Surfing Bad No.12: The Serratus Anterior Muscle

After spending Christmas with a tracheal and lung infection I hadn't been in the water for weeks. During violent coughing I had torn the Serratus Anterior muscle on my right side. Yesterday the waves were nice, clean, 3-4ft and as the muscle wasn't bothering me much and my cough nearly gone I thought it time to get back out there.

With excitement and slight trepidation (the water has dropped a good few degrees since I was out last) I put on my wetsuit. The familiar wetsuit smell was like a kind of surfing aphrodisiac as I got ready, anticipation building by the second as I reaquainted myself with my surfing kit and pleasures of the routine. (As Mikey had correctly diagnosed: my current state was as that of a coiled spring.)

It was beautiful to have my board under my arm again and be pattering my way to the water's edge. I waded into the froth: the cold entering my wetsuit ran like electricity up my legs, furthering my excitement. I lay on my surf-stick for the first time in weeks and...

...couldn't paddle.

Absolute depression sunk through me as I realized the Serratus Anterior muscle is absolutely required to be in good nick for a spot of surfing. I battled (very) gingerly to the outside, taking it carefully, getting pounded because I was so slow. After finally getting out I took a breather, tried for one wave (which I just missed — I had no paddling strength) and returned to shore.

It was nice to know that I was warm; the modern wetsuit and vest/hood combo is a marvel. It was nice to be out in the water again. But the rest was just plain upsetting. And all because of a pesky cough.

Look after those Serratus Anteriors folks - they're a surfer's undoing.


  1. how much did it take to get better? I think the same thing happened to me today...

  2. I can't remember. I think I was surfing within the week but it wasn't 'better' for longer than that. It's always a balance with injury - I mean if the surf calls it's hard to resist even if you're not 100% isn't it!?

  3. Pulled mine recently falling of a bike. Gave it a week or two and went surfing but it was a strong offshore and had to paddle sooooo hard to get the drop I pulled it again. Waited another two weeks but pulled it again. Finally had to give in and have 6 weeks out of the water. Had a couple of light swimming sessions before surfing again on the bank holiday. Luckily it held up but it's still really sore a week later. Recovery time sucks when you're almost 40.

  4. I injured mine out here surfing on the NS of Oahu on my 26th birthday. It's critical that after injury one stays out of the water until the serratus anterior has made a full recovery. Ignoring minor pain I returned to the water after a week and a half only to re-injure the muscle. It'll be a full month since I've been fit to surf as of tomorrow. If it irritates the muscle (causes pain) don't do it. The serratus anterior is a delicate rehab.


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