CSUSM Considers Recreational Surfing as Viable Form of Fitness

CSUSM Considers Recreational Surfing as Viable Form of Fitness

SAN MARCOS, Calif., April10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ Surfing as a sport has seen a rapid growth in popularity since the 1960s. On any given day along San Diego County's 70 miles of coastline, thousands of surfers may be spotted in the ocean, riding waves or patiently waiting for their next ride. While most would agree that they surf for the pure enjoyment of catching waves, a new study at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) seeks to further substantiate the sport of surfing as a dynamic physical workout.

"Studies have been recently conducted with professional surfers in competition but there is limited research on the average person who surfs recreationally," said Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Sean Newcomer. "This study gives us an opportunity to consider the physiological benefit of surfing for amateur surfers of all ages and fitness levels, including both men and women."

While the concept of surfing appears simple all you technically need is a wave and a surfboard anyone who has attempted surfing knows that the reality is much more complex. Physically speaking, surfers are essentially strong swimmers with a keen sense of balance. Stamina and upper body strength are crucial in order to paddle from the shore through breaking waves to reach the surf line. Once there, surfers wait on their boards and then paddle intensely when a quality wave presents itself. As the wave peaks, a surfer must pop up rapidly and smoothly to his or her feet from a lying down position, balancing in a fluid upright position as they glide on the breaking wave toward the shore.

"Surfing can definitely be considered a form of interval training which combines short, high intensity bursts of speed with a recovery phase, repeated during exercise training," said Newcomer.

Students Ride a Wave of Research

The research project is part of Newcomer's course, Introductory Exercise Physiology 326. Fifteen students who took the course during fall semester are now interns on the project, mentoring the forty students who are currently in the class. The students are responsible for every aspect of the research protocol, which includes both laboratory and field work.

"Last semester's students are helping to teach this semester's students how to use the lab equipment while advising and training them," said Newcomer. "This is a terrific opportunity for the more experienced students to take on a leadership role while allowing the current students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to a real-world project. And the added benefit is the outreach to the community in the recruitment of surfers to participate in the study."

Students meet research participants at the beach to outfit them with waterproof heart rate monitors that are synchronized to a video camera filming them while they are in the ocean.

"I help analyze the data to match up the heart rate of the surfer to the activity that they are doing in the water paddling, riding waves, sitting stationary on the board or a miscellaneous activity," said senior kinesiology major Alyzza DeMesa. "We also record their maximum and minimum heart rates and how much time they spent in the water doing each activity."

Hands-on Laboratory Experiments Delve into Surf Fitness

In the laboratory, research participants take part in a number of activities that test their anaerobic and aerobic fitness levels. Using a Biodex isokinetic machine, which applies computer-controlled resistance, students assess the strength of the subject's quadriceps and hamstrings. This test will help them determine the role of leg strength in a surfer's stance and balance.