A Surfers Guide: How To Come Back From Injury

Injury always seems to come when least expected. Wether your injury takes place in the water or not, you know that time away from the ocean is probably inevitable. The first question you may mumble to the physio is but when can I surf again?  From the look on the practitioners face, you know you are going to be in for a hard time. Keep in mind however, the injury has its benefits. Often time spent bed ridden can spark a new perspective on life, and give you the time you need to slow down, and really assess your life path. These tips below are intended to help keep you in the game, even when you are not, and make the transition from the couch to the ocean much more seamless.

 If you can’t surf, get strong!

A major worry that you may naturally have is that you will loose all of your surf fitness whilst out of the water. To be truthful, you will lose a lot of surf fitness…if you sit on the couch and feel sorry for yourself. With more time on your hands, focus on strengthening surf specific muscles so that when you do head back into the water you have some power and strength behind you. If your injury allows you to swim, do it. Swimming can be incredibly restorative and is good not only for muscular strength, but for cardiovascular fitness (what we need to paddle distances). If you are in a cast and can not spend anytime in a pool, focus on building up muscle tone in the areas that will suffer the most from lack of paddling. Work on strengthening the lower back, arms and shoulders through small repetitive movements that use your own body weight. Make sure however that your injured area remains free from any weight, twists and pressure.

Watch surf footage and analyse technique

If you are bed ridden, why not make the most of your time out and begin to watch surfing footage. Choose a surfer who has a style in which you find particularly attractive. Watch how they surf in all sorts of conditions. Watch them at pipeline, watch them at a shitty beach break, watch them surf everything. See if you can pick up on the subtle movements that get them to where they need to be on the wave. Break the smallest and most fundamental movements down and consider how you could apply their form to your surfing. It could be as simple as the angle in which they take off, or how their foot placement shifts on the different sections of the wave. If you have footage of yourself, use this time to compare your technique to that of a professional making notes of the changes you may like to make when back in the water.


When you can’t surf, visualise. This may sound pretty airy fairy and left wing, but visualisation is a very powerful tool not only for athletes, but for anyone wanting to succeed with their goals. I could yarn about this until the sun comes up, but instead I will link you to a more in depth article about this tool, here. (Note: a lot of top athletes see visualisation as a completely necessary tool to help them rehab from injury.)

Trust in your muscle memory

It may be daunting to consider how you will perform when back in the water. Fears may arise such as can I even surf anymore? or what if I injure myself again? Though these are natural worries and should be honoured and listened to,  it is important that these do not consume you, and you are able to trust in your bodies ability to be resilient, and quickly remember what it feels like to be back on the board. Yes you may be shakey at first but remember, if you have done it before, you can do it again.

Rehab yourself into a new and improved version

 A famous saying suggests we “take care of our bodies, as it is the only place we have to live.” These words are timeless and truthful, and if you question any older person about their regrets of their youth, most of them will mention how they wish they took better care of their bodies. Take the time to find an experienced and passionate healer, wether this be in the form of a Physio, an Osteo, an Acupuncturist or a Bowen Therapist (or others). Make sure you connect with them, but most importantly, make sure you do your rehab exercises! Putting the effort in during the rehab stage will give you the confidence you need when back in the water.

Start off small, with the conditions, and your expectations

As much as I would like to say dive in head first, the reality is that your body has suffered trauma and will be needing gentle assistance to work its way back to where it was. Don’t expect that you will be surfing amazing upon your first return, as this will only demotivate an disappoint you. Accepting where you are with grace will make your progression easier and more enjoyable. Take it easy and don’t be too hard on yourself.

Simply put, injuries suck. They can knock our confidence and obviously are physically painful. If you are smart however, you can use the time out of the water to re-guide yourself for the better. Taking a step back can often lead to new insights, and a whole other level of appreciation for surfing and for the delicacy of your body. Overall, you cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control how you deal with it. Take this time to reflect, heal and appreciate surfing for the happiness and excitement it brings to your life.

Ruby @ The Surf Box

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