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Breathing While Surfing

Hold downs in surfing are much shorter than they feel. When the waves are < 10 feet, the max amount of time you're going to be tumbling underwater is ~10 seconds. The body can easily go without oxygen for 3, maybe 4, minutes. Knowing this helps me relax when I go through the washing machine. After I fall on a wave I try to always place my arms so that they protect my head1 and I relax the rest of my body as I wait for the turbulence to stop. It's not worth wasting my energy thrashing around before the wave's energy has dissipated.

Since hold downs are quite short, you can control your breath so that at no point during a surf session do you stop breathing. Instead, you just time your breaths so that you are exhaling when you go under the water. This requires a little bit of on-land yoga training, you need to be able to do inhalations and exhalations that last 15 seconds. To do this I breathe through the nose. while focusing on controlled contraction and relaxation of the diaphragm. Then, while surfing, I try to finish a deep breath before duck-diving or taking off on a wave. I can watch the horizon and adjust the speed of my breath to get the timing right. Concentrating on the breath keeps the mind and body focused and calm.


Here are some shots from a recent session in Marbella:


  1. I bet 85%+ of surfing deaths are from being banged on the head by one's own board. Someone died at Playa Negra three days ago in this manner. I heard he was knocked unconscious from the impact and then drowned. []

One Response to “Breathing While Surfing”

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