The art of riding the waves dates back to Polynesians living in Hawaii and Tahiti and it’s since become synonymous with a laid-back coastal lifestyle, but many people don’t realise that surfing is a bona fide competitive sport, with points scored for manoeuvres, flow and speed.
Lakey Peterson and Courtney Conlogue are two superstars of the Californian surf scene. Peterson has been ranked number one in the World Surf League and Conlogue won the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing two years ago.
We spoke to the pair after last year’s World Surf League Pro competition (worldsurfleague.com), to find out what it’s like to be a female surfer and their top tips for making it your new hobby.
Where’s your favourite place to surf?
Peterson: “Rincon Point [in Santa Barbara]. My mum lives on The Point so I grew up surfing it. It’s my home and such an iconic wave.
What’s a daily training regime like for a surfer?
Peterson: “It changes. Right before the season, I try to average four hours in the water per day. Normally I’ll do two in the morning, then I’ll head to the gym, and do another two after that.
“As the [competitive] season starts, I do train, but it’s not as extreme as you’re surfing so much during the events.
“Water time is what it’s all about for me; the more I surf, the better I get. I try to get into the gym six times per week. I do pretty explosive training, with a lot of plyometrics, jumps and cardio. I do some strength exercises too like Bulgarian split squats – but nothing that’s too heavy.”
Conlogue: “I’m definitely an outdoors person so I go out hiking a lot. In my pre-season I’ll get up before the sun and do a nine mile hike, just for endurance. I end up running a lot of it, because I find it fun.
“I’m getting ready to do a 32 mile paddle for Veteran’s Day, so I’m prepping for that by doing a few miles in the water wherever I can.
“At the gym I do box jumps, TRX, medicine balls and deadlifts; a little bit of everything. I think the best athletes train every bit of their life.”
Why do you think surfing is so great for fitness?
Conlogue: “It schools everyone. Surfing is one of those sports that’s so humbling; no matter how in shape you are out of the water.
“The lifestyle is so healthy – I think surfing is the fountain of youth. You look at surfers who are 80 years old and they have smiles from ear to ear and they’re loving life.
“The cardio and fitness that’s behind it is immense too. There’s a lot dynamics and you learn to work smarter, not harder, as you progress. I throw curves so I learn to stay on my toes while I surf. It’s the best sport if you want to be in overall good shape – both mentally and physically.”
Do you think it’s good for mental health?
Conlogue: “Whether you’re out catching waves or you paddle out and sit in the ocean on your board, looking at the horizon, there’s something about surfing that grounds you and gets you where you need to be. I lose heats and I go surfing to wash it off. There’s no sport where you lose and you want to do more of it to deal with the stress.
“It’s a really good way to share a sport with your friends too – whether you’re great or not.”
Any tips for women who want to get into surfing?
Peterson: “I would just stay stick with it, enjoy it and go to a beach that’s meant for beginners. Don’t go to an advanced surf spot straight away, because you’ll probably feel out of your depth.
“I think surfing is really hard in the beginning. When people start a little later, it takes time and you have to be willing to fail a lot, and you might get discouraged. But there’s a moment where it suddenly will click. Once it clicks, you’ve got it.”