We caught up with 22-year-old French surfer Roman Cloître in 2010. It had been three years since he became European junior surfing champion and he had his sights firmly set on the ASP World Tour surf circuit – which he went on to win in 2011, becoming European Champion.
When we spoke to him he certainly showed he had the determination and skills required. He's comfortable riding down mammoth faces, but where he really excels is in pulling acrobatic aerial manoeuvres in smaller, freestyle-friendly swell. "I spent my youth going back and forward between Brittany and Réunion in the Indian Ocean," he says. "I learnt to surf big-wave French spots, such as Lacanau on the west coast, and the warmer, mellower Réunion reef breaks."
Cloître knows the importance of training. "All pro surfers are born with the traits they need to become good – balance, strength and power – but to maximise potential you need to develop them," he says. "In an ideal world I'd have access to lots of gym kit, but it's hard when you're competing. I get away with using a gym ball and medicine ball – this means I can carry my gym in my suitcase."
Whether you surf massive or tiny waves, training with gym ball exercises will make a big difference to how you perform. "This kind of workout will hone your natural surfing attributes," says Cloître. "But it's also good for activating the muscles and joints you're going to use when you get in the water. On tour, I do four workouts a week, all of which are variations of the one you see here, aimed at developing my core stability, explosive power, strength and balance."
The timing of the workouts is crucial. "I do them as a morning warm-up just before I go in the sea because they activate all the muscles I'm going to use," says Cloître. "This means I'm ready to surf as soon as I reach the ocean and I'm less likely to pull or strain anything because my tendons, ligaments and muscles are already warm and stretched. I do yoga-based stretching for 30 minutes when I get out to stay limber for the next session."
Here is Cloitre's pre-surf workout.
Upper-Body Strength And Explosive Power
"By working your core, chest and arms at different tempos, these two exercises are excellent for improving your ability to paddle hard for long periods of time and pop up on your board in a quick, controlled way in unpredictable surf," Cloître says.
1 Seal press-up
Sets 4 Reps 12
- Start with your arms just wider than shoulder-width apart and lean forward at the hips so your palms rest on the ground.
- Sink down, leading with your face. Your hips and legs should reach the lowest point of the move at the same time.
- As your hips reach the lowest position, push forward.
- Then push up with your head. Reverse the move to complete one rep.
Cloître says: "Even if I'm not doing a full workout, I always do this move as soon as I wake up - it's great for stretching and activating your entire body. Do it slowly so your muscles are under tension for longer."
2 Press-up burpee
Sets 4 Reps 12
- Start in a press-up position with your arms shoulder-width apart.
- Sink down until your chest is about 15cm from the floor, keeping your body in a straight line and head facing forward.
- Press up and pull your legs forward explosively.
- Carry the explosive power into a max effort vertical jump
Cloître says: "The first half of this move mimics the pop-up technique you use to get into a standing position on your board. The jump helps you develop extra power, making what can be quite a demanding movement on the board feel effortless."
Balance And Lower-Body Strength
"Because a gym ball is an unstable platform and forces you to adopt a surf-style stance to stay steady, balancing on one will help you build surf-specific ankle strength and core stability," says Cloître. "When you get into the water, this translates to better control of your turns and the ability to ride long, taxing waves without sacrificing form."
1 Gym ball core rotation
Start by inflating the gym ball to about 80% of its capacity so it's easier to balance on. Inflate it more as you get used to doing the exercise.
Sets 4 Reps 20
- Adopt a crouched surf-like position on the ball and hold a light medicine ball out in front of you.
- Swing to the left then to the right, keeping your arms straight. That's one rep.
Cloître says: "When you start doing this joint-strengthening move, you might need a mate to help you get on to the ball and pass you the medicine ball. It also helps if you put the gym ball on a towel rather than sand, because the latter can be a bit slippery."
2 Gym ball squat
Sets 4 Reps 12
- Once you're on the ball, stand up as straight as you can.
- Hold your hands out in front of you for balance. Sink down slowly into as deep a squat as you can manage.
"Having a strong core helps you transfer upper-body power to your lower body so you can make powerful efficient movements on the board as well as helping you keep your balance," says Cloître. "Because you're constantly using your core during surfing, it will start to get tight when you're in the water for any serious amount of time, but the stabilising moves will keep the aches at bay for longer."
1 Gym ball twisting sit-up
Sets 4 Reps 12
- Sit on the ball, then lean back so your back wraps around it. Link your fingers behind your head.
- Contract your abs to lift your upper body off the ball.
- Curl to your left, bringing your hands out in front of you so you touch your left foot at the bottom of the move.
- Repeat on the right.
Cloître says: "Surfing is such a twisty sport so you need to strengthen the muscles – your obliques and underlying chest muscles – that transfer turning power from your upper to your lower body."
2 Two-point box
Sets 4 Reps 12
- Kneel on all fours with your head facing forward and your back straight.
- Kick your right leg out and stretch out your left hand as far as you can. Hold the position for a two-count.
- Repeat to the other side, keeping your abs braced throughout each rep.
Cloître says: "The quick, forceful movements you make while surfing can jar your back, but by stabilising and strengthening the muscles around your spine, this simple move will protect this injury-prone area."
Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.
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