In recent years, surfing and golf have become closely related, plain and simple.
Take a look at Evan Geiselman’s Instagram (@evangeiselman) for example. The 21-year-old pro surfer has 39,000 followers, and right next to his latest surf clip, shredding his hometown sand bar of New Smyrna Beach Inlet, are two videos of his picture-perfect golf swing.
From Geiselman golfing to pro surfer Benji Weatherly caddying for Australian PGA TOUR golfer/surfer (and 2012 Masters champion) Adam Scott at the Sony Open in Hawaii, the link between golf and surfing has become a popular phenomenon.
First, we must look at each as a singular sport. Surfing is moving away from the laid-back, carefree endeavor that it has always been and more into the corporate professionalism that defines other sports. Meanwhile, golf is targeting a younger audience and moving away from the elitism that has often characterized its history. Both are targeting a demographic the other possesses and that is a similarity in itself.
Physically, surfers are known for their natural-born athleticism, and that athleticism can transfer to golf. Golfers today are more in shape, too.
Chris Ropero, former professional surfer and now personal trainer for PGA TOUR veteran and World Golf Hall of Fame member Vijay Singh, suggested that there are definitely similarities in the way the human body reacts to surfing and playing golf.
“Physically, depending on the person, surfers and golfers use similar areas of their body to do what they do successfully,” said Ropero. “I’ve found personally from working with Vijay that balance and core strength are most important physically in both sports, but it’s mental. Muscle memory and performing under what Vijay calls ‘static pressure’ is huge.”
Static pressure refers to being as still as possible and focusing on your swing and then making the explosive movement into your stroke. Ropero explained that Singh makes a really good point when he says surfers are always moving and setting up for things while already in motion. In golf you have to focus from a motionless state and then go into your swing and try to do everything perfect. He thinks that static pressure and ability to make split-second, explosive decisions and movements based on muscle memory is harder to do, which transfers into a benefit for both surfing and golf when mastered.
Ryan Briggs, a professional surfer from the 904, plays golf about three times a week and sees that static pressure as well.
“Golf is the most frustrating thing I have ever done. It’s great practice for focusing. You’ve kind of got to get in this head space where nothing phases you,” said Briggs.
The mental relationship between surfing and golf is the biggest similarity, so it seems. The mental focus of competing or completing a certain maneuver is similar to focusing on 18 holes of golf or perfecting your swing.
Jacksonville pro surfer Cody Thompson, an 18- or 19-handicap depending on the day, plays golf at least once a week with his family, and more when not traveling or if the waves are flat. He thinks the aspect of adapting to every situation that’s thrown at you in each sport takes a lot of mental focus.
“Golf and surfing are both mental games. You know what you’re capable of doing, but if your head isn’t in the right place, there’s no physical compensating,” said Thompson.
Mike Peterson, Jacksonville skateboarder and certified golf pro, said golf takes less of a toll on his body, which is another reason extreme sports athletes like surfers and skaters like to play golf.
“There’s something about walking onto a golf course and knowing that I won’t get hurt that’s nice, and that, you know if my back isn’t all jacked up or something, I’ll be able to play forever,” Peterson said.
“I feel like a lot of athletes play golf now, and it’s probably because you don’t get hurt playing it,” Geiselman said.
While some people see the similarities between golf and surfing from a health or mental aspect, others look at it from a lifestyle perspective. Christian Iooss, director of photography and video at Golf Digest and lifelong surfer, is one of those people.
“You can look at it from similarities in the lifestyles between golf and surfing or you can look at it from the differences, which is a great point that no one really brings up,” said Iooss.
He went on to explain that surfers, like golfers, wait for the right day and time to surf or play golf. Whether it is when the waves are good or when a tee time is open, surfers and golfers alike make their individual sport a group thing or a social event.
“It’s funny, you know you call your buddies to meet up and go to the beach to surf and everyone surfs together and pushes each other to surf better and have fun. It’s the same thing in golf. You call your buddies to set up a tee time and you go play with each other, bust each other’s balls, have a couple beers and kind of just enjoy it like you would surfing with your friends,” said Iooss, adding golf presents order in a chaotic world. “In surfing you can pretty much go down to the beach and do whatever you want, and everything is laid back, there really aren’t many rules. Whereas in golf, there are rules and a level of order you need to follow, and I think that surfers like that change up every once-in-a-while.”
For the most part, it seems like most professional surfers look at golf purely as a source of entertainment and nothing more. Whether the waves are flat, it’s a social or family occasion, or they are surfed out and want to do something different, golf fills that void, no pun intended.
“Shoot, I play at least three times a week on the course or at the range messing around, at least pick up some clubs and swing or even putting in my room at night. It’s just another activity,” said Briggs.
Although there are aspects of both sports that overlap, surfers admit that they don’t think about that stuff often and that they just love playing golf for the same reasons that most golfers around the world do.
“I don’t think too much about all of those things. I just try to have fun and not beat myself up over it,” said Thompson.
“I play like three times a week if it’s (the waves) really bad or if I just got back from a surf trip and am surfed out. Maybe four,” chuckled Geiselman.