ELLE MAGAZINE, June 2005
Photo: Carlo Miari Fulcis
Fake it till you make it: How to be a better surfer, swimmer, equestrian, and hiker – or just look like one. By Ning Chao
If you're more interested in the washboard abs than the wipeouts at Pipeline or watched the Olympics to check out the chiseled backs of swimmers, you're already aware that certain sports are notorious for sculpting sexy, much-coveted body shapes. Even if you've never set foot in an ocean or a stable, some new gym workouts are designed to give you a pro's physique.
Strong yet slim, surfer girls' bodies are the envy of everyone on the beach. "Body boarders may be known for havening great butts, but the women who ride long boards have beautifully lean, almost waifish figures with amazingly flat stomachs," says NBC Sports commentator Pa Parnell, who covers the Association of Surfing Professionals world championship tour.
Model and surfer Carolyn Murphy (who frequents Malibu and Santa Monica beaches) agrees: "Surfing is the best workout. I use my entire body and mind to ride the wave, but having strong abs really helps with turns." According to Murphy's instruction, Izzy Tihanyi, the founder of the Surf Divas school in La Jolla, California, surfers use their stomach muscles all the time, whether flexing their abs while paddling and standing on the board or just sitting and watching for the next set (which, according to a University of Western Australia study, makes up 40 percent of total surfing time).
Joie's Jeans founder and Puka & Archindigo designer Joie Rucker, who surfs almost every morning at First Point Beach in Malibu, compares the sport to Pilates. "You need to focus on your core to maintain balance on the board," she says. Steadying yourself on an exercise ball or a foam ErgoDisc while in the office or taking an abs-focused class can produce the same results as perching on a board, says Paul Frediani, the conditioning advisor to the U.S. Surfing Federation. He developed Surf Flex, a new Equinox gym program that uses wobble boards, stability balls, and resistance bands to engage every angle of the abs from the obliques to the supporting lower-back muscles, helping wave riders improve their moves and giving wannabes the surfer girl look. At Crunch gyms' Boarding classes, students mimic surfing actions by sliding across the floor with a gliding disk below each foot and jumping side to side on a step, improving balance and endurance.
Surfing novices who want a head start at the beach should focus on strengthening their stomach muscles, Frediani says. "You can always spot beginners because they can't stabilize themselves while sitting in the water." He suggests doing two sets of modified stomach crunches over an exercise ball every other day. To work the external obliques, with the ball supporting your lower back, cross one shoulder to the opposite hip. To target love handles, rotate so that your side is resting on the ball. With your arms crossed in front of your chest, bring the shoulder toward the hip ion the same side of the body. Repeat each move on both sides of the body 20 times for one set.