Monday, January 2, 2012

Bodysurfing: Breathing Techniques

Bodysurfing or Handboarding is an old sport turning heads. Handboarding or sometimes referred to as hand planing or hand gunning, is a old sport practiced since the beginning of water sports. It's a fun and great way to keep fit. This is an article on holding your breath underwater and breathing workout tips.


If you Handboard, bodysurf, surf or partake in any sort of water sport you are going to find yourself under the water at some point. Depending on the size of the wave surf or roughness of the river, it depends on the amount of time you are going to spend under the water. Knowing certain breathing practices and keeping on top of a routine can significantly lower the risk in your adventures, and in most cases significantly improve your performance. It should be an essential part of any waterman's routine, and especially us Body surfers. As they say, "Fail to prepare and prepare to fail." It's a good motto to live by.

There is very little that's less scary than being held under, getting twisted around in every direction, and not knowing which way is up. Panic starts to set in! I am sure every waterman has some experience with this. NOT FUN! It is even more important for bodysurfers and Handboarder/Hand-planers to practice breathing exercises because as with the nature of the sport we tend to spend more time under the water than others. The chances of getting a good beating when you're dropping in late on a wedge -bomb is that much higher than on stand-up. Not to mention there's less of a chance you'll be able to kick out or over the section. So as a bodysurfer, we tend to cop it on the head a lot more. I'm sure you'll agree that's part of the fun. Getting hammered for me is part of the allure. However, you have to know how to be able to deal with the beating, or it could be your last. You would not step into an UFC Octagon without at least the basics on martial arts...and Mother Nature can be a lot more violent and destructive than any UFC Fighter.

The following are some tips from various sources and Professionals. There are tips on how to improve your breathing and fitness simply through diaphragm control. There are also tips from the pros on how to better deal with a hold down. What to do and what not to do. These are simple procedures that could save your life.


I am a singer and a swimmer. Both which have made me a conscious natural breather. Most of you may protest: "I know how to breathe! Duh! "My response is: "No, you don't." The majority of people do not consider their breathing habits on a daily basis. At night though, your body subconsciously takes over as you dream, unaware you revert to a natural healthy breathing pattern. The pattern is there, it is an innate human function, now we just need to teach you the difference and fix the bad habit...easy right?

Let us start with what you're doing now. We're taught to stand up tall, shoulders back, tummy sucked in- tall and thin. Unfortunately, this causes the bad habit of short, shallow breathing. Shallow chest breathing delivers less air per breath into the lungs in turn constricting our blood vessels. The imbalance in turn delivers less oxygen to the brain, heart and rest of the body. Less oxygen in turn promotes fatigue, tension and tightness which all cause stress.

Shallow breathing prevents the body from getting enough oxygen. Many people fail to breathe deeply when they feel tense, which is one reason they may feel zapped at the end of a stress-filled day. "The general principles of correct breathing are to make it deeper, slower, quieter, and more regular." Doing so helps you force more oxygen into your cells, which slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and improves circulation. This provides more energy, which is ultimately the goal to improving your ability. That way you can do activities like bodysurfing, surfing, snowboarding for longer and more effectively.

The most important muscle in our breathing function is the diaphragm. The diaphragm is an arc, which lies at the bottom of the lungs. Now, take your hands off the keyboard and feel the crevice in the center of your core, just under your rib cage- see where the ribs and lungs meet forming a ^? Just below that is your diaphragm. In order for your diaphragm to work properly, we must deny social beauty and allow our tummies to stick out- just a bit. Take a deep breath in from your nose and down to the pit of your stomach, feel the airflow through your entire body. Your shoulders will remain flat, and your upper chest still. There you go! You are putting your diaphragm to work!

In that one breath you allowed the appropriate level of oxygen to flow through your body. Practically double the amount of oxygen than shallow breathing allows. The oxygen then hits your blood, begins its circulation while stimulating higher levels of energy. Maintaining the correct amount of oxygen needed for our bodies also balances our pH levels and carbon dioxide levels. The brain, which hogs most of our oxygen, will now operate more efficiently.

What does this have to do with singing and swimming? Everything! Singing in its most basic form is breathing on pitch. Control and understanding of my breath allows me to hit those notes and shatter windows. On the other hand, as an athlete, the common misuse of breathing causes you to become fatigued easily, effecting your rhythm, timing and speed. Adapting and practicing the art of natural deep breathing with your diaphragm has an immediate dramatic effect on your performance. A questionable practice of professional swimmers is using an inhaler just before a race; it helps them to shave just enough time off. The inhaler does the same thing your diaphragm does- except you're doing it naturally without medicine. Not only have we improved our speed and performance, proper deep breathing allows for relaxation and calmness. Yoga is centered on these breathing exercises. Without proper diaphragmatic breathing, you cannot reach the desired state of deep meditation. For water sports, breathing properly is essential to a better workout and allowing you to remain in control while submerged. Through practice, your newfound awareness of your breath will allow you to practice your sports at a higher performance level.