I discovered Cris Mills when I was younger, but not surfing yet. I subscribed to his mailing list, and that’s pretty it. I received his emails since, read them, and trash them because I wasn’t too aware of what was a surf strength coach. And it’s until this summer that I understood his job (let me tell you, it is a rad one) and how a strength coach can help you improve your surfing.
I recorded the whole Skype conversation (ah, 2015). But, it didn’t record correctly. So, I tried my best right after to notes everything that he said and what we’ve talked about. I did a pretty good job with it. Well, I think. Cris Mills is the trainer behind Surf Strength Coach, a program you can subscribe online to improve your surfing. Born and raised in Florida, Cris sometimes need to go back to its roots and busy as he is, spends weeks without surfing. His goal is definitely to go back to Australia, but as for now, he’s stuck at his parent’s house without waves, talking to me about his job.
When did you start to be a personal trainer specialized in surfing?
I would say I started 8 or 9 years ago with SUP guys, surfers, and athletes. I was in Sydney for a while, studying in various school around there and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was thinking of law school, but as you can guess, it never happened. I knew I could train people, so I started to do rehab for people that needed it, and I looked carefully to their movements. I began to work exclusively with surfers five years ago.
Why did you choose to train surfers only?
Well, I surf. I wouldn’t say I am a pro, but I can easily see when people surf with a bad posture, and I understand how the body works. So I asked myself, why not combine these two things to improve the performance of any surfers? I help surfers aged between 30 and 55 years old, the ones that are spending too much time in the office and have trouble with their joints. I still do some rehabilitation as well.
Would you say your customers are mainly men or women?
The same amount of men and women reach me, but mostly men subscribe to my program. I am not quite sure if it’s because of the way I present myself… Time are changing, and the surf world accepts women now, but maybe it can be intimating for a woman to go into the water alone, especially when you start surfing. Maybe that’s why.
Why does it help surfers to do your program?
As surfers, we often focus on skills in the water, but there is more. There are skills in the water, and there is performance. You need to practice both to be at your best, and that’s what I am focusing on. You also need to be healthy, and we all know that the world is a mess right now with all these information that are usually wrong. If you work out all the time but don’t eat well, it won't be good either.
Is there a difference between training men and women?
There’s no big difference between men and women; I will just focus on a different thing. Women need more strength in the upper body while men need more flexibility.
How does it work if we want to start training online with you?
I require the person to send me pictures and videos of themselves doing precise movements; then we do a Skype call. They have access to all the workout videos, and they have to film themselves while they are working out so I can observe the way they do it. I give them tips and help them that way. It’s harder online because I can’t directly say the comment neither observe which part of their body isn’t working. I often refuse people online because I can’t see them and they need someone to be physically with them. I don’t accept as many people because I want them to have the best workout, and I don’t feel like spending my days in front of the computer.
Tips to be better at surfing?
It would be to surf all the time. During your free time, you need to work out to improve your movements, eat healthy and sleep well to recover. You need to develop the skills of surfing and after the techniques, and it’s something I say to all my customers.
You are also doing some workshops around the world, how does it work?
I usually do them in Sydney and California. Of course, my goal is to do it more, but it takes a lot of time to organize. This year, there was other coaches as well, so the groups were of approximatively 20 people. If I am alone, I am trying to take ten people so that I can focus on them.
You are a surfer, so I am sure you have some awesome memories of surf trip! Where was the best wave you ever surfed?
Mhm… this is such a hard choice! I would say in Central America (Costa Rica) and Indonesia. I am planning to go back in Indo soon, hopefully catching some good waves!
Any future goals or you are happy where you are?
I am happy where I am, but not in Florida forever. I am thinking of going back to school, but the program is like ten years… It’s a hard decision! I am also waiting for my Australian visa, which I really hope I will get, or I will have to figure out what I am doing here. My friends were thinking of opening an ice cream shop in Australia maybe. Or maybe a Mexican food restaurant like in California, Aussies doesn’t know what good Mexican food is! No matter what I will do, surf training will always be there.
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