When was then last time you blew up in a session, and you and everyone you knew, knew you were flaring? We’ve all had those special sessions when it feels like we’re in the zone. The best waves seem to come right to us and we simply rip and seem to do no wrong. Talent, being able to surf all the time and surf-specific fitness can certainly contribute to these special sessions, but what you fuel yourself with can also be the difference. Young or old, your fuel affects both your mind and your body, perhaps experienced more so by the aging surfer.
Regardless, the issue comes down to this:
- acute anaerobic-aerobic energy expenditure
- maintenance of energy (stamina and endurance).
In surfing, acute anaerobic-aerobic energy expenditure occurs in frequent bursts of energy when paddling into and doing the wave dance. On the other hand, maintaining energy over the entire session depends on energy reserves (influenced to some degree by your underlying aerobic fitness). Time of day, metabolic rate, overall surfing fitness, surf and weather conditions can all have some degree of impact on surfing performance, but you may be surprised at the difference fueling-up makes on your acute anaerobic-aerobic energy expenditure and maintenance of energy.
Fuel for the human organism is essentially derived from what we eat and drink and to some extent, when and how we fuel up. For surfers considering a routine for optimum fueling, there is a need to address both acute anaerobic-aerobic energy expenditure and maintaining energy reserves over the entire session.
Back in the day, we fueled up for the morning sesh with a 7-Eleven honey bun and artificial chocolate milk, surfed, then went to Ellen’s Kitchen at Silvers and chowed down on eggs, bacon, grits, toast and coffee, all for $1.99. Then we went next door to Hixons, harassed Bill and hung out until the next sesh. It’s hard to say, but many surfers these days tend to be more conscious about the functional benefits of diet and nutrition, not to say that your fav breakfast at Ellen’s Kitchen isn’t still a go-to special event.
Nonetheless, in the surfing world, we are now privy to a plethora of nutritional information, all of which is grounded to some degree in valid research, personal experience and endorsements. I try to keep up with my review of all this great information, but I have also come to appreciate that we need to be aware of and understand our own physiology, and then be willing to experiment until we discover what works best for us as an individual. However, there are some givens that are tried and true, and will certainly have a positive impact on your surfing health and performance.
With our current state of surf prediction methodology and easy access to sites like Surfline, we usually know what tomorrow is going to look like. If it’s going to go off, fueling up starts the evening before your big Wednesday (or even your small Wednesday). Here are some of my personal favs when it comes to fueling my still youthful, but aging surfer mind and body. I have provided links if you click on some of the brand names. You can also click the pics to enlarge them, in any volume of The Edge.
In the evening, when I know I’ll be surfing in the morning, for me it’s a mixed green salad with avocado (avocado has healthy fats that feed your energy reserves) and pasta (brown rice, spinach, artichoke or semolina-based pasta, like the cyclists do). For the pasta, I like a healthy balance of flavor and nutrition. One of my favs is pasta tossed with olive oil, roasted garlic, fresh and/or roasted tomatoes, kalamata olives, your herbs of choice, fresh lightly grilled marinated shrimp with grated manchego sheep cheese and garnished with toasted almond slivers and fresh Italian parsley. A fresh tuna poke bowl with seaweed and sesame seeds or Costa style rice and black beans with grilled marinated seafood catch of the day, avocado, tomatoes and pan-fried plantain are also tasty alternatives. Maybe a small portion of baguette with real butter, small glass of wine, no dessert.
Day of, pre-surf meal will affect both your acute anaerobic-aerobic energy expenditure and your longevity of stamina during a session. In the morning, you can’t go wrong with a seed, nut and fruit based granola (chia, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts and dried or fresh banana, dates, pineapple and any type of berries), mix in some maca root powder and then add milk (hemp, almond or coconut milk) with a dab of raw local honey an hour or so before you paddle out.
Then fifteen to twenty minutes or so before paddling out, I have found a small handful of almonds (preferably) or cashews and/or walnuts, are a functional choice to feed and supplement my longer-term energy reserves. I also personally like a ‘small’ shot of espresso with Laird cacao superfood creamer (a dairy-free, vegan and gluten-free coffee and beverage enhancer. It combines a unique blend of coconut milk powder and Aquamin™, a mineral-rich calcified sea algae with nutrient-packed coconut and red palm oils).
Right before I’m ready to charge, I like the benefits of a Mamma Chia Squeeze or half (or whole) Health Warrior Chia Bar and at least 8 oz of coconut water (with pulp). You can buy the chia bars at Native Sun, Earth Fare, Whole Foods, Biomax in AB, flavored with acai, coconut, mango or peanut butter. Chia seeds, hailed by Kelly and others, get a very high mark anywhere and everywhere as an energy producing nutrient, especially when washed down with fluids. The chia expands with fluids and has a more exponential effect on energy production.
To that extent, pre-surf hydration is crucial because we typically don’t hydrate during a session like many other sport activities. Stay away from the sugary sports drinks over-amped with way too much sugar and caffeine. Purps, coconut water are my favs, but sugar free sport drinks (like gatorade, powerade) are a good second choice and are probably more functionally effective than these same drinks with sugar. Water is always good too. Drink up (in moderation) before you surf it up.
For afternoon sessions, fueling up can depend on what you have for lunch. You don’t want to gorge on lunch and then feel tired and lethargic when you go for a surf later. Soup and salad is a great choice that will contribute to both your acute energy expenditure and stamina during the session, without making you feel too full. If you don’t have much for lunch, you can repeat parts of the morning fuel-up routine. Again, pre-surf hydration is crucial, especially in warmer climates as the sun is in full bloom in the afternoon and can contribute to wearing you out quicker than an early morning session.
Post-surf, its initially all about hydration and replenishing electrolytes and fluid dependent nutrients. Again, Purps and/or coconut water are my first choice. After that it’s all about minimizing inflammation. A shot of coconut water, turmeric, black pepper and a dab of coconut oil, is quite potent in reducing inflammation. Then, I suppose you can take it from there and a cold beer later on goes down oh so good and has those subtle anesthetic effects on aches, soreness and stiffness. Moderation in everything is always the best medicine.
So, boys and girls, fuel-up, blow-up and flare. Lets take it to the next level. Please feel free to comment and share your own fuel-up routine; we still have some degree of net neutrality, so anything goes (this could be quite revealing, LOL!).
More surf-specific fitness features coming in future volumes of The Edge.
Keep your fuel hi octane, keep your edge.
Check out 11 fueled-up minutes of Ryan Callinan free-surf flaring…