Surfing: only 8 percent of the time riding a wave

Surfers only spend 8% of the entire surf session riding waves.

The Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ) has studied the performance of surfers during competitive surfing events, in an attempt to inform the development of surfing-specific conditioning.

The results show that surfers spend 54% of their time paddling and 28% waiting for waves. Interestingly, in a 20-minute heat, surfers ride waves and paddle a total distance of about 1.6 kilometers (one mile).

Twelve nationally ranked surfers were also fitted with heart rate monitors and global positioning system units and videoed during the heats of two sanctioned competitions.

Kiwi scientists found out that only 3% of the time surfers reached the maximal heart rate band, with an average of 190 beats per minute.

Two-thirds of the time was spent with heart rates in the moderate-to-high intensity range. Curiously, academics observed that peak rates happen only when surfers finish riding a wave.

"One reason for such a result could be the physical demands of riding the wave, coupled with the adrenaline release ensuing from the wave ride and fall," wrote Oliver Farley, lead researcher of the Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand.

Finally, researchers measured speed and discovered that surfers reached a top speed of 45 km/h and a maximum speed on a wave averaged 33.4 km/h.

Discover how many waves you have surfed in your life.

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