Technology not only plays a role in the personal lives of the average consumer, but it’s also a vital part careers of professional athletes, both on and off the field. We recently caught up with professional surfer Tom Whitaker at the Oakley X-Over Challenge presented by Seartec, proud distributor of Sharp, to find out how technology influences the Australian wave-master’s day-to-day life.
The 36-year-old, who joined the World Tour in 2003 and holds one of the best win records against surfing legend Kelly Slater, revealed that technology has given him an edge during his surfing career, and helped him as a mentor to younger surfers.
“The technology now is really helping push the sport forward. We now have a GPS tracker on our boards which wasn’t the case a few years ago,” explained Whitaker.
“We can now track the rotations, the speed, and inertia down the line, and we can assess that alongside video footage to see how critical or clinical it is to the overall performance. It’s given us a level of insight that we would never have gotten otherwise.”
“One of the biggest things it’s helped with is how to determine or analyse one particular ‘turn’ and how it influences the next ‘turn’”, explained Whitaker, saying that it was an aspect of surfing that was overlooked until the introduction of technology.
“Video analysis has become the foundation of technical training. We go through every video available, not just for me, but for other athletes too, and try to pick out technical flaws down to things like hand position or even eye position while surfing, which is another level of detail that was somewhat untrackable before we had video replay technology.”
Whitaker elaborated, saying that technology has brought about a sense of “belief”, allowing surfers to see their mistakes or strengths, rather than simply being told about them.
“The difference between re-seeing your own actions and being described is very different, so having that archive footage is a massive help in the sport.”
And what’s the one gadget Tom can’t go without? “A converter, mate” he said bluntly.
“You can’t charge or do anything without a converter”. A fair-point from the world-travelling surf pro.
Regarding downtime, Whitaker went on to say that while he doesn’t play games or indulge in any high-tech gadgets, he is addicted to his phone and is always on the lookout for the latest updates.
“I’m a massive news-buff, so I need my phone to engage with everything and see what’s going on around the world.”
And when it comes to Whitaker’s laid-back approach to life, the surfer, who comes from a strong sporting family (Tom’s brother Chris played flyhalf for the Wallabies) says its all about passion and keeping that in mind.
“Smile at anything you’re doing. Because if you don’t and you take it too seriously, you’ll crash and burn. I’ve seen too many good friends go out too early because of taking things too seriously – whatever they may be. Just enjoy the ride, and you do it because you love it, so don’t lose the love.”
Wise words, Tom.