By Lauren Rolland
What other professional sport requires that the players pit themselves against one of natures most fickle, dangerous and powerful forces? Sure, in football, hockey, MMA, etc. you’ve got man on man contact injuries that rival some of the worst, but in surfing, your biggest opponent is the great and ever changing ocean. This uncontrollable environment can throw a variety pack of punches at athletes at any given time.
The ocean is an element that many consider outside of their comfort zone. But for the world’s best surfers, this is where they’re most at ease, like an artist in a studio or a dancer at the barre. The salt water is also where these athletes excel. The ability to expertly read the ocean, reef, wind and currents and anticipate what will happen is a skill that is acquired through experience. This refined ability gives expert surfers a more competitive and calculated edge. Yet despite this intimate knowledge, as with all competitive sports, injury is almost inevitable. With surfing, there’s a whole list of harms that are completely unique.
Surfing requires the player to deal with the unpredictable forces of nature, so it’s no wonder why a team of injury and rehab professionals are onsite at surf events. For the Triple Crown, when the waves of the North Shore are so commanding that they rattle and shake the windows of Kamehameha Highway residents, a comprehensive team is crucial.
Dr. Leland Dao, long time physician for the Triple Crown of Surfing and medical consultant to the ASP World Championship Tour, began working with the ASP in 1997 and has been present at the Triple Crown events ever since.
As an avid surfer himself, Dr. Dao has an intimate understanding of the sport’s injury potentials and is therefore an important onsite component during the competitions. Dr. Dao also owns and operates a high-patronage practice in Haleiwa known as Kaena Kai Clinic, Family Practice and Sports Medicine Center. This clinic offers a wide range of services for everyone, from professional athletes to stay at home moms to the elderly.
Nextdoor to Dr. Dao is Lauren Reinert MS, ATC, CSCS of Contemporary Sports Therapy, offering everything from physical therapy and sports medicine to injury evaluations, rehab, prevention and performance development. Like Dr. Dao, Lauren is building her reputation on the North Shore with many surfers, both professional and amateur. Some of her clients include Kelly Slater, Sunny Garcia, Koa and Makua Rothman, Freddy P., Kai Otton, Dustin Barca, Dax McGill, Mahina Maeda, Billy Kemper, Gabriel Medina, Ezra Sitt, Kahea Hart and Ian Walsh.
“At the beginning of the 2013 Triple Crown, I got pounded at Beach Park and did a grade 3 tear on my right MCL,” explains Australian pro surfer Kai Otton. “Luckily Lauren was on hand to rehab the injury, and what looked to be the end of my Hawai’i season became a miraculous recovery. I was able to compete in the Pipe Masters five weeks later.”
“I broke my collar bone snowboarding last year,” says North Shore professional surfer Koa Rothman. “When I came home and got surgery, the doctor told me it was going to be about 2 to 3 months ‘til I could be back in the water to surf. When Lauren was helping me, I felt good after about six and a half weeks. So I went to Tahiti and put it to the test, and it was all good.” Koa went on to get the cover shot of Freesurf’s 2013 June issue with his ‘Tahitian Pearl’ of a wave at Teahupoo during this trip.
World tour surfer and Sunset beach local Freddy Patacchia says, “working with Lauren was a pleasure.” Facing a possible career ending over an ankle injury in early January 2013, Freddy P mentions “her therapeutic work, physical rehab training and positivity got me back in the surf in 4 months. I was back in competition feeling 100% confidence in my ankle. I now continue to work with Lauren to maintain that physical confidence and injury prevention.”
Eleven time World Champion Kelly Slater has also spent time at the Contemporary Sports Therapy clinic. “I love working with Lauren, but I kind of hate it at the same time because she really reveals my weaknesses. The good side of it is that she knows how to solve them,” says Slater.
Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Lauren moved to Hawai’i in 2007 to pursue a Masters degree in sports medicine at the University of Hawai’i. She began working with surfers during her second year of grad school and was introduced to pro surfing brothers Koa and Makua Rothman. This launched Lauren’s sports medicine care with North Shore surfers.
In 2012, Lauren met Dr. Dao through Dr. Clayton Everline during the Pipe Masters event. Dr. Dao invited Lauren to assist him with the 2013 Volcom Pipe Pro. Impressed with her wide variety of skills and compassion for the surfers’ injuries, Dr. Dao began recommending patients Lauren’s way. At this time they realized there was a real need for sports medicine and physical therapy on the North Shore. Deeply imbedded in the unique surf scene of this location, Dr. Dao knew the demand was growing, and so on September 1st, 2013, Contemporary Sports Therapy opened up adjacent to Kaena Kai Clinic in Haleiwa town.
Along with integrating surf medicine into the clinic, Lauren also presented a more complete sports medicine team to Dr. Dao for the Triple Crown events. As a kinesiologist and athletic trainer, she’s worked to bring a more comprehensive crew of professionals to the beaches of Haleiwa, Sunset and Pipeline during the prestigious events. The professional surfing scene is now outfitted better than ever with a variety of experts to keep surfers safe in the water.
But Lauren and the team don’t only work on the surfers. “We take care of the videographers, we take care of the people that are putting the scaffolding together, we see the judges, we’ve even helped spectators, we see everybody,” the kinesiologist describes. “The Triple Crown is such an event, and the people behind the scenes that are part of it all become this whole family of staff. By the end you at least recognize all the faces.”
The team at Contemporary Sports Therapy and Kaena Kai Clinic are all passionate about surfing and aim to provide awesome service to the community. “We want everyone to be well and feel good and perform higher than expected,” Lauren says with a smile. “At the end of the day, it feels good knowing I improved somebody else’s life.”
Surf Medicine Advice for Surfers:
1. The Form Roller is your FRIEND. Quads, IT Band, Glutes, Erector Spinae and QL (low back muscles next to spine), Lats, Rhomboids. You can look up specific techniques on YouTube or contact a professional for help.
2. Keep the trunk and the core strong by utilizing the abdominal muscles in the correct fashion.
3. Maintain good range of motion in your spine in all directions, flexion/extension, side bending and rotation.
4. Keep your hips strong and mobile. Look for exercises that focus on gluteus medius stability with trunk rotation.
5. Keep the shoulder joint healthy through scapular stabilization exercises, capsular flexibility stretches and rotator cuff strengthening.
6. Keep the mid back muscles strong. The position of the shoulder blade on the rib cage is much more important than what’s actually happening at the shoulder. The shoulder is a very small insignificant joint and the real muscles are on the back. You want to make sure you have that integration of the shoulder blade with the rib cage and the whole trunk in order to be able to drive power in your surfing from your arms.
7. Include exercises that demand joint proprioception. Google it.
8. Be specific with your exercises: What does surfing require? What does your body need to meet that requirement?
9. Keep your legs STRONG. Include different variables with your lower body training. Example: higher weight & lower rep (muscle strength/power): lighter weight & higher rep with a slow motion pace (tendon strength and joint integrity).