and skills on a wave, however, the peak velocity that can be attained during a sprint paddling effort to catch a wave will likely determine the speed and power of the surfer’s initial manoeuvre. This is the result of a surfer that possesses a greater sprint paddling peak velocity, demonstrating the associated capability to take-off closer to the curl of a wave, and therefore, perform a scoring manoeuvre with greater speed and power sooner after entering the wave, which increasingly adheres to the scoring criteria. Further, during surfing training female surfers have to compete with males for waves in the line-up. Any deficit in a female surfers sprint paddling ability, compared to males, will limit their ability to sit as close as possible to the curl of the wave, and therefore, their opportunity to catch a high number of waves during a training session will be limited. If a female surfer does not have the opportunity to catch a sufficient number of waves in a training session, there will be an associated reduction in their ability to acquire new skills and refine their technique of already learnt manoeuvres. Sheppard et al. identified a significant association between relative upper-body pulling strength and peak paddling velocity (r = 0.66). As it has previously been reported that significant differences exist between the upperbody strength of males and females, it may be proposed that competitive female surfers possess lower sprint paddling peak velocities when compared to males, and hence, entry speed in to caught waves will be reduced. A surfer’s maximal sprint paddling velocity likely underpins scoring potential in competitive events, as well as their opportunity to catch a higher frequency of waves during surfing practice. However, no research to date has investigated the differences between competitive male and female surfers’ sprint paddling performance. As such, this study aims to establish if any differences - exist in the sprint paddling capabilities between male and female competitive surfers.