That Healing Feeling
SURFING ISN'T FREE
Words by Elliot Struck
Beyond the cost of that new Fred Rubble and Cypher 3/2, there’s also a physical tax. Maybe it’s your spine, maybe your shoulder, and if you get above the lip, then perhaps it’s your ankle (thanks, gravity). Now, take all those little injuries, and turn ‘em up to 11: That’s regular reality for those who surf pro. That sprained ankle becomes a proper tear. And those aren’t easy to bounce back from. What’s required is a good rehab specialist: And Mark Kozuki is one of the best.
“Yeah, I guess somehow that’s happened,” replies Mark to Stab’s suggestion that he’s become the choice of physio for the world’s most high-performance (Mark’s on speed dial in the phones of guys like Jordy Smith and John John Florence). “Over the years I’ve been working with more and more of the guys, and they’ve been referring their friends. I’ve been doing some work with John for a while now, and doing some work with Jordy this year. And some of the other guys on tour, doing some work with the Hurley team. It’s been a growing process.”
Which all sounds nice. But, here’s how important Mark really has become to some careers: “Mark’s one of the best people I’ve ever had a chance to work with,” says Jordy. “He’s taught me so much about how my body works. I’ve been pretty unlucky with injuries of late, but having Mark in my corner speeds up the recovery time so much. I wasn’t going to go to Brazil because my knee was still hurting but when Mark told me he was going, I thought, I’d rather be in Brazil working with him and try to surf the comp, than sitting at home not being able to work with him.”
Garth Tarlow, who linked Jordy up with Mark, thinks that the most interesting thing about Mark’s approach to treatment is hisappreciation for functional movement: “Mark has a special way of analysing a person’s movement, then making a subtle change that enhances overall function,” says Garth. “His style of therapy is game changer for most who meet him. He’s so committed to helping people move more functionally.”
Mark, who’s a surfer himself (mostly at Huntington, with an office in Costa Mesa), just digs returning athletes to their sport. But finding his way into surfing on the professional side has meant some other bonuses: “I went over the Hawaii to work with John last year, and I was in Australia for the Gold Coast event,” he says. “Then Hurley flew me over to Rio. I certainly haven’t been flown around the world for any other sports.”
Mark tells Stab that the most common surf injuries are a mix of overuse (from things like stance repetition) mixed with trauma (like getting slammed into a reef and bent backwards). “There’s also the repetitive strain from the torque that the pro guys put on their bodies.”
But, what about someone like John John, famous for his dislike for training; Can a professional tell the diff between him and someone who clocks hours in the gym? “There is a difference, yes, but by the same token, doing things with John… his body awareness is really, really high level. He’s just naturally wired. And, the same with Filipe (Toledo). Super, ultra co-ordinated. They’re really high up there.”
So, what’s that mean exactly in layman’s terms? “They have the ability to learn a new task or co-ordination in seconds. It’d take a normal human much longer to learn a new movement or to control their body in the same fashion. Say for example, a balancing exercise: If I said, “Ok, I want you to balance on this disk, and catch this ball at the same time,” John or Filipe would be so much quicker to figure out how to do it. Jordy’s up there too, don’t get me wrong, but Jordy has another set of skills. He has more power than they have, way more raw strength.”
So, where does the future of pro surfer injuries lie? It isn’t hard to guess: Ankles. “Since I started seven years ago, there’s definitely been a shift in the stuff guys are complaining about,” says Mark. “And now, it’s definitely ankles. Ankle injuries are highly prevalent, because of the airs that guys are doing. Like, Julian (Wilson)’s hurt his ankle, and Filipe, John, Kolohe… it’s almost unusual now for them not to have an ankle injury.”
Read more at http://stabmag.com/meet-john-john-florence-and-jordy-smiths-physiotherapist/#i1Cael9s2Ycpfz5I.99
JJF GETTING BACK ON THE BOARD
Mr. Kozuki says a lot of rotational athletes—surfers, golfers, tennis players—tend to twist one particular way, which leads to muscle imbalances and overuse injuries. Surfers have either the left or right foot forward on the board and due to the position of their feet, when they face forward, their body is relatively twisted in the same direction as their stance.
Mr. Kozuki uses Redcord, a suspension exercise system similar to a TRX that was developed in Norway to help detect musculoskeletal imbalances. The system uses body weight for resistance. Mr. Kozuki has Mr. Florence perform a side plank, with his hip and legs suspended in the Redcord straps. “Sometimes in side plank, the glute muscle on the outer edge of the hip, the glute medius, is prone to being weak,” explains Mr. Kozuki. “Performing the pose while suspended isolates the glute medius and stimulates the muscle.”
Mr. Florence’s other core strengthening exercises include holding a bridge pose until his muscles start shaking, then lowering slowly back down and repeating. He performs squats with both legs and with one leg on Dyna Discs, which are circular inflated pads that create an unstable surface. He then balances on the Dyna Discs while Mr. Kozuki throws a medicine ball back and forth with him.
Mr. Kozuki said many exercises focus on “deep core” muscles. Mr. Florence will lie on his back with his knees bent and bring one leg up to tabletop position and then slowly lower it down to the ground, then bring the other leg up to tabletop position and back down. Then he’ll bring both legs up to tabletop position and back down to the ground. The idea is to isolate the core muscles so they do the work, not the lower back.
For the whole story visit the Wall Street Journal http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-surfers-guide-to-avoiding-ankle-injuries-1447698385?tesla=y
BALANCE PREVENTS INJURY
Athletes aren’t the only ones at risk for sprained and twisted ankles. Whether you’re dashing to the subway in high heels or out for a weekend game of basketball, it’s easy to take a wrong step and twist an ankle.
Mark Kozuki, physical therapist and owner of Elite Performance Physical Therapy, says developing a strong core and muscular balance can help prevent this common injury. “Nearly 98% of the people who come to see me have a balance deficiency,” he says. “A more symmetrical body moves better and is also less likely to get injured.”
“If you have a strong core, you have better balance and better body awareness in space,” he adds.
Mr. Kozuki often develops a home version of the exercises he shows patients in his office. For example, rather than do a side plank suspended in a Redcord strap, he’ll have a patient do a side plank with a forearm on the ground and hold the pose until their muscles start shaking. To improve balance, he suggests using unstable surfaces, such as Dyna Discs or even simply a folded up yoga mat, to help fire stabilizing muscles. “When you stand on even a mildly unstable surface, it causes all of the stabilizing muscles around the ankle to fire and stabilize the ankle joint to keep balance. It also forces you to engage your core muscles,” he says.
Mr. Kozuki suggests starting by simply standing on an unstable surface, then balancing on one leg. “Balancing on one leg often reveals which side is your dominant or stronger side,” he says.
Once you feel stable on one leg, try what he calls the asterisk exercise. Stand on your right leg and reach your left foot straight out in front of you so your toe hovers just above the ground, then slowly bring it back to hover in the center next to the right. Next bring the foot out to one o’clock, then return it. Continue until you touch each number on the imaginary clock, drawing an asterisk; then switch legs.
“The key is to keep your core engaged and pelvis neutral the entire time,” Mr. Kozuki says. Once you’ve mastered the asterisk on a flat surface, try it on an unstable surface. The attempt it with your eyes closed for an added challenge.
For the whole story visit the Wall Street Journal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-physical-balance-can-prevent-injury-1447698435?tesla=y
JOHN'S BROKEN BACK
John John sits folded into a leather chair in a middle class Newport Beach, California home. The rain outside is thick and slanted. Angry black clouds have filled a sky normally bright and scented with coconut suntan lotion and reduced tar cigarette smoke. Inside it is dark because lamps have not been properly adjusted to the failing light. They have not been turned
He sits folded and sluggish. Sluggish in the way professional athletes often are during downtime. His curly blonde hair hides underneath a green stocking cap. Black jeans, a touch too baggy for he is Hawaiian, hide his legs. A black hooded sweatshirt keeps him warm. John John Florence.
He is tired of the second John, just wants the first, but I am older than he and have seen more life and know that monikers like John John are bestowed only on the very worthy. John John Kennedy. John John Williams III on Sesame Street (just the cutest black child ever). John Boy on the Waltons (basically John John). He should never lose the second John. It is an honour.
Sluggish. Folded. Uncomfortable maybe because his back is broken. Not metaphorically. Not from carrying the weight of expectations since he could first stand on a surfboard. Not from the heavy crown placed on his curly blonde following a North Shore season for the ages. No. Broken literally. A vertebrae in his lower spine fractured. A broken back.
“Did you bounce off the reef?”
“Nah, I didn’t even touch the reef. The lip broke my back.”
John John Florence, broken by the wave, the very water, that made him famous. Makes him famous. He could not see what happened, only feel, so we steal the external details from photographer Daniel Russo who watches most of the North Shore’s best waves and captured this particular one on his camera.
“It was a wave they usually call a runner. It runs all the way across the reef so you can take off really deep, like almost backdoor. So he took off deep but on a real mellow wave that looked like the kind that usually spits perfectly. He drops in, grabs his rail and it was almost flawless. That day the swell was building and it was this long interval sort of swell with lots of energy. That is when you get waves that look eight feet but have the energy of 15 footers. There is just so much energy in the water. And, sometimes these big energy waves hit sections of the reef and mutate. They are not normal. And sometimes it’s section and it looks great. So with this wave, John (John) is deep in the barrel and it hits the end section, the sandbar end section, right in front of the Volcom house. Sand had built up a lot on the reef there and it just jacked the wave. It tripled in size. Stood straight up in the air. Just flared. And then instead of barrelling over or crumbling it came straight down like a waterfall. Instead of peeling it just dropped. Now John (John) is in the barrel crouched super low. He doesn’t see it jacking up but he was expecting to get spit or bucked so he was as low as he could get and glued to his board. The lip dropped directly onto his lower back. The whole wave, all that energy just landed on his back and compressed him through his board.”
The Pipeline giveth and the Pipeline taketh. John John has been giveth many many barrels. He has been giveth titles and fame and sponsorships. And now, under the water, as he was pushed deeper, he felt something wrong. He felt something taketh from his body.
“I didn’t even really get worked that hard. I’ve been worked way worse out there but something didn’t feel right. I came up and there was another set and I couldn’t even grab my board. I had no strength. So I went under again, popped up and flopped on my board. I couldn’t even paddle or anything and there was a bodyboarder and a bodysurfer there who saw I was struggling so they helped me to the channel. I lay there for a minute with my face on my deck and then started coming in very slowly. I didn’t want to make a scene.”
Daniel Russo could see something wasn’t right. He could see that John John didn’t grab his board and scratch directly back into the lineup. And then he saw something very disconcerting. The lifeguards were going crazy with the ski. Getting it into the water just as fast as their North Shore hardened sinew could. Not a good sign. Not even kind of good. And there they raced to the lineup… and past the lineup. Past everything. A fisherman had become distressed out to sea. Unrelated to anything cool.
John John had, meanwhile, reached the sand. He stumbled up, taking a circuitous route because, in his very words, he didn’t want to make a scene. And he made it to his house. Unnoticed. With a broken back. With a broken back. Broken. How many soldiers, firemen, fighters, blue-collared toughs would have done the same? Would have sucked up the pain and the racing mental pictures of worse-case scenario and shuffled to a quiet corner? I would think less than a handful. And here, an 18-year-old boy had enough Hemingway sense to man up and not cry publicly. Amazing.
He lay on his couch feeling mostly wrong and eventually was taken to a Honolulu hospital for x-rays. “I went to the hospital for x-rays but they didn’t see anything so I went home. But one of my friends is a surgeon and he looked at my x-rays and could see something wrong, so I went back to the hospital and got a CAT scan and I had a fracture in my lower back.”
Hemingway sense. Understated masculinity. And even as he sits folded into a leather chair in a middle class Newport Beach, California home he does not over dramatise his broken back. He merely chuckles, good-naturedly, about his rehab. “I didn’t even know what a squat was the other day.” Amazing. And, again, I am older than he and have seen more life and know that this right here, this broken back and laissez-faire attitude is the stuff of legend. Not just the broken back but the sense not to whine about it. Selling an injury is cheap. Men should go to their graves with countless untold injury to both body and heart. Unspoken trauma.
Yet, how does a potentially life-altering injury, a possibly career-ending blow, change an 18-year-old on the very brink of major success? Does he worry? Next time he paddles out at the Pipeline will he shy away from those waves that have defined him? When I ask he looks at me, eyes amused.
“Every wave you can get hurt out there.”
Not one drop of over-dramatisation. Not one speck of it. Simple as that. He will be out there this coming winter with a healed back the same as he was before. Dialled in. Making his art.
And, beyond any doubt, surfing the Pipeline is an art. Knowing where to sit, finding the boils, lining up with the right tree, knowing which wave will do what. And then and then paddling, fighting off the pack, dropping down, holding on, searching out the proper line, holding on, riding through, holding on but looking steezey, proper, perfect. Not dying.
The artists young John John has watched, learned from, are Kalani Chapman, Bruce, Andy (he speaks of Andy in the present tense) and Jamie. Jamie O’Brien. The same Jamie he stole the heavy crown from this season. What does he like about the way Jamie paints?
“Everything. Jamie surfs it different than anyone else.”
Will there be an angry back and forth this coming winter between the two? Jamie does not like to lose in his backyard. John John does not like to lose in his backyard. Will there be blood curling glares and internet rage and sabotage? John John says no. He says that he loves Jamie and that Jamie was not at his best this last winter because he had had a broken arm and had just got back into the water when he beat him. He had only been surfing the Pipeline for a few days, in fact. But, still, I am older than he and have seen more life and know that what makes almost everything in the life I have seen more of twice as beautiful is rivalry. True rivalry. Batman would be a dull rich and ageing homosexual without his Joker. Superman a strange eccentric without his Lex Luther. And there must be hatred to capture the imagination. I tell John John the sport of surfing needs this. He looks at me, eyes amused.
His amused eyes will not detour. It will be pure pleasure watching the two blond Hawaiian-bred haoles attack the wave they love most. With so much on the line. Jamie has broken both his legs, on separate occasions, at the Pipeline. Now John John has broken his back. The two will sit in the water and they might be speaking about what pre-packaged sushi at Foodland is best or how it is awesome they can share a beautiful moment but I will say they are speaking about how much they loathe each other. Jamie shit talking John John’s mother. John John shit talking Jamie’s father. This will be our rivalry.
The rain outside is thicker and even more slanted. John John must begin his physical therapy for the day. Yoga, stretching etc. And, when done mending, John John will leave to travel to Australia for competition at Margaret’s and then other primes and six stars. If all goes well he could qualify for the tour this year, mid-way. Amazing. Fresh off a broken back.
He has grown into his body and is surfing better than he ever has and is ready. It will be exciting when he is on tour. There is so much exciting young blood coming up the ranks. Exciting.
But, what everyone will really be waiting for is this coming winter when John John Florence and Jamie O’Brien bob next to each other in a cleared-out Pipeline lineup. Each wearing a coloured singlet. Each burning holes through the other with blue blue eyes. What everyone will be waiting for is John John to say, “I own this fucking wave JOB. You are a tool and a has-been. Nobody ever liked you and I am the new king.” And Jamie to respond, “Go to hell, child. I will finish the job this Pipeline started. I will motherfucking break you in half.”
Read more at http://stabmag.com/john-john-breaks-his-back/#hutTEEuHRam5YdhK.99
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