Surf Fitness with Andy Blake
To say that Andrew Blake is a personal trainer would be doing him an injustice. A qualified personal trainer, nutritionist and yoga instructor, he takes fitness and wellbeing to a new level. Based in North Devon, Andy works a lot with surfers, and as a keen surfer himself he understands what is needed to improve surf fitness. Together with his good friend the big wave surfer Andrew Cotton, Blakey has developed the Surf Fit Concept. A series of retreats and online programmes for surfers of all abilities, to provide the skills and techniques necessary to boost surfing ability and increase ocean awareness and water confidence.
You have been in the field of health and fitness for over 10 years now. What was your inspiration to enter into health and fitness as a career?
I have always loved sport, and it has been a huge part of my life since I was young. When I was a kid I loved playing football, tennis and surfing. I'm fortunate that I grew up by the sea and surfing became a sport that I took to naturally. I studied Sport Science and French at university before going on to do a degree in Education. After lecturing on Sport Science and coaching regional teams for over 10 years, I was keen to use all these experiences to pursue a career in health and fitness, to help and inspire people. I returned from teaching PE in New Zealand for 3 years and added some further qualifications to my degrees - 200 hour yoga instructor qualification, personal training, nutrition, physical therapy and sports massage. This has given me a great platform to pursue my passion of inspiring and helping people with their overall health and fitness goals.
Based in North Devon by the sea, you work a lot with surfers of different levels. Indeed, you have developed a 6-week programme tailored specifically for surf fitness. What do you feel are the key aspects of fitness that we, as surfers, need to focus on?
Like any sport, the training should mirror the physical and mental demands of the sport. In surfing we need good healthy movement patterns to firstly protect the body from injury, and secondly to improve performance. Strength, Endurance, Power, Flexibility and Speed. We need to train the energy systems to enable us to recover quickly and to be strong and mobile so our body is protected. We need to be able to be still in the mind, and able to control and to put fear in perpesctive. Our online programme aims to prepare people for the physical and mental demands of surfing, even if they don't live on the coast. This year we will be adding a monthly video and gym/swim/prehab programme to help people even more.
The women's surf scene is rapidly growing, with more and more females taking to the water. The women on the professional circuit are super strong and work hard to maintain their fitness. Do you find, in your experience, that women need to target specific areas to stay strong in the surf?
I'm amazed at how strong and fit and technically gifted the pro women surfers are. They are getting closer and closer to the men and I believe that this is due to mental strength as well as physical adaptation. I've worked with and met quite a few of the pro ladies surfers - Laura Enever, Brisa Hennessy, Mahina Maeda, Alana Blanchard and locally Peony Knight and Lucy Campbell. Not in all cases, but I generally find them to have excellent range of movement. So if they then focus on strength through this full range of movement, that adds protection to their body and improved performance.
You have travelled a lot with your work, and trained many of the big names in the surf world. Which is the place you are itching to return to and why?
I've been really lucky over the last few years to work in Fiji, France, Portugal. I love working in Hossegor and Nazare. I love the people and the food and the energy of these places. The place I personally love going back to is Namotu Island, Fiji, and living on a tiny island for a few weeks. The locals are amazing and smile 100% of the time. I try to immerse myself into their culture, learning the language and playing the ukulele and drinking cava with them. I also have had great opportunities to work with and meet the world's best surfers. Last year I was there with an Australian guy called Mick, for example.
You work closely now with your good friend and professional big wave surfer Andrew Cotton. How did you both meet and how did you start working together?
I've known Andrew Cotton since we were around 16 years old. I started to train with him and noticed he was hitting a plateau in his training. I helped him mix it up, make it relevant to big wave surfing, adding resistance training, intervals, yoga, and methods to optimise the potential of his mind.
Yourself and Cotty have both started SurfFit Retreats together. What is the principle behind this, and what would we expect to achieve from one of the retreats?
SurfFit Retreats was introduced last year. The idea is to give people an insight into how we prepare Andrew Cotton and other big wave surfers physically, mentally and emotionally, and then apply it to your level. Its for anyone who wants to gain confidence and make their training relevant to surfing. Last year we had a wide range of people on our Nazare retreats from all over the world, from big wave professionals to complete beginners. They all gave us some great feedback and loved the experience - we were stoked! In 2018 we are running retreats in April in Nazare and Dubai, as well as weekend retreats in Devon too.
Finally, amongst your many talents, you are a keen ukulele player! Tell us more...
Yes I love playing the ukulele! Unfortunately, I am not musically gifted (we beg to differ) but much like our retreats that doesn't matter. I find it to be like meditation. A moment when the mind can be still and you don't have to think about the things you've got to do, or the things you've done.
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