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Jeff A. Nessler, Thomas Hastings, Kevin Greer and Sean C. Newcomer

Low back pain is a commonly reported problem among recreational surfers. Some individuals report that wearing a vest with an inflatable bladder that alters trunk angle may help to alleviate pain. The purpose of this study was to determine whether such a vest has an effect on muscle activation and extension of the lower back. Twelve recreational surfers completed 12 paddling trials at 1.1 m/s in a swim flume on both a shortboard and a longboard on 2 separate days. Three conditions of no vest, vest uninflated, and vest inflated were presented to participants in random order. Surface EMG and trunk angle were acquired via wireless sensors placed over the right erector spinae, mid-trapezius, upper trapezius, and latissimus dorsi. Wearing the inflated vest affected muscle activation: erector spinae and mid-trapezius demonstrated a significant decrease in activation relative to wearing no vest (12% and 18% respectively, p < .05). Trunk extension was also significantly reduced when the vest was inflated (18% reduction, p < .05). Results were similar for both the short and longboard, though this effect was greater while paddling the larger board. These results suggest that a properly inflated vest can alter trunk extension and muscle activity while paddling a surfboard in water.