Tokyo 2020 is going to be the first time surfing becomes an Olympic sport. Now the world’s best surfers are trying to earn their places in their national squads after years of rumours. One of Britain’s hopefuls is 24-year-old Luke Dillon, who has been surfing competitively since he was eight years old.
This week he’ll also be at Boardmasters, five days of surfing and music on the Cornish coastline. Coming from Newquay, Dillon described the chance to be an ambassador at the event as an “honour”, as he'll be “representing the festival both in and out of the ocean”.
When he’s not at festivals with the Wu-Tang Clan, however, Dillon is a decorated pro surfer, including coming first in the British National Open Surfing Championship in 2015. Now, as qualifying for Team GB looms, he’s putting fitness and nutrition at the forefront.
“When I was younger I could get away with not eating so well, but now I’m travelling a lot and nutrition needs to be on point,” he explained. He’s now working with a coach called Jack Birch, who has him on a structured fitness regimen: the gym five times a week, working through every muscle group.
We asked Dillon to talk through a week in the life of a surfer trying to represent his country on a brand new, and gigantic, stage.
“On Monday it’s leg strength and abs, or leg strength and power, alternating every week. Leg strength: it’s single-leg work, focusing on form, lifting pretty heavy weights at a good power rate, similar to what I do when I’m surfing. It’s less a conditioning session and more strength.”
“I’ll get on a cardio bike or rowing machine, and that can be broken into different sessions: a max-effort activity – five minutes on a bike at full speed, when I’m struggling to breathe afterwards – or on busy weeks it might be a gentle 10-15 minute ride, and do that 15 times.”
“Upper body and abs as well. I do abs every day, because the core aspect is where I really want to get as strong as possible, and that’s probably my weakest aspect at the minute.
“Weighted pull-ups. Nothing on machines, just my own body weight plus extra weights, using different weights depending on how strong I’m feeling. Four sets of five every time.
“Followed by press-ups with weights on my back. That’s three sets of eight and then finish with a TRX supine row, which is sets of three, 12 reps, and then a core circuit at the end.”
“Leg power and abs: a leg press; explosive press. Depending on what gyms I’m at, I’ll make a stack like a box and do a leg press-up and then box jumps. I try not to use machines, so I'll do forward jumps as far as possible, maintaining a decent landing and making sure I don’t wobble, keeping my strength. I’ll be skipping for three minutes until I’m struggling to breathe and then I’ll do a circuit on a bike, maybe for 30 seconds as hard as I can, five-second break, then repeat that five times. And then another core circuit.”
“Depending on the week, if it’s a busy week for me, it’s a fitness session and abs. [Jack Birch has] broken it down into activities: the ‘Mo Farah’ five minutes at a medium-to-fast pace on a bike or a rowing machine, whatever’s available. I prefer a bike; if I focus on breathing heavily I can somewhat talk after, but it's noticeably more challenging. Followed by three minutes at an easy spin, then repeat that three or four times. Finished with an ab circuit.”
“Saturdays I don’t train. I’ll be surfing, hopefully if there’s waves. If not, I’ll try to stay active, [Birch has] recommended I do more than 10,000 steps, so I’ll usually go and play golf. A round at my local course is about four miles – 15,000 steps. So that’s me.”
“A complete day off. I can do an optional 10,000 steps. Weekends are kind of a rest for me. Unless the weather is horrific and I’ll go into the gym and do a midweek session.”
Boardmasters takes place from 7-11 August.