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Characteristics and Determinants of Aerial Surfing

Competitive surfing over the years has increased in popularity, with the professional surfer being awarded with large sums of prize money and large earnings from sponsors if successful. As a result, surfers are now looking for other means to help train for the requirements of competitive surfing, and maximise their performance whilst addressing the five key elements the panel of judges are looking for. One manoeuvre that has been seen to address the five key elements is the aerial. For the surfer to perform an aerial, it has been suggested that the surfer co-ordinates there body movements prior to take-off in a similar pattern to that seen in freestyle snowboarding and skiing, as well as in other sports performed on a compliant surface. Previous studies have shown that to obtain maximal height when jumping from a compliant surface the performer is required to extend the hips, knees and ankles in a sequential manner, close to the time of take-off to maximise vertical velocity. Prior to extension the performer, through a separate sequence of movements is able to store energy in the surface they are performing on, and utilise this stored energy at take-off to increase vertical velocity. In surfing, the bottom turn and angle of attack can be used in a similar manner, so as to maintain horizontal and vertical velocity of the surfer, which can then be utilised when extending for the hips and knees to maximise take-off vertical velocity when performing an aerial. Once successfully in the air, the surfer can perform a variety of twists and grabs to maximise potential score. This requires the surfer to generate a large amount of whole body angular momentum prior to leaving the wave to overcome the inertial properties of the body and board.

This research will consist of three studies. The first study will compare senior professional surfers to junior professional surfers and the scores that are awarded to waves that have included an aerial manoeuvre. The aim of the second study is to determine the relationship between the mechanical output of the lower limbs and trunk prior to take-off and the influence this has on vertical velocity when mimicking an aerial manoeuvre on a mini trampoline. Specifically what are the requirements needed to maximise both height and twist when successfully performing an aerial manoeuvre upon the mini trampoline. The aim of the third study is to determine the relationship between the mechanical output of the lower limbs and trunk prior to take-off and the influence this has on vertical velocity when performing an aerial manoeuvre whilst surfing. A secondary purpose of this study is to compare the performance whilst on the water, with the mini-trampoline based training method, which will allow replication and ability for coaches to correct technique in a more optimal and immediate environment.

Funding agency

Surfing Australia

Project duration



Mr Brendon Ferrier
Dr Sophia Nimphius
Dr Jeremy Sheppard
Professor Rob Newton

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