Breathing exercises for Surfing

Last updated on: August 30, 2022
breathing exercises for surfing

surf breathing exercises

Breath training for surfers is a skill set that can help you overcome heavy wipeouts. It can also help you control your emotions and adrenaline to improve your overall surfing performance.

Our breath is literally the pillar of our physical and mental well-being.

Why it matters

The average adult breathes in and out around 22,000 times a day, but we rarely use all of our lung capacity.

The modern lifestyle of sitting at the desk most of the day leads to a restriction of breath since a poor posture results in shallow breathing.

Shallow breathing is when we inhale minimal breath into the lungs, usually by drawing air into the chest area utilizing the intercostal muscles rather than throughout the lungs via the diaphragm.

As author Jay Shetty describes it in his best-seller, think like a monk – The only thing that stays with you from the day you are born till the day you die is your breath, yet no one teaches us how to breathe. 

In other words, breathing is the most essential tool for controlling our emotions and energy. But in school, we never learn how to utilize the power of different breathing techniques. 

Breathing for focus and calmness

If you feel too excited, anxious, or stressed and find it difficult to focus – then it’s beneficial to do some deep breathing before paddling out.

In today’s world, we spend a lot of time in the rounded forward sitting posture. The neck and shoulder tension combined with shallow neck breaths creates an inefficient breathing pattern for your endurance as a surfer and makes it nearly impossible to paddle efficiently.

Deep Breathing

However, there is a way to tackle these issues and it’s called Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as; Deep breathing or belly breathing.

  1. Lay down or sit comfortably with a good posture
  2. Breathe in as deep as you can. Pay attention to your belly expanding, and pull air into the bottom of the lungs.
  3. Next, expand your ribcage to fill the mid-lungs
  4. Finally, raise your chest and fill air into the top of your lungs 
  5. Be aware of your inhale duration and exhale for at least the same time (preferably longer). 
  6. Place a hand on your stomach to observe your breath and make sure you use you activate the diaphragm when breathing.

Box breathing

Another way to calm your body with your breath is through the box breathing exercise, where you;

  1.  Start by inhaling for the count of four seconds
  2.  Next up, hold your breath for four
  3. Then exhales for four 
  4. and finally, hold for four before restarting the box breathing loop

If four seconds is too much or too little for you, simply adjust the duration to match your lung capacity, as long as you keep each step at the same amount of seconds.

It’s called box breathing because you can visualize the four edges of a box while practicing the technique.

surfing breath holding training

Double breathing for energy

If you feel too calm and maybe a bit tired, your breath can actually fill your body with energy. Just like a good cup of coffee, but without the post-caffeine crash.

Double breathing technique

Try the so-called double breathing technique.

This 1-minute breathing exercise will boost blood oxygen and productivity, making you pumped for surfing.

  1. Inhale through the nose with a short, sharp inhalation followed directly by a long, strong exhale. ︎
  2. Continue without pausing in between breaths
  3. Repeat the breathing exercise five times and then pause for a short break before starting on the next round
  4. Try to do at least three rounds 

breath hold training for surfers

Last but not least, every surfer should train their breath-hold, as it can be the most crucial safety precaution in surfing. Every big wave surfer would know that!

Holding your breath while getting dragged underwater during a wipeout is way more challenging than it may seem.

When you are getting pounded by the waves, your muscles use more oxygen, which causes you to lose your breath way faster than under optimal conditions; practicing on land or in a swimming pool.

During most wipeouts in smaller waves (less than overhead), you will only need to hold your breath for 8-10 seconds at a time. But in bigger waves, you may look at an interval that spans up to a minute.

While these numbers don’t seem too daunting, you must learn to stay calm to not waste too much energy. After all, you might face several waves if you get caught inside during a bigger set.

Therefore a realistic goal for your breath-hold exercises should be closer to 2-3 minutes in calm waters.

Tummo breathing techniques are beneficial when trying to build your breath-hold. A few years back, I found a program called “The Wim Hof Method” after the legendary big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, mentioned it in an interview.

Laird is known for his extraordinary dedication to surf training and his focus on improving every aspect of his mental and physical strength, so I trust his acknowledgment of the method.

The Wim Hof Method

The method was popularized by Wim Hof, the guy commonly nicknamed “The Iceman”, for his ability to hold his breath for six minutes underwater and the fact that his technique includes ice baths. 

The program is leveraging the benefits of Tummo breathing, and here is how it works:

  1. Sit or lay down in a comfortable and safe position. Make sure you are in a position with good posture, so your lungs can work freely without feeling any constriction. 

  2. Take 30-40 Deep Breaths in short and powerful bursts. Try to focus on being present and connect with your breath. Take deep inhales through the nose or mouth, and exhale unforced through the mouth. Make sure you fully inhale through the belly (similar to the deep breathing technique).

    You may experience light-headedness and tingling sensations in your fingers and feet. These side effects are completely harmless. However, when practicing your breath-hold you should always do it with a buddy for safety matters, especially when taking your breath-hold exercises to the water. 

  3. After your last exhalation, you should inhale one final time, as deeply as you can. Now let the air out and stop breathing. Hold until you feel the urge to breathe. You will experience that you’re able capable to hold your breath for longer than you think.

    Once you push through the boundary of the first panic reactions, you will start to feel calmer and realize that you got plenty of time before you need to breathe.
  4. Do a recovery breath. When you feel the urge to breathe again, use deep breathing and feel your belly and chest expanding until you reach your full capacity. At this point, you should hold your breath for around 15 seconds, then let go. That completes round number one.
  5. You can repeat the cycle 3-4 times.

Airofit breathing trainer

We recently discovered a product called Airofit, and while we haven’t been able to try it yet, it seems to be an innovative product with a lot of benefits for surfers – a great addition to your surfing breath training.

The idea behind AiroFit, is to increase your V02 max levels by improving your respiratory muscle strength, endurance, and function. The product will guide you through different training programs and resistance levels to improve your breathing for various sports activities.

Take advantage of complementary sports

Yoga training for surfers and interval training can be a great addition to your breath-hold exercises – when performing these fitness types consistently, you will experience significant improvements in your breath-hold for surfing. 

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