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Strengthening tomorrow's surfers today

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Australian surfers are now benefitting from the sort of elite training programs that US professional athletes have used for years, thanks to input from ECU researchers.

PhD candidates Tai Tran and Tania Spiteri recently spent a week working with a squad of junior surfers at Surfing Australia’s High Performance Centre (HPC) on the NSW North Coast. They assisted in testing the strength, power, balance and paddling speed of the surfers.

The HPC will use the data to devise personalised training programs for athletes. Tai and Tania are using this experience to kick start their own research.

“I definitely found it very valuable working with the surfers.  Some of the tests we conducted will be really useful in my own research project,” Tai said.

Tai is looking into the role that muscle strength and power play in surfing at an elite level.

“In the past, training for surfers has focused on aerobic fitness, which might help with paddling long distances. But studies have found that the surfers spend a lot of their time sitting on their boards, punctuated by short periods of intense paddling to catch a wave and explosive power to perform surfing moves.”

“In a competition, surfers get judged on the manoeuvres they perform. So my focus is on how to improve the strength and power that allow surfers to pull off those dynamic, explosive manoeuvres.

Originally from Los Angeles, Tai only began surfing after relocating to Perth to study at ECU. He said he chose to focus on strength training for surfers after identifying the massive potential for growth in the sport and the benefits that science could bring to the training programs.

Tai and Tania were accompanied at the HPC by Professor of Exercise and Sports Science Rob Newton. The trio also assisted in running a conditioning session for the junior surfers with Joseph Coyne, an ECU Masters student who operates his own conditioning business on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

This research is part of a three year partnership between ECU and Surfing Australia which includes the appointment of Dr Jeremy Sheppard, an ECU PhD graduate, as the Sports Science Manager, based at Surfing Australia’ HPC.

Learn more about ECU’s Exercise and Health Sciences.


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