Chi energy, a Taoist tradition which dates back five thousand years to the Tang Dynasty in China, presents a potent opportunity to execute greater skill and mastery in absolute harmony with the waves. The surfer who learns to utilize Chi gains a performance enhancing ally.
There is both art and science to surfing which brings you into immediate contact with the fundamental principles of Chi. Like any athlete, when surfers are performing at their peak they have reached a state of grace — it’s called “being in the zone,” but, really the surfer has tapped into the boundless energy of the Universe — Chi. They have lost the knowledge of their bodies, so to speak, and are functioning in electro-magnetic union with the elements.
Chi is a naturally stabilizing influence. Drawing on this internal energy, with every stroke, allows you to balance your body and paddle out to the lineup or next wave faster than physical energy alone. Only energy generated through your Chi center is necessary, any additional power from the use of muscular effort will cause tension and ultimately slow you down.
How Does a Surfer Channel Chi Through the Waves?
There are three major Chi centers in the body. The primary Chi energy center is located just below the navel point. This center, known as the lower Dan Tien, is the origin of power and movement. Surfers who utilize Chi from this center experience less stress, tension and wear and tear on their body. Opening this area and allowing Chi to flow fosters the ability to easily access wave potential, to effortlessly dig deep and express a solid board stance with precise execution of wave choice.
The second major Chi center, or middle Dan Tien, connecting from the heart allows the surfer to blend and harmonize with the environment. Working from this center enables the surfer to connect with the constantly changing energy of the ocean. Accessing this energy center allows the surfer to intuit surf conditions and waves to gain position.
The third major Chi center, or upper Dan Tien, provides intention and direction from the third eye point. This center keeps the surfer present and attuned to wave potential. Operating and focusing from the third Chi center allows for greater function in the moment to execute and showcase skill and mastery. This allows the integration of mind, body, board and wave.
The surfer who taps into this cosmic energy through the 3 Chi centers alters the energetic matrix of the body resulting in greater circulation, increased lung capacity and natural healing capabilities. Accessing Chi supports consistent optimal performance resulting in the creation of a “Bio-synchronicity,” experience.
What Happens when Chi Energy is Blocked?
If there is trauma to any of these three centers the surfer’s performance will be adversely effected because of blockage to the flow of Chi Energy. This stagnant Chi is located wherever there is a physical, emotional or psychic insult or injury.
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When a surfer has an injury to their “core,” the third center or navel area, the surfer experiences restriction resulting in less physical movement, especially in the abdomen and hips. When the second Chi energy center becomes blocked, the solar plexus/heart center, the surfer may tend to force a ride, in other words, their heart is just not in it. If this center becomes “stagnant” the thrill is gone and so is the performance! If the first Chi energy center becomes blocked, the surfer loses intention and focus. This results in poor wave selection, early or late wave entry or loss of situational awareness.
Building Your Chi Practice:
Learning to generate Chi by body positioning and movements will create space and freedom for your ride by releasing tension. You will find yourself intuitively alternating between Yin energy and Yang energy while carving up a wave, riding a tube or performing radical maneuvers. Fluidly using these centers is key to moving through the water unencumbered.
There are certain observances and requirements to utilize Chi flow. Body integrity by the alignment of feet, naturally and comfortably apart whether regular or goofy foot, shoulders even, chin tucked slightly down, elbows and knees unlocked. If you feel excessive tension or shaking in your back or legs or any part of your body, you’re using muscular force. To make the shift, soften and transfer your focus through the navel center and generate energy from your core.
Before You Hit the Waves:
The spiraling energy of a wave is like the intrinsic energy of Chi-based martial arts. Here is a Chi warm up exercise to increase performance and make your rides enjoyable. There are many Chi-generating exercises, one of simplest and most effective is the “Standing Wave” illustrated below.
Imagine pulling a blanket up and over a beach ball with wrists loose, tucking it under with palms vertical. Move slowly, in rhythm, with all motion generated from your lower Chi center. Let the breath flow naturally. To vary this movement, switch legs. The more you use Chi the more it integrates and becomes a totally natural expression.
I consider the surfer and the ocean as “partners on an evolutionary path”. Consistently catching stellar rides is directly related to the philosophy, consciousness, personal experience, and tools of the surfer. Accessing all of the Chi centers in synchronicity provides the surfer greater balance, consistent generation of speed and power and precise control during radical maneuvers. This ancient power, utilized in the surf, becomes an indispensable tool for riding the best waves ever.
If there’s a theme to today’s top pro’s pre-event preparation it’s this ongoing quest for maximum flexibility. They’re reaching for it in many different ways, from Fanning and Taylor Knox’s daily yoga and surf routines to other, more experimental paths toward optimal looseness. Like BioSync, a form of deep-massage therapy hailed by surfers like Shane Beschen, Knox and Slater. According to Beschen, it turned his life around, and was a key component in him rediscovering his top “CT-level form. Slater’s also a firm believer, saying it bridges the gap between the emotional and physical and leaves you feeling drained and reinvigorated at the same time. “If you get real intense with it,” he claims, “your body would definitely be in the best physical form it’s been in years”.