Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Medicine


Background: Surfing manoeuvres such as aerials have emerged as an impactful way for competitive surfers to significantly change the outcome of a heat, providing them with a competitive advantage when performed successfully. Although these manoeuvres have drawn some attention from the scientific community, no research has been undertaken to comprehensively evaluate the performance of aerials and to identify how they can be trained for.

Research Question: The overall aim of this thesis was to systematically evaluate the performance of aerial manoeuvres in surfing in order to develop evidence-based recommendations, which could be used to improve aerial performance and training in skilled surfers.

Methods: A series of studies were conducted in three parts to achieve this overall thesis aim. Firstly, Part I explored the current state of wave-riding performance (Chapter 2), as well as establishing the value of wave-riding manoeuvres to scoring a surfer’s performance during elite surfing competitions (Chapter 3). From gaps revealed in the literature and the research direction established in Part I, Part II of the thesis aimed to qualitatively assess how elite surfers perform aerial manoeuvres in competition so that a set of critical features, which were associated with successful aerial completion, could be developed to create a model of elite aerial performance (Chapter 4). These critical features were then compared with how competitive surfers landed simulated aerial manoeuvres in a laboratory (Chapter 5). Finally, for Part III, two simulated aerial manoeuvre variations, the Frontside Air and Frontside Air Reverse, were comprehensively evaluated to identify any differences in lower limb motion or control used by competitive surfers when landing the tasks (Chapter 6). Relationships between aerial performance parameters and other physical qualities of the competitive surfers were then investigated to establish which variables should be monitored in training to enhance successful performance of aerial manoeuvres while minimising the rate of loading generated during landing (Chapter 7). The conclusions drawn from these studies were then used to create a set of evidence-based recommendations for performance and training of aerial manoeuvres by competitive surfers (Chapter 8).

Major Conclusions: Successfully performing aerial manoeuvres when riding a wave has the potential to increase a surfer’s single-wave score by approximately 1.9 out of 10 points, although less than half of aerial manoeuvres are successfully completed during competitions. To ensure that aerial variations, such as the Frontside Air and Frontside Air Reverse, are performed successfully and safely surfers should display key critical features, which include landing with the lead ankle in a dorsiflexed position at initial contact and landing with the centre of mass over the centre of the surfboard. Most critical features displayed when surfers land aerials in the ocean are also evident when the surfers land simulated aerial tasks, suggesting that simulated aerials are acceptable for investigating aerial landings. When analysing simulated aerials, surfers generated a significantly higher loading rate of the trail limb at landing compared to the lead limb, irrespective of which aerial variation was performed. Furthermore, the surfers generated a significantly higher loading rate when landing the simulated Frontside Air compared to the simulated Frontside Air Reverse. Finally, for both aerial variations, increases in a surfer’s lead ankle dorsiflexion range of motion was shown to be predictive of a lower rate of loading of the forces generated at landing.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.