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A Series of Studies on the Physical Factors and Lower-Body Muscle Architecture Related to Aerial Performance in Surfing

Competitive surfing is scored solely on the performance of manoeuvres during wave riding, with greater scores awarded to the surfer that performs the greatest variety of innovative and progressive manoeuvres, which possess a high degree of difficulty and commitment. Whilst aerial manoeuvres represent one of the most technically advanced and highly scored manoeuvres during competitive surfing, no research to date has investigated the physical performance factors, or related lower-body muscle structures, which may be associated with the performance of these manoeuvres.

The purpose of this thesis is three-fold: 1) to identify the physical performance and lower-body muscle architectural differences between higher- and lower-performing aerial surfers, 2) to compare the training-specific changes in physical capacities and lower-body muscle structure that are evoked from a strength training only and a gymnastics training only intervention 3) to determine the training-specific changes in physical capacities and lower-body muscle structures that are evoked from a combined strength and gymnastics training intervention, and lastly 4) to calculate whether the training- specific adaptations in physical performance and muscle structure are associated with improved aerial manoeuvre performance in competitive surfers.

To examine these, the proposed thesis will consist of three studies. To identify the differences between higher- and lower-performing aerial surfers, each athlete will be ranked from one to fifty for their aerial manoeuvre performance and have their physical performance assessed with a battery of tests including; countermovement jump, drop depth jump, isometric mid-thigh pull, and the drop and stick, and also have their pennation angle, muscle fibre length, and muscle thickness of vastus lateralis and lateral gastrocnemius assessed through ultrasonography (Study 1). To compare the training-specific adaptations evoked from strength and gymnastics training, two groups (one group strength only and the other group gymnastics only) will perform a training intervention for six weeks. Both prior to and immediately following the training interventions, both groups will perform the battery of physical tests, and have their lower- body muscle and tendon architecture and aerial manoeuvre performance assessed. This will allow the training-specific physical performance and underlying muscle architecture adaptations evoked from both forms of training to be compared, as well as the calculation of the transfer of these adaptations to the change in aerial manoeuvre performance (Study 2). To examine the training-specific adaptations evoked from a combined strength and gymnastics training program, one group of surfers will perform the training intervention in addition to their surfing practise for six weeks, and the control group will perform no additional training. The same testing procedures as per Study 2 will be performed, to assess the training-specific adaptations from this combined form of training, and calculate any potential transfer to aerial manoeuvre performance (Study 3).

This series of studies will assist coaches and strength and conditioning practitioners working with surfing athletes with effective talent identification, as well as with the appropriate prescription of training to evoke desirable changes that may improve physical preparation for aerial manoeuvre performance.

Funding agency

Surfing Australia

Project duration



Mr Josh Secomb
Dr Jeremy Sheppard
Dr Sophia Nimphius

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