FIT FOR SURF

Han­nah Pre­witt fo­cussed on get­ting fit to im­prove her surf­ing and well­be­ing

Surf Girl - - Surfgirl Summer Travel Guide - www.han­nah­pre­witt.com

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.

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