FIT FOR SURF
Hannah Prewitt focussed on getting fit to improve her surfing and wellbeing
Growing up in the suburbs of southeast London, I didn’t get to spend much time in the ocean. My troubled childhood ignited a strong desire to travel away from home, and I found I was drawn to being underwater. So I studied to be a marine biologist, and when I was 23 I set off on my first adventure overseas. Fast forward eight years, and I’ve worked in some incredible places including Madagascar, the Seychelles and Fiji. But it wasn’t until I was 28 and went to the Maldives that I had the opportunity to learn to surf.
Surfing is one of the most difficult sports in the world, and learning as an adult makes it that much harder. I’ve always tried to stay relatively fit, but surfing forced me to use muscles I didn’t even know I had – especially in my upper body. This is where I’ve had to train hard. For the first year I was learning, I would practice my pop up on the floor every morning to try and gain muscle memory and build my upper body strength. I think this is where a lot of beginners fall down. They only practice popping up when on their board, but really, it’s something you can practice anywhere you have space to lie down.
Of course, you can’t beat actually surfing for improving your surfing fitness. But even when there aren’t waves, if you’re close to water, you can still paddle. For me, paddle fitness is one of the hardest things to maintain. I used paddle my husband’s board (which was much smaller than mine) in flat water when I wasn’t able to surf. When I was able to get back on my bigger board, I would always feel so much stronger and faster.
I’ve always been a bit of a gym bunny, but I’ve found that my strong desire to get better at surfing is such good motivation to get me in the gym. I try to tailor my workouts to improve my performance in the surf. One of my favourite pieces of equipment is a foam roller. I like to balance on it lying down and do crunches, as well as balance on it as if it were a surfboard. You can simulate turns, do the pigdog manoeuvre, and even try to cross-step back and forth. I would recommend holding onto something the first time you try this!
I also like to do things that combine balancing with twisting, as this is what your body does every time you perform a turn on your surfboard. Bosu balls are great for this. To make things a bit more difficult I get someone to throw a medicine ball to me and I twist as I catch it. It’s a killer for the legs but you’ll definitely notice the difference next time you stand on your board.
I now pride myself on keeping my body in good physical condition, purely so that I can surf to the best of my ability. When I first started learning, my main goal was to be able to ride a board that I could carry easily. I used to hate carrying big bulky boards around, but in just over two years I’m now riding a 5’6, which is something I’m really proud of. I’ve been extremely fortunate in that my husband is a surf instructor and he loves to see me get better at surfing as much as I do. He’s extremely patient and dedicated, and has pushed me onto more waves than I can count. I’m now in a position where I’m independent in the water, and we can enjoy doing what we love together. My next big goal is to get barrelled. I can’t wait.
I’m now 31. I’m in the best physical shape of my life and have uncovered a passion that I don’t know how I ever coped without. The natural high you get from being in control of a board riding along a wave is incomparable to anything else I’ve ever experienced. I will feel eternally indebted to the ocean. Surfing has become my meditation – a way of escaping the chaos of the world – and I know my mental health and general happiness has improved so much since I discovered this new love. I’m often told how lucky I am to live the life I do, but the truth is I made lots of choices in order to get here. Most of them involved being courageous and taking risks. But the reward has always been worth it. I hope I can inspire other people to chase their dreams and not let their age prevent them from starting something new.
I’m now settling down in Noosa on the east coast of Australia.
There’s a huge variety of waves here, which means that I can hone my surfing skills in all conditions and on all different types of boards – from longboarding on the points in the national park, to shortboarding on the beachies of Sunshine Beach. I also have access to a great gym, Frank’s, which has so much unique equipment including a Surfset board, and plenty of space for me to do my surf-tailored workouts.
Noosa is such an inspirational and photogenic place. I’ve spent the last year teaching myself how to capture its beauty on camera. Photography has now become a huge part of my life, and I am taking the plunge into freelance photography. But one thing’s for sure – I’ll always be chasing waves.