|ESPN.com: Surfing||[Print without images]|
|Julian Wilson, one of the most dynamic surfers on the world tour, falls into the "freak" category.|
1. any abnormal phenomenon or product or unusual object; anomaly; aberration.
2. a person or animal on exhibition as an example of a strange deviation from nature.
What makes a 'freak' in surfing? How can some of the surfers at this week's U.S. Open routinely launch, maneuver their board and body while traveling through the air, then seamlessly land and transition back into the pace and flow of a wave? They pull off such radical maneuvers and survive punishing wipeouts, while many others who attempt the same get hurt or beat down back into shore.
When it comes to freaks these days, there's John John Florence, Jordy Smith, Julian Wilson, Gabriel Medina, Mick Fanning, Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson and of course, the 'ol king of freaks himself, Kelly Slater. Each year, the list continues to grow and I believe this can be attributed to a few general reasons: passion for surfing, better equipment, use of video as a coach, dedicated focus to improving, and functional training methods that focus on improving quality of movement, not just strengthening muscles.
In my experience as Co-Medical Director of the ASP, I'm confident that freaks are wired more efficiently than most of us mere mortals. Their brains and bodies seem to connect and communicate quicker, with less interference between anticipating what's ahead, reacting to the situation, performing a maneuver and finishing with confidence. Most of these skill sets are genetic, but what separates freaks from the pack more than anything comes down to the dedicated focus they have when they practice and train. Each time they surf or are training, they have a well-defined idea of what they want to look for, accomplish and improve upon. This singular type of focus allows them to create what is called a 'motor pattern,' a sequence of coordinated movements that over time, and with repetition, becomes wired into your body. Almost like a software program - the more focused you are when training your body, the quicker and more efficient the new pattern of movement becomes ingrained into your system.
|Only 14 years old, the world is already waiting for Jack Robinson to take surfing to the next level.|
Their quality of movement, combining mobility, stability (coordination), posture, strength and muscle balance is honed and sharpened naturally, mostly through hard work and passion for what they are doing. This, combined with an extraordinary focus to block out all the noise and make each element of what they are doing really matter, until it becomes a neuromuscular pattern they can repeat with ease...just like all the best Olympians, artists and musicians. These are the rarest of the rare, and in many ways have become true practical masters of movement and human function.
A good example: we've all seen Kelly Slater pull a maneuver like he has fallen backward, but still keeps his feet on the board and uses the cool demeanor of an Olympic gymnast, seemingly levitating as he pulls himself back into a standing position - with no hands - looking like he just casually stood up from a chair. Freaky indeed!
How we move takes coordination between our brain, eyes, ears, nervous system, muscles, tendons and joints. They must all work in concert to surf well, let alone pull off some of the crazy airs and freakish moves seen on the pro surfing tour today. Will some of us amateur surfers be able to pull off the freakish moves of Kelly, John John and others on tour? Not likely, but with better preparation and dedication to the sport, we can emulate the freaks scoring major points at the U.S. Open.
So, next time you're training or in the water, visualize what you need to do physically and focus your energy towards movement, posture and landing the maneuver in correct stance.
Dr. Tim Brown is an Orange County-based sports medicine expert and is co-medical director of the ASP. He has worked with a host of the world's best surfers and athletes. For more, visit www.intelliskin.net.