Formerly, we thought of stretching as a way to lengthen muscles, create blood flow, and prepare the body to move. But doctors have found that that the brain controls every function of the body, including muscle flexibility. If the body is not properly warmed up, the brain will shorten muscles to protect against over stretching. The way to avoid this is to engage the brain by mimicking the movement of surfing. Instead of just cold stretching, go through the motions of surfing slowly, in a tai chi or yoga-like series of movements. A good pre-stretch warm up should last about 10 minutes.

All stretching is optimal when it's felt in the muscle, not in the joint. It's important to stretch to no more than 90 percent of your capability (not 100) to prevent injury. As we said before, surfing will shorten the very muscles you use, so don't simply stretch before you paddle out. Postactivity stretching is also necessary to relengthen muscles.

The three stretches on this page generally cover the major muscle groups strained by surfers. Be sure to hold all stretches for 15 seconds to one minute using yoga's deep-breathing techniques. Count to four while inhaling, filling the belly before the chest, hold the breath for a count of seven, then release it in a slow, controlled exhale through the nose.

If you feel stress or discomfort in your knees, lower back, shoulders, or any joint while performing these stretches, discontinue and seek advice from a licensed health professional. For more information, contact Dr. Tim Brown at


To avoid tension in the lower back, pretend a rope is pulling the top of your head upward. Extend your lower back. Don't arch it. Extend your sternum (chest bone) upward while reaching back to hold the top of your heels. This pose is the opposite of paddling, a computer hunch, sitting, etc. Remember to relax your neck and head.


Perform this stretch for each leg. Place your left leg straight up on the left side of a doorframe. Cross the right ankle over the left knee. If you feel comfortable, stretch to 80 or 90 percent of your maximum stretching ability. You should feel it in your hip and butt.

Now slide your right shin to the left 6 inches. Slowly begin to slide your left foot down the doorframe. You should feel the stretch increase in a new spot in your right glute.

Finally, slide your right shin to the left until the knees are a few inches from crossing. Then slide the left foot down the doorframe until you feel the stretch in the middle of your hip and glute. Hold at 80- to 90-percent max stretch and breathe.


Press your hands into the ground to open up and round the back. Spread the shoulder blades apart and push your tailbone to the ground. This stretch simulates blood flow to muscles under tension, thus causing your brain to make them relax. This pose is the direct opposite of a typical paddling posture.