You’re sure to find yourself holding your breath when you go out surfing. This is why you’ll want to work on cardio-vascular endurance. You should also try to maximize lung capacity and your body’s comfort with holding your breath. Some legendary big-wave surfers are rumored to have the ability to hold their breath for two or three minutes without being completely freaked out. You don’t want a big wave holding you underwater to be the first time you’re holding your breath.
One way to both strengthen your neck and increase lung and breath capacity is to get on your back, fold your legs and feet over your head and hold there. You can put your hands on your hips to support yourself, but try to hold yourself with neck curled up off the ground while your toes are touching the ground. Get in this position and you can feel right away the strain on both your neck and lungs.
If you breathe deeply, this will help expand your lungs. Slowly suck in as much air as possible and then slowly exhale until you’ve pushed all of that air back out. Do this for a few minutes at a time and you’ll be totally comfortable when the wave is pounding your body under the water.
Some deep breathing will also help prepare your body for long sessions of holding your breath. Of course, it’s better to recreate the actual circumstances you’ll face as close as possible.
This means holding your breath under water. There’s a different silence, a different inclination to panic when your body is submersed in water. So practice holding your breath under water.
I once read about big-wave surfers who would find large rocks, go under the water and use the rocks to keep them under for as long as they could. This may be extreme, but so are the waves those guys tackle. The point is to make sure you can keep calm and come up after being under for an extended period.
Lastly, the best way to train for surfing is to surf. We all know that the waves, tides and daylight don’t always cooperate, but you should never hesitate to paddle out when you get the chance.
Even if the waves aren’t very big or there’s a half-hour between sets, you can take advantage of the conditions to paddle. Get a good rhythm down to strengthen your stroke. Watch the waves to gain more valuable judgment experience.
I was frustrated after a couple of weeks and still not being able to stand up without looking like a wounded stickman. Then one day, for no apparent reason other than to try something new, I switched to goofy (left foot back). It clicked and I’ve been a goofy foot ever since. Surfing with my right foot back is sort of like throwing a ball with the weaker hand. Not very pretty.