Surf and Turf: Surf Yoga in Rotherhithe

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With the clocks turned back and winter rapidly descending upon us, it may not feel like beach weather but, according to the Weekender’s reputable sources, it’s surfs up.

There’s a number of surfing hotspots in the UK: Newquay, Devon, Bournemouth, Yorkshire, as well as Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but you don’t even have to venture that far with Brighton and Clacton both offering decent waves. Admittedly surfing is still –at best- a weekend hobby for Londoners, which is why personal trainer Amanda York has started a SurFit course, which employs surf-specific yoga training to help yogis get their sea legs.

Most people look at winter as an exercise inhibitor but getting in to a solid exercise routine for the colder months is all about changing your mindset, Amanda says.  “I’m 40 years old, I probably only have 40 winters left in my lifetime, and when I started looking at it like that I realised I should be making the most of those seasons, not wishing them away,” she tells.

It’s with this attitude that Amanda decided to incorporate some Californian cardio into her London lifestyle. The trainer takes up one new sport or physical activity every year; last year she focused on ice-skating, the year before was running –during which she ran her first marathon along with several other half-marathons and races. This year the Rotherhithe resident has set her sights on surfing, after having her first taste ten years ago at Australia’s famed surf spot Bells Beach. She says her main inspiration was the film Point Break and who can blame her; Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in beachwear were an inspiration to us all.

There’s somewhat of a natural link between yoga and surfing; the zen and mind/body connection you aspire to in yoga is similar in surfing, though arguably in the water it’s much easier to switch off mentally than in yoga purely because you’re forced to; giant waves crashing down on you unless you’re paying attention is a good way to force concentration.

The skills you need for surfing can be practised and strengthened significantly through yoga, Amanda says. “Barefoot exercise is always good; it helps your posture and prevents Athlete’s foot and it’s just good for connecting with nature,” she begins. “Doing yoga also means that you’re more relaxed to surf and you’re in a mind space where you can concentrate.”

Flexibility and balance, both a big part of yoga, are essential for surfing; Amanda highlights the sun salutations as hugely beneficial for surfing because the planks, cobra and lunge positions are all similar to the moves you replicate on a surf board: from lying down on the board to getting to your feet to balancing while you ride the wave. She also uses an Indo board for balance training, which is essentially a mini-surf board on a cylinder that you ride across; if you have the floor-space at home it’s a fun way to improve your balance.

Good alignment, strong core, posture and hip flexors are also imperative to surfing and many of these are neglected from sedentary office lifestyles, Amanda says. “Our lower abs are switched off most of the time so it’s about engaging them; it’s simple, abs and gluts are the powerhouse,” she explains.

Cardio is equally important, the trainer points out. “The hardest part of surfing is walking out deep with the board; there’s a lot of strength and cardio involved and you spend far more time doing this than actually surfing. Being fit will really help your endurance when you’re out there,” she says. The trainer emulates this with Tabata-style interval training where you do 20 intense seconds on followed by ten seconds of recovery. “Short bursts of energy is what you need when you’re paddling for a wave; we channel that in our training. Even if you don’t fancy the waves, it’ll give you a great overall body tone and cardio vascular workout.”

Amanda’s courses will be held between Surrey Docks Farm and Hilton Docklands, 265 Rotherhithe Street, SE16 5HW. SurFit commences from January 4. Cost: £10 drop-ins / friend comes half price OR buy six weeks for £50, get seventh class free. http://www.gymanda.com

Londoners looking for surf buddies and people to hitch a ride to the beach with, check out: http://www.meetup.com/londonsurfers/

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