The Surfing Dietitian

If you read my bio, you’d know that I love surfing. In this section I am going to try to shed some light on nutrition to assist surfing performance. Above is Avoca Beach NSW, I’m one of the heads sitting on a board out the back, couldn’t tell you which one.

A little about my surfing journey – when I was a baby I was hazardous around water. I loved being in water and my parents tell me that from the moment I could crawl, if they put me down near water I would B-line towards the water and sink to the bottom. When they would pull me up from the bottom of the pool, I’d cry and carry on as I just wanted to be underwater. I have 2 older brothers who would have been toddlers at that time so I can imagine how difficult that must have been for my parents. Anyway throughout my childhood I just loved any form of water, lakes, beaches, pools, slip’n’slides, water guns, you name it, if it involved water I loved it. But I soon discovered waves were the best. My family were all bodysurfers (except my Grandma who couldn’t even swim) and they all preferred moving water (waves) compared to still water (lakes, rivers, pools) so we spent a lot of time at the beach and my love of the ocean grew from those very early childhood moments. There is a huge barrier to my love of the ocean, I grew up in Canberra, an inland city about 2 hours west of the East Coast of Australia. I was extremely fortunate that my parents had a coast house in Ulladulla on the South Coast of NSW, Ulladulla has some of the best beaches in the world in my opinion.

So every school holiday or spare weekend that wasn’t taken up by other sports, my family would pile in the car and drive the 2.5 hours to our coast house. I can probably never thank my parents enough for giving me that opportunity. I always questioned my parents why we couldn’t live there and it was my most favourite place in the world, and thats purely for 1 reason – the ocean. Anyway we got boogie boards at a young age and I bloody loved my boogie board. I can still remember the stoke when we got them for christmas, I was beyond excited. Couldn’t tell you how old I was but it was the start of my boogie board journey. Eventually I progressed to calling them bodyboards and using fins and going out the back surfing the unbroken face of the waves, I could do 360s and barrel rolls, I wasn’t too bad. But I always watched the surfers and wanted desperately to try it. For some reason my parents just would not get me a surfboard, I really couldn’t tell you why, maybe it was the expense of them, maybe they thought I would give up, maybe it’s because they knew nothing about it. Anyway I wasn’t allowed a surfboard, but I did have a pretty decent bodyboard so I took the next option and taught myself how to stand up on my bodyboard. Quite a hard thing to do and it took me a long time. I was about 9 or 10 years old and quite a tiny kid so I was fortunate that I didn’t have much weight and the bodyboard was able to carry my weight on the waves. Now anyone that’s ever stood up on a finless small bodyboard will know that control is quite difficult, I basically just used to stand up and go in whatever direction the wave took me, sometimes being spun around in circles with absolutely no control. I didn’t care, I was standing up and I was loving it. Even after this amazing feat my parents still didn’t buy me a surfboard. So I saw a dodgy old McCoy for sale at the second hand shop in Ulladulla and asked my parents if I could take my roller blades (another thing I loved – roller blading) and swap them for the surfboard. They said yes and I was down there like a bullet seeing if the second hand shop would take my offer. Of course they did, my roller blades were nice, this surfboard was not! The end of it was all dinged, it was not watertight, there were loads of sharp damaged edges, but I didn’t care and to be honest I had no idea. At that stage in my life I knew no one that surfed and I knew absolutely nothing about surfboards. This surfboard would have been a 5’8 shortboard, not a beginner board.

I was stoked. Actually I think stoked is an understatement, I can remember walking home with a surfboard tucked under my arm proud as punch. I didn’t care that it was an absolute piece of crap, I was beyond happy, I finally got my surfboard. I was 11. So as soon as I got home I was getting into my swimmers to take my new board down the beach. This board had no wax on it and I can remember feeling the board and thinking ‘I don’t need wax, the board isn’t slippery right now’. Then I went to the Ulladulla Bommie for my first ever surf session. Now if any Ulladulla locals are reading this they are thinking ‘ummmm Bommie is not the place for a beginner’, yes the bommie was pumping but I was only planning on catching the second break waves. Anyway I got in the water and attempted to paddle….No wax…Oh my lord it was slippery as they come! I didn’t achieve much that session, had to get out, then go buy some wax, wax my board and then try again.

So my second try was much better, I went to the Bommie again and I could paddle it out and I could stand for about 1 microsecond. I also went from lying, to my knees, to standing, so my technique was quite off but I was loving it. As I have previously mentioned the tail of the board was quite damaged, lots of sharp fibreglass sticking out of the tail. So after every session I had injuries. They were everywhere in the beginning as I would get hit by the tail in all kinds of places whilst learning. As I progressed and got better and better at standing I can remember always putting my back foot just off the tail of the surfboard causing me to scrape my foot and my leg down the sharp bits of fibreglass, I would come out of the ocean with my right leg covered in blood but it didn’t stop me, I’d be straight back out in the ocean learning my skills as soon as I could. Often I’d just have 2 days to practice as we would be doing weekend trips to Ulladulla, so the injuries really didn’t matter cause I’d get at least 5 days of no surfing for them to heal. School holidays were always at Ulladulla so I’d sometimes get 2 weeks of solid surfing, the injuries were a problem them. I can remember the pain of tearing open the same wound over and over again, my big toe copped it quite bad and I had scars there for years, pretty sure they are still there just with a heap of other scars too.

Looking back on this now I realise that this board was not the right size for me, anyone with a bit of surfing knowledge could have told me that, but I didn’t know anyone that surfed. Eventually I got a new board (second hand again) and it wasn’t dinged up. But again I knew nothing about surfing and I didn’t get the right size for me. This really hindered my ability to progress my surfing until I got older and could actually buy surfboards for myself that were the right size (I was 20 by the time I could do that).

I have never really been able to put into the words the love and the feeling I have towards surfing and if any surfers reading this would like to let me know their thoughts I’d greatly appreciate that. Here is my attempt – Surfing is about being in the ocean, immersed in salt water, chasing wave after wave after wave. Often till you can barely move your arms (usually caused by your body running out of fuel – more on that later). It is a very peaceful act, riding the waves and being in the moment, you become one with the ocean, you are relying on the ocean to give you that perfect section of wave to fulfill the manoeuvre’s you would like to perform, so you really learn to respect the ocean, it can really F you up if you are not careful. It is very much just you and the ocean at certain periods of time. I have never really been able to put into the words the love and the feeling I have towards surfing and if any surfers reading this would like to let me know their thoughts I’d greatly appreciate that.

Long story there. My surfing journey was driven by a love for the ocean!