Meet John John Florence and Jordy Smith’s physiotherapist:
Words by Elliot Struck Surfing isn’t free. 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 […]
Words by Elliot Struck
Surfing isn’t free. 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.”
Jordy Smith, with the advantage of raw power. Photo: Ryan Miller/Redbull.com/surfing
Garth Tarlow, who linked Jordy up with Mark, thinks that the most interesting thing about Mark’s approach to treatment is his appreciation 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.”
Filipe, and the aerial styles of a man with very heightened body awareness. Photo: Jason Kenworthy
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.”
It was only a matter of time. Lucky there’s guys like Mark around. Go find him at Elite Performance, here.
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