Posted by: ADOW | July 29, 2010

Core Crunching

Recently I had the privilege to meet former world champ paddler Barry Lewin. Lewin won 6/6 races in the 2010 Durban Surfski Winter Series and finished with a total average of 100% as well as a 2nd place in the Scottbrough to Brighton Surfski Marathon! He is also the owner of Durban based Varsity College Surfski school and runs his own blog at Paddling is certainly in his blood with his father, Mark Lewin heading up Custom Kayaks who makes all his surfski’s

Lewin will see ADOW members in December when he comes over for his 5th Dubai Shamaal and if all goes well, present some master classes in Abu Dhabi.

Paddling in extreme heat and humidity require paddlers not only to take caution in rehydrating, but Lewin advises that “the balance you will find paddling is worth all the sweat. Even the sweltering heat is better than the office!”

While the UAE’s current heat, humidity and holidays may set paddlers a few steps back, Lewin suggest that this is the ideal time to spend some indoors-time to strengthen core muscles.  He developed a series of core exercises that aim specifically to strengthen a paddler’s core. I tried it and it helps (and pains!), but must admit – I found the squads on the Pilates ball challenging and replaced it with a half-ball and still had a great workout.



The following is an extract of his article … The Core of Surfski – Barry Lewin (link)

“Core Strengthening Exercises for Paddlers

The art of mastering surfski paddling is in learning to balance. The ocean is never flat and even on the calmest days there are bumps out at sea or waves breaking on the shore.  Balance is absolutely crucial to your performance, whether you’re a novice or a pro.

Balance Better, Go Faster

It’s really simple, the better your balance the more power you can put into each stroke and the better you will do in any condition.

How does this relate to the paddler’s “Core”?

Your core comprises abdominal stabilising muscles, which when used effectively, form the basis of one’s balance. Working on your core can directly help your balance in the boat. The core doesn’t help with paddling technique but can help you maintain posture and – working on it can get you up a grade at the next race series albeit with a bit of effort.

Core strength comes in especially handy on the longer races where it can really aid you in that 2nd or 3rd hour of the race when you’ll still be efficient when others are falling apart.

How do you use your core – specifically in a surfski?

When your surfski goes over or down a wave, hits a bump or chop, it tilts from side to side. This is totally normal. You can control the ski by pushing with your heels. If the boat tips over to the right, tense your left leg against your heel to bring the boat upright and vice versa. This control of the boat with the legs (and specifically the heels) is overlooked by many paddlers who often have the boat set up with the wrong leg length or are pushing too hard on the toes. Make sure the boat fits perfectly; if it’s too short, you will be crunching up your stomach making your core ineffective and if it’s too long you will have no base to push off to bring the boat upright.

Eventually when your balance is good you should be able to roll the boat around comfortably using the control of your heels.

The core is what activates the legs and connects the balance muscles in the leg to the power muscle in the upper body that you pull with.

How to strengthen your core?

While there is a major trend towards more core exercises in athletes, there is commonly a misunderstanding of the difference between abs/stomach exercises and core exercises. The core is deeper and takes a little effort getting to. Sit ups won’t cut it.”

Barry Lewin in action during the 2010 Durban Surfski Winter Series

Barry Lewin in action during the 2010 Durban Surfski Winter Series


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