Increasing your lung capacity and perfecting your breathing should be an important element of your surf training routine. Swimmers, surfers and others who participate in water sports know that breathing the right way is an essential element of success and safety in the ocean.
Below, you’ll learn why and how to increase lung capacity for surfing. It’s many benefits as well as some common exercises that can help you accomplish this goal.
Why: Safety and Proficiency
In his surfing memoir Barbarian Days, journalist William Finnegan writes, “The thing to be feared most, I believed, was a two-wave hold down…I had heard of guys who quit surfing after a two-wave hold down.” He describes a two-wave hold-down as “a drubbing so prolonged that you don’t reach the surface before the next wave landed on you.”
It takes a serious swell—more serious than most surfers will face in any given year—to hold a body underneath the surface for two successive waves. However, even casual surfers know how it feels to be held underwater for an uncomfortable amount of time. Because of this, it is important to be as prepared as possible before paddling out for any surf session.
Having a high lung capacity can greatly decrease your risk of drowning. Yes, there’s the obvious fact that you’ll be able to breathe longer. But perhaps more importantly, you will be more familiar with how it feels to have to hold your breath underwater. Many drowning incidents occur because the victim panics and becomes overwhelmed with fear rather than remaining calm and following the proper procedure to avoid drowning. If you practice these steps to increase your lung capacity, you will not only prolong the period that you are able to breathe underwater, but you will be much less likely to panic when you find yourself held underneath the surface.
Additionally, increasing your lung capacity will help you become a more proficient surfer. Like any athletes, surfers rely heavily on breathing mechanisms to perform their best. Increasing your lung capacity will allow you to put more power in your turns, increase your paddling speed, and move more quickly on the face of the wave.
How to Increase Lung Capacity On Land
Every cardiovascular activity you perform will increase your lung capacity. However, there are a few things you can do in order to specifically target your lungs, including a variety of on-land exercises that will engineer your breathing and lung behavior for participation in aquatic sports.
You can improve your lung capacity by training at higher altitudes. If possible, find a high-altitude route for your next run or bike ride. Because there is less oxygen available to breathe, your breathing mechanisms will become trained to operate more efficiently. The air at sea level will seem like an oxygen smorgasbord to your lungs after that!
Breathing exercises are also very helpful when it comes to increasing your lung capacity, and they have the added bonus of being able to be performed almost anywhere. Two helpful breathing exercises are the Rib Stretch and the breathing exercise simply known as Pushing Out.
To perform the Rib Stretch, inhale slowly until your lungs are full of air. Count to 20. While counting, move your hands to your lower back so that your pinkies and ring fingers touch and your thumbs are pointed downward. Exhale slowly. When done, return your arms to a resting position.
To Push Out, start with a bended waist and slightly bent knees. Simultaneously begin inhaling slowly and straightening your torso. Try to time it so that you are standing straight up when you have inhaled completely. Next, hold your breath for 20 seconds and slowly raise your arms over your head as if you were doing a jumping jack. After 20 seconds has passed, exhale and lower your arms.
How to Increase Lung Capacity in the Water
Training your lungs to perform on land is very helpful, but learning to apply those skills while surfing can be difficult without a series of exercises meant to be performed while in the water. One of these exercises can be performed in a pool or in the ocean, and the other requires an area where there are breaking waves.
The first exercises are simple: ten 25-meter freestyle swim sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between. The catch? You have to hold your breath the whole time.
Follow this with ten 25-meter underwater swims. If you have access to a local pool, feel free to use that, but it would be better to perform these exercises in the ocean so that you can be better acclimated to being oxygen-deprived in the ocean.
The second exercise is easy to understand, but difficult to perform. Essentially, you have to force yourself into a two-wave hold-down. Without a surfboard, swim out into the breaking waves. When a wave comes toward you, dive underneath it. However, instead of coming to the surface after the wave passes, force yourself to stay underwater until you hear or feel that the next wave has completely passed over you.
These exercises, especially the second, will prepare you both mentally and physically for the situations you’ll encounter while surfing that require excellent and efficient lung function. While lung capacity is only a small part of surf training, learning how to increase your lung capacity can help you become a much safer and better surfer.