By Rob LeDonne
On the sand in Solana Beach, Sebastian Slovin is practicing his typical routine before he hops on his surfboard to catch some Pacific Ocean waves. Slovin is an avid surfer and former professional bodyboarder, moonlights as a lifeguard while he works his full-time job down the coast at the La Jolla Yoga Center as a trainer, and always makes sure to get a quick yoga session in before hitting the water. “I do it mainly to get my body warmed up... to get my breath going, my blood flowing. It makes me much more ready to surf, both mentally and physically.”
Slovin is not alone; many surfers around the world swear by yoga as an important facet of a quality surf session. It’s been reported that Kelly Slater practices a combination of yoga and crosstraining when gearing up for competitions, and merely Googling the words “surf” and “yoga” corrals hundreds of results for camps and classes that combine the two, from California to far-flung places such as Morocco and Portugal. So why is it that so many,
including the arguable greatest surfer to ever live, depend on practicing yoga in relation to their surfing?
“I’ve been a surfer since I was a little tyke,” explains Slovin about his genesis of coupling together the two activities. “I got into yoga when I was in high school, purely out of a physical want and curiosity to
become more limber and reduce injury. I then started studying the philosophies behind it and it kind of blossomed.”
That interest led Slovin to dive headfirst into the world of yoga, leading to his current career.
“For myself, I find I’ll have a much more productive surf session (combining the two). Practicing yoga makes me more flexible and stronger overall. There’s a method yoga uses to get you there.”
Farther up the California coastline in south Orange County, Peggy Hall has the exact same mindset. Hall has such a passion for both yoga and surfing that she launched a mini-empire educating people about the relationship, releasing a popular series of DVDs (aptly titled “Yoga for Surfing”) and preaching about the wonders of combining the two activities.
Says Hall looking back: “About 10 years ago, I just got into surfing and had severe tendonitis in my shoulder. My husband said I should start doing yoga and I was pretty much rolling my eyes. He wound up convincing me, and I took a class at the senior center and totally fell in love. Not only did my shoulder heal but my surfing improved dramatically.”
From then on, Hall has devoted much of her life to these two passions and she notes that the “response has been overwhelming. Surfers surf because it makes us feel free and alive, it helps us feel closer to creation, and it’s good for the soul; I can say all of those same things about yoga. They totally mirror each other. The only difference is, with yoga you don’t have to wait for a swell.”
It’s the mindfulness aspect that drew in Slovin as well. “So much is mental with surfing, and I’ve really learned to relax. Having breath and body awareness, there’s nothing that compares to it. What’s nice about yoga is that it takes care of both the physical and mental aspects.”
With all of the stated positives, there are detractors out there who feel combining the two activities is foolish and downright dangerous. A few studies have even shown that as more people practice the two
activities together, injuries have started to increase, something Hall doesn’t dispute.
“Yoga injuries are on the rise and it’s unfortunate,” she acknowledges. However, it’s all about practicing yoga in relation to surfing in moderation. “A good yoga
session should be replenishing your energy rather than depleting it, so you can get back out, surf, and you’re not sidelined. After all, surfing is the main activity, you don’t need yoga as a form of exercise. The goal is to feel exhilarated and energized after yoga, not
Slovin echoes that sentiment: “It’s not yoga that’s hurting people, it’s the mindset people are bringing to yoga that is. What’s becoming popular now is a boot camp type of yoga, pushing it to the extreme. That
totally counters the yoga philosophy. If you come in like it’s a competition, that’s when it becomes dangerous. Advanced moves take a lot of time and (pushing your limits) is
potentially dangerous, especially if you are a novice without a lot of practice.”
It’s all about hitting that sweet spot to adequately practice yoga and gearing up (both mentally and physically) for the waves at the same time. Adds Slovin: “Part of a yoga instructor’s job is getting a feel for their student’s level. The key is to give a student something that’s going to give them more energy and not take away. You can do 20 minutes of light yoga per day and that would be an awesome, perfect warm up.”
Sums up Hall: “It boils down to feeling confident about yourself in the water, and that’s a real gift of yoga that detractors overlook.”
For more information, check out Hall’s home on the web: yogaforsurferstv.com.