After suffering a debilitating back injury, one surfer is able to jump back on the board thanks to Pilates. Now he’s sharing his knowledge and love for the method with other surfers.
by Sue-Ella Mueller
“Is there any other sport you can do while a dolphin looks you right in the eye? Can you imagine coming within 100 feet of a giant whale?” asks Billy Diederich, CNMT, CPT, CES, PES. “Surfing offers a freedom unlike anything else you will ever experience.”
Surfing had been a part of Diederich’s life since he was a boy growing up in California. But 10 years ago, his joy of catching the next big wave came crashing down due to a back injury. “I was a professional firefighter for 23 years,” says Diederich. “And, just like every other firefighter, I had a second job: I was a sports trainer and had been working in a gym for close to 30 years.”
Both jobs finally took a toll on his back. “I had five different orthopedic surgeons tell me I needed to retire,” he says. “I wasn’t ready, but I couldn’t even stand up straight.”
So at 50, Diederich was forced into an early retirement. But now that he actually had the time to surf full time, he could no longer stand the pain of even paddling out on the board—let alone standing up on it.
“One of my doctors suggested doing either Pilates or yoga,” says Diederich. “I knew Joe Pilates was a gymnast once like I was, so I went the Pilates route.” But just like every other thing in his life, Diederich couldn’t just do things halfway; instead of signing up for a few classes, he picked up every possible bit of reading material he could find on Pilates and, after practicing the method and studying the books, decided he needed to become an instructor.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the body,” says Diederich, now a certified Studio du Corps Pilates instructor. “I’d studied kinesiology and the neuromuscular system my whole adult life and had become certified in sports medicine, performance enhancement and become a myoskeletal therapist. But when I started working with Diane Diefenderfer at Studio du Corps [in Orange County], she told me, ‘Just because you know everything, doesn’t mean you know everything.’ And she was right; with Pilates, you learn something new every time you walk into the studio.”
Within a month of working with Diefenderfer, Diederich’s back pain had just about vanished. “When I first started, I thought, You want me to do what? But it was a life-changing experience for me. I started to see all of the imbalances that training in the gym had caused. I became extremely aware of my body and the movement connected to it.”
It was so life changing that Diederich…
Read on about Billy Diederich’s passion for Pilates in the July/August issue of Pilates Style!
Photo of David Boehne by Moonwalker; Photos of Billy Diederich courtesy of Billy Diederich.