At some point, every trainer has had some sort of athletic career themselves. Whether that be surfing, snowboarding, gymnastics or dancing. To be able to teach, you need to know and experience. Or, just be really really good at what you do.
Recently, we thought we would get in contact with someone whose main goal is to help people improve on their aerials. But she has a different spin on it.
Meet Chloe Kerr. A gymnastics trained coach who mixes her passion for gymnastics, biomechanics and surfing to bring out the best in people surfing movements. We thought it would be a great idea to reach out to her and get a little bit of insight on her past and what she is getting up to now.
Chloe, can you please give a little brief on yourself, what you’ve accomplished as an athlete and things you are currently doing at the moment.
I am a gymnastics trained coach who works with surfing athletes to improve and practice their aerial silks and aerial awareness. I am currently working with Surfing Australia alongside their team of coaches and support crew to work with many of their selected CT, QS and junior athletes. The job allows me to mix my passion for gymnastics and biomechanics with my love of surfing. We have lots of fun creating skills and movements in simulated environments.
You were a professional gymnast before becoming a freestyle air coach, what was your career like as a gymnast and what was your biggest motivator?
I played lots of sport growing up but spent most of my time as a gymnast after teaching myself flips in my back garden. I had a lot of energy as a child and this channeled my energy in a positive way. I started gymnastics pretty late at the age of 12 which is unusual for most gymnasts as it is an early specialisation sport. Luckily I was a strong and powerful child and took to gymnastics well. I had some amazing coaches who broke down the movements so well and within a year I was at an elite level competing at national / international competitions. The style of gymnastics I did was acrobatic gymnastics (nope not the ones with the ribbons) this is where you perform gymnastics moves as a group like a cross between cheerleading and cirque de Soleil … I also did tumbling which is where you have a strip of floor to perform a dynamic pass.
My biggest motivation was my Dad, he was a soccer athlete and coach and always wanted me to enjoy my sport and training rather than focus on the result. I think this took the pressure off and allowed me to enjoy training and competitions. I was also motivated by my team mates and always wanting to learn that next trick. You spend a lot of time in the gym repeating the same movements.. I was lucky to train with my friends and we would always come up with games and activities to keep us entertained.
During your time of competing, what did your day to day life look like during events?
I trained about 30 hours a week and this mainly included skill development, routine practice, flexibility and strength. Training was part of my everyday routine and I would do recovery sessions outside of the gym. We train year round in the gym as there is no real ‘off season’.
Growing up in the UK many of the events were across the UK and Europe. You pretty much spend most of the time in a gym when competing so I didn’t get to see much of Europe during those years but I saw plenty of gyms.
What was life like after competing for you?
I retired at the age of 19 so my career was fairly short but with a couple of injuries and wanting to prioritise my university degree I decided to hang up the leotard. It was difficult to adjust as I had spent many hours in the gym and juggling work, school, training and personal life was something I was used to. After training it took a while to figure out how to fill my days, I guess with surfing you can do it for life but gymnastics is harder to maintain without the gym and equipment. I went into competitive diving for a little while to keep me training and competing and then moved into focussing my time on my career.
I’m grateful for the discipline and work ethic gymnastics instilled in me. I currently have a full time job, a business, I volunteer on a couple of gymnastics committees, I am a surf lifesaver, play a couple of sports still and I love surfing to unwind. I am grateful that gymnastics taught me how prioritise and to juggle many things and still achieve highly across them all.
Now you are doing some freestyle air coaching, using your experience of gymnastics to help people progress their aerials. Where does your passion from this stem from and how are you able to link the two?
When I worked for Gymnastics NSW / Gymnastics Australia we had a huge issue retaining gymnasts and attracting gymnasts from certain demographics to the sport. We worked on a new style of gymnastics to encourage more people to have a go called FreeG. FreeStyle Gymnastics (FreeG) is a fusion of acrobatics, martial arts, parkour and freestyle movement. The aspect I love most was challenging the traditional approach to skill development and looking at different ways to move/ invent skills.
With a passion for this style of teaching and learning skills. I started training a few snowboarding mates and this then moved into me working with skate, snow and surf athletes to assist with their dry land training. I’m so excited by the progressive and innovative space surfing is currently in and I am so excited to see how far these athletes can push the boundaries with technology and new ways of training. I spend hours watching surfing videos and breaking down airs to that we can build up skills systematically on dry land and allow the athlete to practice with repetition. I am
lucky to work alongside some of the best surfing coaches and athletes in the country and we have had many fascinating conversations and collaborations which has allowed me to build on this type of training to make it as surf specific as possible.
My coaching philosophy is less about teaching a series of skills and more about teaching the athlete movement patterns and understanding different axis of rotation for them to create their own skill.
The more the athlete can tune into their body movement, the more adaptable they will be in the surf.
What do you think are some of the key points for people to focus on if they want to progress their airs?
I think that surfers need to understand their body and how to control their movements I.e speed up or slow down rotation, gain height and time to perform the skill by using/ manipulating parts of their body. With so many variables in the sport and every wave being different, I think if surfers can understand their body and where they are in the air, they can make the most of each manoeuvre. I spend a lot of time working on head and shoulder positioning and linking this through the core and legs so that the surfers have more movement efficiency, vision and more time to make decisions and safer landings.
As a coach, is there one recurring issue that you think surfers as a whole need to work on and how do you think they can do this?
Surfing aerial manoeuvres are constantly
being pushed to the limit and this is due some amazing surfers constantly trying new things. I know that to get better at surfing you should definitely surf but the opportunity for repetition through wave pools and dry land training makes your training time more focussed. I think it’s so important to use your time wisely out of the water, do the hard work on land so that the manoeuvres in the surf come easier. This is efficient training and I strongly recommend athletes have some sort of dry land training program.
Check out my Instagram to see how we train.
If you think what Chloe’s up to is pretty cool, we guarantee you will love it! We have done a few little bits and pieces with Chloe and let me tell you it was one of the best experiences of coaching we have had outside of the water for a long time. And, you can see the impacts when transitioning from land to water straight away!