Reduction in sprint paddling ability in surfers following a two hour surfing training session

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




Secomb, J., Sheppard, J. M., & Dascombe, B. (2013). Reduction in sprint paddling ability in surfers following a two hour surfing training session. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning, 21(1), 95-98.


Surfboard riding (surfing) is a popular sport that is performed competitively at both recreational and elite levels, in addition to being used for training purposes. Successful surfing requires high levels of technical proficiency and physiological fitness, of which the latter is utilised to provide propulsion through the water. This propulsion predominantly occurs prior to the surfer standing up, through maximal effort paddling, and then using dynamic balance and lower-body strength and power to remain on the board and perform manoeuvres. Whilst recreational surfing and surfing training sessions can have a duration ranging from less than 30 minutes up to several hours, competitive surfing is performed in 20 to 40 minute elimination heats, with the athletes often competing in multiple heats a day . Time-motion analyses of elite level surfers, in competitive events, revealed the mean percentage of time spent; paddling, stationary, wave riding, paddling for waves, and performing miscellaneous activities, as ~52%, ~34%, ~4%, ~8%, and ~2%, respectively. Additionally, it has been identified that during elite level competition, paddling bouts lasting 1-20 s in duration make up ~60-80% of all paddling bouts performed, with surfers rarely (~10%) continuously paddling for greater than 90 s. This suggests that paddling bouts are likely to be shorter and of higher-intensity, and therefore, strength and conditioning programs for surfers should focus on the development of maximal paddling speed. Although there are significant physical and physiological demands on the surfer during competition, 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. This requires major manoeuvres to be performed whilst maintaining speed, power, and flow. Interestingly, elite level surfers are only scored on their technical ability and skills on a wave. As such, it is evident that to increasingly adhere to the scoring criteria surfers must maximise their entry speed into the wave, during the maximal effort sprint paddle, to ensure they can perform a powerful manoeuvre, with a high degree of speed, sooner after entering the wave. Previous research has identified that peak oxygen uptake is not a valid measure for differentiating between performance levels in surfers. Conversely, anaerobic power has been reported as an appropriate measure for differentiation, with relative, absolute, and mean peak anaerobic power exhibiting a significant correlation with national level ranking in elite level male surfers (r = -0.50, -0.55, and -0.57, respectively). Although it is apparent that highly developed anaerobic power would allow a surfer to correctly position themselves to catch waves, and also to increase entry speed into caught waves, no research to date has identified whether this physiological capacity experiences a reduction following a surfing session. As technical performance on caught waves is the only component of surfing that contributes to scoring during competitive events, it is necessary to understand what impact a surfing session has on sprint paddle performance in surfers. The present study aimed to investigate the change in sprint paddle performance of surfers, following a two hour surfing training session, as these sessions are typically performed leading into competitive events.

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