5 habits of highly successful surfers

Let’s get straight to the point on this one: This isn’t about how to become the next amazing global surf phenom. If you’re past the age of 17 and you’re reading this, you’ve already missed the boat.

It’s not about being a competitive surfer; it’s about surfing your best and balancing your life. Photo: Courtesy of Elkhiki/Flickr

You know that guy or woman at your local break who has been nabbing the best set waves and laying down smooth turns since your first day? How old is he or she — 35? Forty-five? Fifty?

Probably ageless.

To most waveriders, it’s all about surfing as well as you possibly can while living a productive life. It’s cool to have a sick air reverse at age 37, but not so much if you still live with your mom.

Successful surfers — not competitive surfers, mind you, but people who surf and are doing well in life — keep certain habits. They balance careers, families and homes with a whole lot of waves. That means staying healthy, both mentally and physically.

They practice yoga

Flexibility means fewer injuries, which means a much longer and happier surf life. Photo: Courtesy of Michael Pravin/Flickr

If you look at adults in any pursuit, the ones who can maintain a specific level of ability are the ones who don’t get hurt. There are some injuries that can’t be avoided, but we make it easier on our joints when we’re flexible and build our core strength.

Yoga has a lot to do with that. Look at some of the top surfers in the world and how they’ve lengthened their careers since yoga became an accepted regimen.

The keep their calendars flexible

Making life choices that keep your schedule flexible over Monday-through-Friday routines makes being on it when the waves are good much more realistic. Photo: Courtesy of Nicholas Louw/@nic_louw/Flickr

Loosening the hips is important, but so is loosening the schedule. Surfing is so much more condition-dependent than most other pursuits. (When was the last time you heard about epic conditions for disc golf?)

Getting a lot of waves is a balance with work and other commitments. Being locked into a strict nine-to-five is murder for a surfer, but there are plenty of accomplished folks in all fields who get tons of waves because they set up their lives to work when the surf is down.

Don’t use sick days unless you’re actually unable to come into the office. Plan your vacation time around good swell seasons, either at home or traveling. Don’t get locked into an office job that never allows you to cut out Monday to Friday.

Put in overtime with the family before the swell arrives. Keep the level of non-work and non-surf commitments down, and take any opportunity to work from home.

They’re organized and prepared

Keep it simple. Keep it organized. Photo: Courtesy of Brian Birke/Flickr

You can play up the image of the hapless surfer, but that gets tired after two decades in the water. No one wants to travel with the guy who’s constantly at odds with his own gear. You don’t have to be a maniac about it, but keep your s–t together.

If the swell comes up unexpectedly, don’t get caught playing with your wax comb. Keep your shed, garage or surf closet organized. Have a step-up for the biggest day of the year, and know where your quad fins are if it’s small and perfect. Don’t leave your booties wet and rotting in the trunk between swells.

They dial in their diet and sleep

Most surfers who are still limber a few decades in don’t consider bleu cheese an essential. Photo: Courtesy of Lara604/Flickr

Great surfers don’t spend a lot of time at “wing night” in their 40s. No one says you can’t have a brew, but if you toss back a sixer a week instead of a night, you’re going to get a few more waves.

You don’t have to starve yourself to plan smaller meals. Try not to gorge late night. Eat veggies. Press juices. Avoid too much sugar. You can throw all the fixin’s on a veggie burger instead of a beef burger and it’s a hell of a lot less saturated fat.

There have always been surfers who could rage all night and still get the barrel of the day, but plenty of them seemed to fall off the World Tour 10 years ago when Mick Fanning started toting around an exercise ball.

Most places in the world, the wind is either light or offshore in the morning. After dinner, family activities and evening chores, just shut ‘er down and be off to bed. The surfers who stay at it decade after decade are early risers who have no problem getting up for dawn patrol.

They’ve learned how to forecast swell

Learning to forecast swell and read charts maximizes quality time with the ocean. Photo: Courtesy of NOAA

There are plenty of surfers who eschew surf forecasts. If you’re collecting unemployment checks, you can surf whenever you want. But for the rest of us, in order to make the most of your time, get good at forecasting beyond just looking for colors or the number of stars on a website. Check across several different sources and learn the tendencies of each.

The most successful surfers track weather religiously. Keep a variety of apps at your fingertips — swell models, buoys, wind and tide charts. It all helps. Check webcams when you’re at work, just to see how your spots work in different conditions and times of year.

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