Those of you who follow my blog know that I harbor a deep, dark secret: I grew up on the Jersey Shore. And though I never learned to surf, I know plenty of people for whom surfing is a way of life — similar to the way I feel about skiing. So this week, while I’m on vacation, I’ve decided to post a piece by guest blogger, Emily Bradbury. Emily is a fellow Vermonter who lives, plays, works, and raises her family here in the Green Mountains. She’s a contributor to Ski Vermont’s All Mountain Mamas blog, and the founder of Adventure Travel Mom. And she has some thoughts on how surfing can actually make you a better skier. Take it away, Emily!
The Kindred Spirit of Ski Divas and Surfer Chicks
As a native Vermonter and lifelong skier, falling in love with surfing was a complete surprise. My life is in the mountains — hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter, working and raising my family in a small ski town. So surfing was not really on my radar, until I spent a week at a surf camp in Costa Rica a few years ago. Turns out, skiing and surfing are kindred spirits, and those of us who feel at home in the mountains have an edge in learning to surf.
Through the surf camp I visit every year, I’ve met some pretty incredible women, most of whom claim skiing as their primary sport. Here are five reasons why women who rip on the mountains tend to kill it in the waves too, and why surfing might even make you a stronger skier:
1. Athletic instinct. Individuals who ski and board are naturally adept at surfing. General fitness is part of it, but the difference is the mental factor. The hardest part of learning to surf is catching waves. You paddle hard and get into the right position, which is just as the steepest part of a wave is about to break. You pop up and you’re staring down the steep face of a moving wave. Hesitating or leaning back means a wipeout and a pounding by the next wave. Skiers instinctively know to stay low and balanced, look where they want to go and just charge. It’s the same thing they do every day in the mountains.
2. Learning something new is good for the brain. Freesking World Tour Champ Laura Ogden credits learning to surf with making her more critical of her skiing. Though initially she just wanted to experience the feeling of catching a wave, she found that surfing served a higher purpose. “There is something inherently good for the soul in being novice at something similar to what you excel in. Learning to surf played many unexpected roles in my life, all of which had a very positive impact on my skiing.”
3. Improve strength and balance. As skiers, we spend a lot of time in the “forward flex” position, with tight abdominals and strong quads. Avid skiers are prone to injuries that result from chronic overuse of certain muscle groups. Surfing puts your body in extension, opening the front side and strengthening the posterior chain, which includes the glutes, hamstrings and back muscles. Paddling a surfboard works your upper body and lower back, while lengthening abdominals. A week of warm water surfing is the body’s perfect antidote to a season of ripping it on the hill.
4. You are there for yourself. Aussie surf coach and avid snowboarder, Victoria Patchell points out that “like skiing, recreational surfing is a sport that doesn’t have winners or losers, only participants. Once you enter the water you are there for yourself, and due to the individualist nature of the sport it provides an incredible opportunity for personal growth and transformation.”
5. Same rush, different sport. My friend Hillary Harrison, an avid skier who owns Peaks n’ Swells Surf Camp in Costa Rica, was first drawn to surfing because she craved that same adrenaline rush she got from skiing and biking in the mountains. “I’ll never forget how free and happy I felt riding that first wave,” said Harrison. “People say we’re addicted to the rush, but it’s hard to give up that feeling when it’s what drives you in life.” Don’t worry if you’re not an adrenaline junkie like Hillary (I’m not!). Surfing has a “bunny slope” too. White water waves are the perfect way to practice paddling out, popping up, and turning before heading into bigger surf.