The importance of aerial manoeuvers in elite competitive surfing perfomance

Document Type

Journal Article


Australian Strength and Conditioning Association


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Exercise and Health Sciences/Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research




This article was originally published as: Lundgren, L. , Dunn, M., Nimphius, S. , & Sheppard, J. M. (2013). The importance of aerial manoeuvers in elite competitive surfing performance. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning, 21(1), 70-72.


Competitive surfing is judged upon the performance of manoeuvers on the wave, and showing control, variety and complexity of manoeuvers will score high. The competitions are judged by several credentialed judges comprising a panel of 4-6 persons and each wave ridden is judged out of a maximum of 10 points. The best two waves in the heat make up the total score. Due to these rules, performance of surfing has many different aspects, which are both tactically and physically demanding, with the physical work having been described as intermittent in nature. The wave riding part of surfing consists of about 5% of the total time spent surfing, hence requiring the athlete to perform maximal efforts when an opportunity is given. Choosing the right wave to be able to execute high-scoring manoeuvers is an important part of competitive surfing. Previously, it was mainly the length of the ride and number of manoeuvers that were considered to score well in competition, however, the judging criteria has formally changed recently, in order to encourage more complex and risk taking manoeuvers. Hence, nowadays the more advanced manoeuvers are scored higher in comparison to a higher amount of lower risk manoeuvers. Only recently, the execution of aerial manoeuvers has become frequent in competitions. Although they have been present in ‘free surfing’ for several years, the competitive level of the sport has progressed lately, and now aerial manoeuvers appear to be an important technical aspect for competitive success, and as such, potentially placing new demands on the surfing performance and physical characteristics of the athletes. The task involves several phases, such as speed generation, take-off, acrobatic air movements and landing. Landing tasks have previously been shown to increase the biomechanical load and risk of injury in other sports, suggesting that this might also be the case for surfing. If execution of aerial manoeuvers is crucial to high performance in competitive surfing, it follows that the athlete needs to have appropriate levels of skill and physical strength in order to perform well and avoid injury. However, it has not yet been researched whether the execution of aerial manoeuvers score better than performing more traditional manoeuvers in competition. This study has analyzed the wave scores from three WCT competitions in order to explore if there is a difference between the scores if an aerial is included in the selection of manoeuvers. Furthermore, we have compared the linear relationship between wave score and number of manoeuvers when one or more aerials are included, versus not included (non-aerial). The hypothesis was that waves containing one or more aerial manoeuver would score higher than non-aerial waves.

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