Just the other day I encountered a rare and beautiful moment that installed faith in our surfing brethren. My brother and I were relishing the spoils of a rarely surfed, and usually fickle right hand reef break on the mid north coast of Australia. The spot in question is far removed from any population mass, and is inhabited by a faithful bunch of locals. Due to the fact I have spent a little time in the area, and conducted physiotherapy on a couple of the lads, my presence is routinely met with both warmth and hospitality.
On this particular day the reef was offering a treasure chest in the form of a cavernous water cocoon. Unfortunately the bounty to be paid was a deposit to the urchin encrusted rock shelf, which luckily for me my brother inadvertently agreed too. A u-turn in the reef then provided the canvas for a 40-meter high performance speed bowl. Basically we were in heaven. About 1 hour into our secluded session a carload of locals pulled up for a scout. My initial instinct was ‘bugger’ (maybe a few more expletives) followed by the rational line of thought that this is there neighborhood, and I will kindly go about paying my dues. To my surprise and befuddled amusement the lads perched themselves on the cliff and watched us for another hour before we finally exited the water.
Pleasantries were exchanged as we meandered up the goat track. When I quizzed them why they took so long to suit up I was met with the reply ‘It’s a pretty tight take off zone and we didn’t want to crowd you guys’. I thanked them sincerely and went on my merry way. I know the cynics out there might be thinking ‘maybe it was about to turn on even more’ or ‘maybe the surf wasn’t that great’, to be honest the thought crossed my mind. Regardless its nice to know you can still have an experience like that on the east coast of Aus, it certainly made my day. It also highlighted some fringe benefits in offering the Surfbodysoul physiotherapy service to small community members.
Below I have listed 5 easy ways to improve your balance. The principle of ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’ definitely applies with balance, particularly as we progress into the vintage realm. The following variations aim to sharpen your nervous system, and can be completed anywhere with nothing more than a pillow and/or tennis ball at your disposal. I have listed the exercises sequentially, or in order of difficulty. This way you can move through each level and find the variation that challenges you, and progress forwards from there. If you can already complete step 5 then balance is clearly not an issue for you, or your surfing. Enjoy:
1. Single Leg Balance: This involves you standing on one leg, for example the right leg whilst lifting your left leg upwards and forwards slightly in front of the body. Ensure the right knee is very slightly bent, the hips are square or even, your spine is straight and your core is engaged at 50% of your maximum contraction. Keep the eyes open and look at a consistent spot on the wall in front. In Yoga we refer to this as a ‘drishti’ or focus point that will aid your balance. Hold for 60 seconds, repeat on left leg.
2. Single leg balance tossing tennis ball: As above except now throw a tennis ball up and across from hand to hand whilst maintaining your ‘drishti’ point. Repeat for 60 seconds
3. Single Leg Balance standing on pillow: Fold a standard pillow in half and stand on it to increase instability under your foot. Hold for 60 seconds.
4. Single Leg Balance with eyes shut: As a surfer when you can hold this for 60 seconds on each individual leg with your eyes shut, it is considered a satisfactory level of balance. As you build up towards 60 seconds it is advised to stand near a wall so you can touch or hold the wall as required to prevent falling. If this becomes comfortable you can progress to the next exercise.
5. Single Leg Balance with eyes shut standing on pillow: 60 seconds.
Add these simple exercises to your daily practice, or for some of the variations whilst lining up at your local supermarket. I look forward to seeing you on the mat, or in the water!