Claire Bevilacqua from Western Australia is a pro-surfer who has competed all around the world. In 2003, she was crowned as the Australian Junior Women’s Champion and in 2005, ranked world no.6 in the World Championship Tour (WCT).
Surfing is about balance and core strength. Riding that perfect wave is what surfers all around the world wake up at 5am for. Although, surfing in winter is not on everyone’s list, but for those few (or for those are contemplating the idea) it’s a way of life. Paddling out into the icy cold water, it pierces your skin like tiny knives, but according to most surfers it’s worth it.
Below, we interview Claire about how to stay warm in the water and how to stay energised on those cold and frosty mornings;
Winter surfing is a little different to summer surfing we hear. What are some things we should keep in mind whilst surfing in winter (such as water temperature, warming up)?
The most important thing to remember when surfing in winter is to get your body warmed up before hitting the water. Because the water temperature is lower, it’s easier to get an injury or muscle strain, so some pre-surf stretching is essential. Try a couple of quick sprints on the sand or revive the classic exercises like push-ups and star jumps to get the blood pumping. Rope in a friend and make a pact at the start of winter to continue surfing, that way you have someone to motivate you on the days you don’t feel like getting out of bed.
During the cooler months, I try to escape and head north. This winter, I have signed on to teach at yoga, surf and spa resort in Seminyak, SALT Retreats – so if you are keen for a surf-trip, winter it the perfect time.
My only other advice would be to get your wettie on as fast as you can and dive into the water – If you start thinking about the cold, you’re more likely to bail!
What’s a good healthy meal to eat before going to surf in winter so that you have plenty of energy for reserves?
I prefer to fuel my body with raw, organic foods as I’ve found this combination gives me more energy. I begin my mornings with a big bowl of oats, raw nut milk and dried fruit and wash it down with green tea. I’ve also learnt a couple of good recipes from chef Pete Evans, who created the SALT Retreat menu. I’m addicted to the fresh coconut water and green smoothies.
What’s the best way to try and keep warm in the water and avoid hypothermia on those chilly days?
A great way to keep warm and kill time while you’re waiting for the waves, is to stand on your board and squat- this exercise combines balance training with strength work. Another trick is to lay on the side of your board and kick your legs under the water – not only does this movement distract you from the freezing cold, but it’s a butt firmer!
Otherwise, invest in some booties and a thermo rash vest for under your wetsuit – these are worth their weight in gold on a cold day!
What are some exercises to try out of the water to help improve our surfing technique?
Surfing is such a unique sport, but there are elements used in surfing – like balance and core strength – that you can focus on with targeted exercises. Skateboarding is great to help with balance and it has similar movements to that of surfing, but you can never replicate the experience of riding a wave without hitting the water. That’s why it’s so important for me to get out in the ocean as much as possible, rain, hail or shine.
Your most dominant leg should always be positioned at the back of the board, so I begin any class by finding out whether the students use their left or right hand most often – this is the best guide.
What are some things to try in the water on their first go to help an amateur be able to stand up?
Instead of trying to stand-up straight away from a kneeling position, try sliding your back leg into a triangle and use this leg, along with your arms to push yourself up – This manoeuvre is much easier to get the hang of!
If you are wanting to improve your skills, I strongly recommend taking part in a surfing trip with a pro. Not only are they a whole heap of fun, but they are the best way to pick up the skills you need to ride the perfect wave.
In terms of winter waves, how do you usually tell which is going to be ‘that one’ out of a set?
The best wave is the first one of a set, as it normally has the cleanest face to deal with. The only issue with taking the first wave is that if you miss it, you’ll be punished by the remaining set coming behind it!
Any other advice you’d like to give?
Some quick tips
1. When paddling, keep your legs together. Having them hang over the side of the board creates drag and makes it harder to catch the wave.
2. Always look in the direction you want to be going when you take off on a wave. If you look down, your board will duck-dive down – not a pretty thought!
3. Don’t stop paddling for the wave until you feel it pick you up and gain momentum. To be on the safe side, paddle for that little bit longer.
4. Don’t hesitate with any of your moves on the wave, you need to commit 100% – where there is doubt, there is drama
Remember, winter surfing isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to give it a go, it can be quite enjoyable. Remember to suit up, think positive and try to stay as warm as you can.
Claire Bevilacqua has been a household name in surfing since winning her first title in 1998. She was ranked number six in the world in 2006 and, using her passion and experience in the sport, is now the head surf instructor at luxury Bali-based yoga, surf and spa resort, SALT Retreats.