Gabriel Davies, 26, is an unlikely surfer, having been born in Tynemouth. However, he is the British Open Surfing champion and last year finished 33rd in the World Amateur Surfing Championship. This week, Gabriel is competing in the men's World Qualifying Series at Newquay, Cornwall. In the off-season, when the British winter makes training at home impossible, he travels to glamorous locations such as Hawaii to refine his technique and keep himself fit.
Are there any specific fitness requirements for top-level surfing?
Strong legs are important because that is how you control and manoeuvre the board – but the upper body is important too. Surfing is hard work anyway, and if you do it a lot you should end up pretty fit; if you are going to be a serious surfer then you have to train as well. I'm lucky because I spend a lot of the year abroad and the fitness work I do is beach or ocean-based. Swimming is vital, not only because being a strong swimmer can get you out of trouble, but also because the action is similar to paddling out on the board towards the waves. Cycling is good as well – I try to find a course with plenty of hills. I also go sand-dune running; it really works the legs. For all of these, I try to mix it up between endurance and sprints.
How do you train in the winter in England?
By not staying here. I spend a lot of the winter in Hawaii. When in England, I have to do more gym work. This will generally be circuits, and I concentrate on upper-body strength and endurance work. I swim, but in a pool. I do a lot of swimming wherever I am – but it's a lot better in the ocean.
Do you train differently for different locations?
The waves in Hawaii can be very big, so before going there I do a lot of swimming and practise holding my breath – when you go under you realise how important it is. The summer season around Europe is all competitions and the waves aren't so big, so you tend to spend less time under the surface. Most of my training is really cross-training, and I just change it slightly to suit wherever I'm going.
Surfers look beautifully balanced and agile. How do you train for this aspect?
The balance comes from the strength of the legs on the board – that is why a lot of the training is legwork. I do a lot of kitesurfing, and skateboard and snowboard as well. All these are all based around balance, so doing one helps the others.
What injuries do surfers suffer from and how do you combat them?
Because of the stance on the board, surfers can get sore knees and a sore lower back. I always do a thorough warm-up before going in the water and make sure I'm well stretched. Often the water can be cold, so my muscles need to be warm.
Any special diet?
Not really, I just try to be sensible. I like fish a lot and eat a lot of pasta and vegetables. That is the basis of what I eat, although I will have white meat. I don't really eat red meat at all.
The Rip Curl Newquay Boardmasters 2001: www.surffestival.comReuse content