Mobility for surfing


March 6, 2019

Stage 1: Mobility

Surfing. It’s a sport which requires strength, power, agility and mobility all in one.

In other words, to surf well one must be able to have the strength and endurance to paddle, the agility and mobility to pop up and position yourself, the balance to stay on your board all the while having the awareness of where you are on the wave.

When you were a grom, chances are you never had to consider things like stretching to perform in the water. But the reality is, the older we get, the less mobile we become. This can significantly affect our ability to paddle, pop up and rotate from our bottom turn to cutback at the top of the wave. Due to the anatomical position of our facet joints in the thoracic region (or mid back) most of our rotational ability comes from this area. Paddling also requires a large degree of spinal extension to ensure we can look ahead while lying on our stomach and to optimise our paddling performance.

To test out your thoracic mobility try this test.

Sit with your legs right back on a bench or chair with a broomstick behind your shoulders. Try to twist one way without moving your pelvis to the right then repeat to the left. Does one side feel stiffer than the other? Chances are yes. This may be due to your trade or other sports you participate in (Such as golf, tennis etc). However, symmetry is the goal. To achieve this, try the below exercises. Then re-assess the above test to see if there is any improvement.

Rotation test

Bow & Arrow

  • Lye on side, make sure hips are not twisted
  • Reach top arm back without loosing the position of your pelvis.
  • Repeat 2 X 20 each side.

Thread the Needle

  • Start on hands and knees.
  • Thread one arm under other ideally on foam roller
  • Push hand out and drop shoulder to ground, looking in the direction you are moving.
  • 2 X 20 each side.

Seated rotation

  •  As per rotational stretch.
  • 2 X 20 each side.

Thoracic extension on foam roller

  • Make sure your bottom is on the ground and your neck is supported by your hands.
  • Place foam roller on your mid back. Avoid lower back and neck.
  • Extend over foam roller without lifting bottom off floor.
  • 2 X 20.

Seated side bends with broomstick

  •  Make sure you are seated all the way back on the chair or bench.
  • As you bend to the side, avoid lifting buttock off seat.
  • Aim to reach away with top arm so you feel a stretch all the way down your side.
  • 2 X 20.


Do you want to enhance your surfing? If you are unsure how to perform any of the above exercises or would like an individualised assessment, contact us to make a booking or call one of our Physiotherapists for a consultation on 03 5277 2151.

About your author Holly Lipson: Holly lives in the surf coast and spends her spare surfing the local waves with her husband Jack, who features in our surf image on their recent honeymoon in Indonesia.