by Sharon Liao
Many people think of surfing as a laidback pastime. But it’s also a soon-to-be-Olympic sport that requires strength and balance. That’s why a growing number of surfers are turning to Pilates—and teachers are offering specialized sessions. Jamie Isaac, a Peak Pilates master instructor, Lolita San Miguel master teacher and the owner of Fluid Life Pilates, teaches both group and private classes to surfers. “Pilates not only builds the stamina, flexibility, and strength needed to surf with stability and power, but also the concepts found in Pilates principles, such as control and precision, can be incredibly beneficial to learning and refining the skills.”
As a lifelong surfer, Isaac has experienced the benefits of the method firsthand. “I wiped out a lot less. I felt more focused and prepared to adapt to the ever-changing environment of the wave, the wind and the conditions.” His power and stamina also increased, which helped him have more fun while surfing.
Buoyed by his success in the water, Isaac began offering sessions to his friends. Word spread, and fast-forward to today: He has been teaching Pilates for surfers for the past decade. “I use the entire studio,” he says. For matwork, he makes good use of props, such as balls, bands and the Magic Circle. He also uses the Tower. “The variety of eyelets and spring strengths mean you can explore angles of loading, and really mirror movements found in surfing,” he says. No matter what equipment he utilizes, Isaac says that he approaches the classes using Romana Kryzanowska’s 4 S’s: stretch, strength, stability and stamina. “Every single one of these elements can—and should—be seen in the art of catching and riding a wave.”
Along with the physical exercise, there’s time during each session for the surfers to talk shop, too. “It’s a great space for them to meet and motivate each other,” he says. “The surfers not only love the workout, but also appreciate that I can explain the technical and physical reason behind every movement—and how it will relate to or impact their surfing. It’s so much fun, and I get to work doing the two things I love the most, Pilates and surfing.”
Check out this video, in which Isaac demos some of his favorite movements for helping his students (and himself!) stay “grounded” in the water.