Short & stocky or tall & thin …
Although the evidence is limited, Mendez-Villanueva and Bishop (1) find, in their comprehensive review of the literature, that competitive surfers seem to be shorter and lighter than their average age-matched sporting counterparts.
They report that the average height of the 2003 WCT Top 44 ASP ranked male competitors on the world professional surfing tour was 174.7 ± 6.1cm. This is consistent with a previous study reporting an average height of 173.6 ± 5.9cm for 76 international male surfers (2).
Interestingly, these values are less than heights described for elite swimmers (183.8 ± 7.1cm; n = 231) and water-polo players (186.5 ± 6.5cm; n = 190) (3).
Females display similar trends with the average height of the 2003 WCT Top 17 ASP ranked women surfers at 162.0 ± 4.9cm (152–172cm) (1).
As with males, competitive female surfers are on average shorter than elite swimmers (171.5 ± 7.0cm; n = 170) or water-polo players (171.3 ± 5.9cm; n = 109) (3).
Anecdotally, the stature of top professional surfers appears to be on the increase (4), yet this remains to be scientifically verified. Further research is required to explore whether there is an optimal physiological phenotype for the competitive surfer.
1. Mendez-Villanueva A, Bishop D. Physiological Aspects of Surfboard Riding Performance. Sports Med 2005; 35 (1): 55-70
2. Lowdon BJ. The somatotype of international surfboard riders. Aust J Sports Med 1980; 12: 34-9
3. Mazza JC, Ackland TR, Bach TM, et al. Absolute body size. In: Carter JEL, Ackland TR, editors. Kinanthropometry in aquatic sports: a study of world class athletes. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1994: 15-54
4. George S. THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS The Big Guys Are Taking Over. SURFER Magazine. [Posted Online July 22, 2010; Accessed August 13, 2014] Interested? Find out more at the 4th Annual Conference Surfing Medicine, Pays Basque, 29 Sept – 02 Oct 2015! #29to2basque
Note 1: Mark Richards photograph credit; markrichardssurfboards.com